National Geographic devotes its February 2006 issue to the topic of love, or, as they may want to say, whatever that “thing” is. (For those of you who may have forgotten, Valentine’s Day is this coming Tuesday!) NG wonders: Is love what you feel for that woman you can’t stop thinking about? Is this the same love that is between the elderly couple who has been married for 60 years? Or, as NG author Lauren Slater ponders, did she actually fall in love with her teacher when she was 12, or was that something else? If it wasn’t love, what else could it be? Lust? Infatuation? And does it still play a role in developing relationships?
Slater, starting on page 34, tries to find some answers by, among other things, studying marriage and relationships in different cultures, checking MRI machines and noticing the chemical changes in a person’s brain when he/she sees a picture of someone their attracted to, and reporting that serotonin levels for lovers and people dealing with the obsessive-compulsive disorder actually are similar.
Slater’s main point in her article is that love is difficult to define, and a relationship actually goes through stages–“from the dopamine-drenched state of romantic love to the relative quiet of an oxytocin-induced attachment” (45). Some cultures have dismissed that early stage of romantic love (dopamine-drenched state) and sought arranged marriages, marriages built on more substantial factors. For the most part, the West has embraced that initial feeling of “love” and presented that as the main ingredient to a successful and satisfying relationship.
As creatures of God, what shall we think about these chemical reactions and these different ideas of love?