by Christine Farrell
It’s almost Valentine’s Day and love is in the air. We all love the feeling of being in love and the excitement that goes along with new relationships and new beginnings. The real question is ‘how do we find ways to keep the warm fuzzies alive 10 years down the road or even 20 years or longer?’
When we first meet someone that we really like, our brain first produces those hormones that make us feel what we could call lust. The levels of Testosterone for men and Estradiol for women are greatly increased. This is a primitive physical reaction to assist us in procreating but not what leads to longer term connections.
If we really like someone and we move to being in the attraction phase (and not just in the sexual sense), a huge amount of a neurochemical called Dopamine is produced in the brain as well as adrenaline. Adrenaline is responsible for the classic racing heart rate and sweaty palms that occurs when you see that person that you are newly enamored with. Dopamine is the other hormone that is released during this phase and it is a hormone that causes intense happiness. Dopamine causes increased energy, less need for sleep or food, intense focus and incredible delight at the smallest details of this new and exciting relationship. Sound familiar? This is the fun stuff we all love when we first meet someone and wish we could maintain forever.
The next phase of our relationships is called attachment and this is the part where we want to get married and have babies and form long lasting bonds. The hormone that creates the desire to bond and nurture is mainly oxytocin. This hormone is mainly known for its link to nursing mothers and maternal child bonding, but it is also released after orgasm in both men and women. This is one reason that we often feel closer to our partner after sex and this helps to strengthen the bond.
Now we are back to the question of how to maintain healthy intimacy and closeness in a long-term relationship. We need to look at these different phases and try to keep them alive. Our hormones need to be balanced and normal for us to continue having healthy sexual feelings toward our lover. We need to keep the spark alive by creating newness and time for romance if we want to have that happy dopamine release. Lastly, we need to maintain intimacy on both a physical and emotional level to create lasting bonds and lots of oxytocin. Talking and sharing deep personal thoughts has been shown to deepen the bonds we feel to our partners and create more feelings of love. Maybe we just need to remember to make our relationships more of a priority and less of an afterthought and maybe we need to change our ideas of what love and relationships should be. That initial rush is great, but it is great to feel that deep bond with someone after you have shared children, heartache and all of life’s ups and downs. That is what real love feels like.
Christine Farrell MSN, FNP-C is a specialist in the area of hormonal imbalances in men and women and has been in practice in the area for over 17 years. She is an Associate Clinical Professor at University of California, Los Angeles and is also an alumnus of the University. Farrell belongs to the North American Menopause Society, The International Menopause Society, and the International Hormone Society. Her practice, Bio-Identical Wellness in Westlake Village, incorporates the use of bio-identical hormones, nutrition, supplements and lifestyle changes to promote wellness of both the physical and emotional aspects of health.