If you've ever watched a romantic comedy, you're probably all too familiar with the "knight in shining armor" effect.
The inevitable nerd/loser character typically has a romantic interest... and it always starts the same way - she's not interested, and after a series of idiotic events, she falls for him in the end.
It's not always true to life, but we've all heard stories about relentless "chasers" eventually winning over the man or woman of their dreams... and perhaps, there is a scientific explanation for why this happens.
As it turns out, there are a number of things that happen when we "fall in love".
If you haven't already guessed it, there is a very real "chemistry" that goes on behind the scenes that can trigger romantic feelings towards someone.
In fact, there about 5 stages, all involving chemicals in the brain which can make us go crazy over a romantic interest (for some people, they take their "interest" a bit too far, which is not a good thing - but for most normal people, these feelings are manageable).
Stage 1: You find someone that catches your eye, and you feel an attraction towards them.
Time stops for a moment, you glance over at the beauty sitting alone at a restaurant.
She looks so gorgeous and you can't help but imagine for a moment what it would be like to introduce yourself, and maybe get to know eachother.
This is a situation a lot of us can relate to, and it gives us that small rush of "dopamine".
But what is it?
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter (or a chemical) in the brain when we experience something that makes us happy.It's also a primary reason why people get hooked on certain types of drugs, as it can release this chemical in high amounts... the feeling is good, and it makes us want whatever GAVE us that feeling even more.
So as you can imagine, seeing someone attractive and imagining ourselves in an "ideal" scenario can trigger this "happy" feeling. When you feel happier, you also feel more confident, and more proactive in pursuing the feeling it gives you... in this case, the person that caught your eye. Perhaps this is also triggered by pheromones that can cause "love" feelings to form too, but it is an internal chemical process for the most part.
Stage 2: The brain starts releasing adrenaline (epinephrine, norepinephrine), that makes you excited when you are around this person.
Provided you actually acted on your interest, it can give you those jittery, "butterflies in the stomach" feelings whenever you think about the potential of a romantic relationship forming... you start to get excited, nervous, and combined with the "feel good" chemical dopamine, makes for a potent combo that can start chipping away at our sanity.
To make matters better or worse, it turns out that at this stage there is a suppression of a chemical called serotonin. Serotonin is normally known as another "feel good" chemical, but it also regulates important things like our behavior.
In fact, low serotonin is often a root cause of "obsessive compulsive disorder", which is why treatment of this condition can be resolved with medicine that enhances serotonin production.
Stage 3: The suppression of serotonin causes us to "think" and sometimes obsess over the person of interest.
Serotonin is also a chemical which can make us feel calm, at ease, and confident in ourselves... but because of the suppression in an early stage of a romantic relationship, there is a lot of uncertainty.
Scientists believe that there is a biological reason for this happening, and it's because the uncertainty of being with the object of our desire drives us to pursue them even more.
This makes sense, because if we didn't care about whether we had a romantic relationship with a certain someone, we wouldn't be as interested in pursuing them.
Lower serotonin also means that we get a larger amount of those "feel good" chemicals dopamine and the excited feelings that adrenaline gives us around the romantic interest.
Stage 4: This is the "stoopid" part of love that makes us do dumb things.
As romantic feelings deepen and attachment starts to form, we often start to "idealize" and see the person of interest with "rose colored glasses".
Professor Semir Zeki conducted brain scans at the University College London, and found that certain areas of the brain which control judgment actually become less active when around people they were in "love" with.
Specifically, parts of the brain which control emotions, empathy, and critical thinking such as the amygdala are affected.
It doesn't mean we can't function, but it does mean that we might rate our romantic interests or partners in a more positive light than other people.
Stage 5: Growing trust, and the "love hormone" oxytocin comes into the picture.
As the relationship further develops, there is more physical affection, as well as trust built up between lovers.
Over time, the law of diminishing returns comes into effect, and those exhilarating, nervous, exciting feelings start to fade.
This doesn't mean that interest in your significant other is fading - it just means that those high energy feelings are difficult for sane mind to maintain. That's why oxytocin, a chemical from physical affection, and even when mothers breast feed their babies are released, a sense of stability comes into the relationship.
In the beginning of a relationship, all those chemicals played a role in motivating a person to pursue their romantic interest. But as more certainty about where the relationship is going, this becomes unnecessary.
In the end, it comes down to the very real "chemistry" that you have with someone, on a physical, as well as emotional level.
Now that you understand the science of how romantic relationships form, you probably realize that some part of this can be used in a way to deepen, or perhaps make your romantic pursuits more fruitful.
For example, we learned that those "happy" feelings we get are from a chemical called dopamine. If you can make your date laugh, or even cry with laughter, that might be one of the most powerful attractants you can have in your arsenal. Or maybe go to a comedy show or funny movie if you just don't have the skills?
Regardless, this is a fascinating area of research, and the science is truly groundbreaking!