Superhighs and superglue: how love drugs affect your relationship

So, what are love drugs?

Well, they’re not drugs like coke or MDMA.

However fabulous they might feel at the time, the effect isn’t quite as sexy when your nose caves in or your brain gets stuck on ‘seriously depressed’.

The real love drugs are what our bodies produce naturally when we’re attracted and aroused by someone.

These, by the way, are just as powerful and addictive as the manufactured variety. Just ask a ‘love junkie’ – someone whose relationships fizzle our fast once the hormones wear off!

Knowing what’s produced when, isn’t just interesting to know, it can help you work through the inevitable ups and downs of nature’s love rollercoaster.

Is it a hormonal hiccup you’re going through or are you just not suited?

It could well depend on where you’re at in the cycle…

The superhighs: norepinephrine and dopamine

Our hormone levels of both dopamine and norepinephrine soar when we’re confronted by the unknown.

In the initial stage of romantic love –when everything is new – these two trigger such exhilaration we lose the desire to eat or sleep. The feelings of euphoria are created by these elevated levels which electrify the reward system in the brain.

Sadly, the only way to keep this potent pair surging through our bloodstream is to either constantly change partners or to introduce as much novelty as possible into a long-term relationship, ‘tricking’ the brain into pumping it out.

Couples who share ‘exciting experiences’ consistently report much more relationship satisfaction than those who don’t so get out there and explore life.

Sex is another way to rev it up: sex elevates testosterone which in turn revs up dopamine.

Hormonal superglue: oxytocin

Oxytocin is released after dopamine subsides and is designed to lead to long-term attachment.

While dopamine and norepinephrine make you feel excited and edgy, oxytocin is a ‘cuddle chemical’, making you feel warm and fuzzy. Along with vasopressin, it’s what bonds you as a couple, making you feel like settling down and having children.

It also induces drowsiness.

Oxytocin is the reason why men want to drift off to sleep straight after sex. It’s released into the male bloodstream two to five minutes after orgasm and into the female bloodstream about 20-30 minutes after.

Just time for us to pop down and do the dishes and turn off the lights while he’s snoring comfortably away.