“Love is very real,” he told her. “We can measure it.”
“I’m talking about real love. Love that exists when two people just know that they have found each other and recognize something in that other person that makes them want that person and nobody else,” she responded.
“Chemicals. Three phases. Starts with lust. I see someone who releases the right amount of sex hormones and I want to have sex with that person. That is the first phase. Then in trying to get close enough to have sex with that person, we talk. Maybe touch a little. Even a hug. Or a brush on the arm. The right conversations with a good mixture of flirting and friendship. That is the second phase, when the serotonin gets released. You began to focus on that person, think of them. You crave more of that person. You begin to block out the qualities you don’t like about that person and only see the good ones. Or if you do know of their negative qualities, you make them a low priority. Then you have sex. The third phase. That is when the oxytocin is released. The bonding chemical. Now you are attached, and do not want to be with anyone else,” he stated, devoid of emotion.
“How do you explain long-distance or online relationships?” she countered.
“There are studies that show that being on social media can release serotonin if certain intimacy is shared. You associate those words with that person. There are also studies that show that oxytocin can be released as well, if there is enough interaction with the person online. Not as much as during intimate contact, and especially not as much as released during orgasm…but sometimes enough to attach people. It is all chemical. It doesn’t make it less real, just measurable,” he replied. He added, “Which is good, because if something can’t be measured, it doesn’t exist.”
“Lust, focus, and attachment. That doesn’t sum up love,” she said.
“I’m intrigued. Do go on,” he requested.
“What about when someone comes and goes from your life, for years on end? Long periods of time may pass during which you experience enough to become a completely different person. But when they re-enter your life it is as if nothing has changed?” she asked him to make her point.
“Good memories. Usually looking through rose colored glasses and trying to recreate the past,” he said, smugly.
“What if you never got together before, but were just a little close in passing?” she asked.
He didn’t have an answer for her. He thought back over his team’s literature on the subject, looking for a hypothesis or conclusion. He wasn’t sure if they even considered that in their studies.
“I think you just gave us the next thing for us to look into. We’ll find a reason. It all supports our evolutionary need to reproduce and nurture our offspring once we have,” he told her.
“Okay, what if, using the same scenario you haven’t yet looked into, you still haven’t gotten together with that person, but their happiness matters to you so much, that you want happiness for that person even when it means you never will be the one to make that person happy?” she asked. “That’s real love,” she finished.
It hit him like a ton of bricks. He had been looking into the concept of romantic love. But what about genuine, unselfish love? Love that in no way benefits the person who loves the other? What evolutionary advantage could that possibly have? Would he even be able to find the answer, in the complex world of today? And more importantly, how did she know he loves her?