Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love. For thousands of years, people have demonstrated their deepest expressions about love through intimacy, romance, gifts, song, poetry, and other personal and cultural expressions.
There is an interesting question though about love—what makes certain people (and animals) able to keep love alive and stay monogamous, while others not? Is there a architecture, so to speak, for love?
The Wall Street Journal, 8 February 2008, reports that “neuroscientists are probing why some married couples can maintain the spark for years.”
“Most couples find that the dizzying, almost-narcotic feeling of early love gives way to a calmer bond.” Yet, others seem to be able to maintain a “lifelong passion” and moreover grow their love over time.
My father always said something that I believed was profound about love; that with your life’s partner, the joy in life is twice the joy, and the sorrow, half the sorrow.
According to “one sociological study of marital satisfaction at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Penn State University [that] kept track of more than 2,000 married people over 17 years, average marital happiness fell sharply in the first 10 years, then entered a slow decline.”
Yet, other couples remain in love and full of passion over their lives and this has been confirmed using magnetic-resonance imaging (MRI) scans of the brain.
What’s really interesting is that lifelong coupling is not only endemic to many people, but also to certain species of animals from the prairie voles to gray foxes, gray-headed albatross, pygmy marmosets.
A neuroendocrinologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago has found a hormonal link in animals for lifelong mating with Oxytocin, “the love hormone.”
“There is much work ahead before scientists can map the human-attachment system and learn what factors affect it.”
So can love be architected?
Over the years many have tried to architect love through matchmakers, forced marriage, the largess of the dowry, and even through the fabled love potion.
However, at its essence, love is a deep emotion that manifests itself in human behavior, thinking, and feeling. While manifestations of love are visible to scientists using brain scans, and maybe even through endocrinology, ultimately love is an expression of the hearts of two people for each other.