7 Weird Changes That Happen In Your Brain When You Get Into A Relationship
Getting into a relationship is exciting, and it's a time filled with many changes, with couples experiencing everything from new emotions to a different routine. If you feel like you're even thinking and experiencing things differently, it's not just in your head — there are a number of changes that can happen in your brain when you're in a relationship. Love can be very powerful, and spending so much time with a new person can impact you more than you might even realize.
You may know what the effects of love feel like, cognitive neuroscientist Dr. Caroline Leaf tells Bustle. "Your heart races, you feel tingly all over, you can’t eat, sometimes you just stare into space with a silly smile on your head, you feel like you are floating, and you have laser-like vision for that person —anything else takes second place. Extensive research has shown that this 'being in love' feeling floods the brain and body with feel-good chemicals, moving someone into a state of euphoric, energetic happiness as they are constantly thinking about the object of their affection."
There's a reason a new relationship feels like a special time, and it's because your brain and body are adapting to all these shifts. Here are seven changes that can happen in your brain when you get into a new relationship, according to experts.
1. Your Become Addicted To Your Partner
In the beginning of a relationship, dopamine — the part of the brain that feels good after delicious food, drink, sex, and other forms of enjoyment — is triggered. When your brain is flooded with the neurotransmitter, it ends up craving more. "This is what is happening in that early stage of courtship where things seem 'exciting and new,'" neuropsychologist Dr. Sanam Hafeez tells Bustle. "It's all about the dopamine."
2. You Become "Blind" To Your Partner's Flaws
Dopamine is what also causes you to become blind to the negative aspects of your partner. "The downside is that when we are on this romance-induced dopamine high, we may ignore important details about the other person," Dr. Hafeez says. "This is because the flood of dopamine compromises the area of our brain, the medial prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for reading people's reactions, emotions, feelings and other cues to determine if we like them and if they like us."
3. Oxytocin Makes You Attached
In a relationship, oxytocin released, which makes us feel connected to our partner. It's a chemical of safety, security and bonding, and it is what puts us at ease when our partner isn't around us. It is considered the attachment chemical, and it's often referred to as the "love hormone." "It's the hormone that's released by mother's at childbirth and [people] at orgasm," Dr. Hafeez says. "It's one of the hormones that bonds a mother to her baby."
4. Your Brain Activity Increases
Being in love can cause increased activity in someone's brain when it comes to noticing things about their partner. "For instance, brain-imaging studies of women in love show increased activity in many areas of the brain, specifically instinct, attention and memory, and imagination," Dr. Leaf says. "Men show increased activity in high-level visual-spatial areas, which means looking at their loved one in a photo or on FaceTime is very important in a relationship."
5. Your Fight Or Flight Is Triggered
When you get into a relationship, the connection between the nucleus accumbens and the amygdala (which is responsible for stress and fight or flight) can create intense negative emotions and fight or flight activations in the brain, neuropsychologist Dr. Amy Serin, tells Bustle.
Some research of people who recently fell in love actually showed higher cortisol levels, according to a study in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology. But thankfully, these changes seem to diminish over time. Love may start out as a stressor, but it then seems to become a buffer against stress in people who stay in relationships.
6. You Experience Pain Differently
Being with someone you love can feel so good that it helps you manage pain. "Intense passionate love, according to research, can even provide amazingly effective pain relief similar to painkillers and cocaine, with no side effects," Dr. Leaf says. "The areas affected by love are the same areas in the brain affected by painkillers, which can help us deal with both physical and emotional pain."
7. Your Brain Activity Mirrors One Another
When you are in a relationship with someone you love, your brains start to work in sync. One study out of the University of Technology, Sydney found that couples showed physiologically-aligned brain activity during therapy sessions, even when they had no physical contact with each other. This alignment of the autonomic nervous system is like a "sixth sense" between couples, according to the study.
Although you may not realize it, many changes are going on in your brain when you get in a relationship, and it's simply part of the process of falling for another person.