As normal as it is to yearn for your significant other when they're not around, there's a whole science behind missing your partner that you might not be aware of. Emotions are complicated and not always easy to understand. For instance, missing your partner when you're in a long distance relationship makes a ton of sense. But missing them after you just saw them, doesn't. While the latter may seem a little troubling, experts say it's completely normal. In fact, you have the chemicals in your brain to thank for that.
"The emotion of love changes the neurobiology of your brain," psychotherapist Puja Parikh, LCSW, tells Bustle. "Feel good neurotransmitters are released when you hug, kiss, have sex, and share intimate moments with your partner. You form a bond and you pair your partner with pleasure and happiness."
When you're bonded to someone, your brain releases chemicals such as dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin. As Dr. Judy Ho, PhD, triple board-certified clinical neuropsychologist and co-host of The Doctors, tells Bustle, these are chemicals that not only make you feel good and help you to maintain a sense of wellbeing, they lead you to seek out the stimulus that gave you pleasure in the first place. In this case, the stimulus would be your partner.
"When you're separated from them, your brain will instinctually seek them out in order to obtain those rewards again," Ho says. Thus, you're left missing your partner until the next time you get to see them.
When Love Becomes Obsessive
A 2010 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, found that falling in love activates the brain in the same way doing cocaine does. "The withdrawal one might experience from a substance and the withdrawal one might experience from a separation are very similar to the brain," Ho says. "In some ways, you can even develop a craving for your partner over time, and it can affect your ability to function in daily activities."
For some, missing their partner can even become an obsession. According to Ho, a combination of social, personality, and biological factors all a play a role. For instance, some people are more predisposed towards obsessive thinking, while others have personality traits that cause them to think about the same things over and over again.
If you find yourself missing your partner in a way that's affecting your everyday routine, it's important to find strategies to deal with it in a healthy way.
How To Deal With Missing Your Partner
The feeling you get when you miss your partner means that your brain is seeking them out and typically your oxytocin and dopamine levels drop. As Tara L. Skubella, relationship expert and tantra coach with Earth Tantra, tells Bustle, "Physical touch, sexual and heartfelt connection increases these levels. If we aren't getting our natural happy chemical dosage, it's healthy to seek replacements."
There are many different ways to do this. For instance, Skubella suggests increasing the amount of touch you're experiencing throughout the day. Self-touch, getting a massage, hugging friends and family, and cuddling with your pets can be beneficial.
"Meditation, yoga, earthing, and breath work can also help release oxytocin and dopamine in healthy ways too," Skubella says. In fact, a 2013 study published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry found that just one yoga session can help increase levels of oxytocin.
There's a whole science to love, and missing your partner is just one part of it. As long as you're dealing with your feelings in a healthy way, it doesn't matter if you miss your partner after not seeing them for five days or five hours. It's all completely normal.
Ortigue, S., Bianchi-Demicheli, F., Patel, N., Frum, C., & Lewis, J.W. (2010) Neuroimaging of Love: fMRI Meta‐Analysis Evidence toward New Perspectives in Sexual Medicine. Journal of Sexual Medicine, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1743-6109.2010.01999.x
Gothe, N., Pontifex, M.B., Hillman, C., & McAuley, E. (2013) The acute effects of yoga on executive function. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22820158
Puja Parikh, LCSW, psychotherapist
Dr. Judy Ho, Ph. D., triple board-certified clinical neuropsychologist and author of Stop Self Sabotage
Tara L. Skubella, relationship expert, founder of Earth Tantra