Why do we fall in love?

It’s not an easy question to answer.

So, what explains why at some point in our life we experience such an intense craving to be with one particular person? Not just sexually, but emotionally as well.

Does this person possess a hidden magnet that invisibly drives us towards them?

Actually, yes they do!

According to world renowned professor of anthropology and expert on romantic love, Helen Fisher, who for over a decade has studied the evolution of human emotions, romantic love is not actually an emotion, and it’s not driven entirely by sex drive.

That’s right. Love is not an emotion.

It is, actually, a drive that comes from the motor of the mind.

According to Fisher, our desire for love has evolved from three different brain systems that have evolved from mating and reproduction.

 

Fisher, who share her findings in a TED talk that has been viewed over 9 million times (see below), says our drive towards love comes from three primary needs all operating at the same time: our sex drive, the obsession that comes from romantic love and attachment.

In her words:

“One is the sex drive: the craving for sexual gratification. W.H. Auden called it an ‘intolerable neural itch,’ and indeed, that’s what it is. It keeps bothering you a little bit, like being hungry. The second of these three brain systems is romantic love: that elation, obsession of early love. And the third brain system is attachment: that sense of calm and security you can feel for a long-term partner.”

When all three drivers are operating at the same time, love basically takes over:

 

“But the main characteristics of romantic love are craving: an intense craving to be with a particular person, not just sexually, but emotionally. It would be nice to go to bed with them, but you want them to call you on the telephone, to invite you out, etc., to tell you that they love you.”

According to Fisher, love isn’t an emotion, and once it takes over it operates at a level so deeply rooted that we struggle to take control of it.

“I began to realize that romantic love is not an emotion. In fact, I had always thought it was a series of emotions, from very high to very low. But actually, it’s a drive. It comes from the motor of the mind, the wanting part of the mind, the craving part of the mind. The kind of part of the mind when you’re reaching for that piece of chocolate, when you want to win that promotion at work. The motor of the brain. It’s a drive.”

Why did we evolve this capacity to feel such intense love for one person? Fisher explains it as follows.

“And I think that the sex drive evolved to get you out there, looking for a whole range of partners. You can feel it when you’re just driving along in your car. It can be focused on nobody. I think romantic love evolved to enable you to focus your mating energy on just one individual at a time, thereby conserving mating time and energy. And I think that attachment, the third brain system, evolved to enable you to tolerate this human being at least long enough to raise a child together as a team.”

I highly recommend watching the TED talk in full as there’s so much more to it, and Fisher relates her theory to what’s happening in modern day society with the empowerment of women.

Basically, she says we’ve living in an era where there’s more romantic love, and relationships are likely to last for longer.

It’s a beautiful vision and one worth sharing!