Relationships

9 Signs You’re Chemically Bonded To Your Significant Other

Love can affect your body in some wild ways.

Being chemically bonded to a partner is like a special love sync you share.
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Falling in love can make you feel all sorts of wonderful things. Your heart may race whenever your partner is near and you might even butterflies-in-your-stomach feelings. But as magical as love can be, it's grounded in some pretty fascinating science. Although it may sound a little strange, you can be chemically bonded to their partner.

As licensed psychologist Danielle Forshee, PsyD previously told Bustle, love is extremely tricky to define and measure due to how subjective it is. Some see falling in love as a completely psychological phenomenon, but biology and chemicals play a big role in it as well.

For instance, when you meet someone you really like, your body releases "attraction hormones" such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. These are the hormones responsible for giving you those feelings of euphoria when you’re really into someone.

Then there’s oxytocin, a hormone that’s associated with relationship-building, sex, trust, and empathy, gets released when couples hug, kiss, or cuddle. “This hormone is linked to fuzzy, warm, calming feelings, promotes bonding, well-being, and love, and some studies have shown it to lower anxiety and stress,” neuropsychologist Dr. Sanam Hafeez, tells Bustle. “When feelings of happiness and calmness occur during these physical interactions, these feelings become associated with a particular person. Therefore, it may be hard not to feel chemically bonded to the cause of that association.”

It's no secret that love can affect your body in different ways. Many of which, you probably don't even realize. So here are some signs that you and your partner are chemically bonded together, according to science.

1

You Can't Get Enough Of Your Partner

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When you're falling in love, your brain and body work together to give you a rush of "feel-good" chemicals. According to sexologist Dr. Jess O’Reilly, norepinephrine fills you with "piercing energy," serotonin gives you boosts in self-confidence, and dopamine makes nearly everything you experience in the beginning pleasurable. "The high during this phase is so powerful that when researchers examine the brain activations of people who are newly in love, they see similar activity to the brains of cocaine users," Dr. O'Reilly says. Although it doesn't necessarily mean you become "addicted" to your partner, you feel like you can't get enough of them.

2

You Act Irrationally Around Them

As you may have experienced, that "high" you get when you're falling in love doesn't always last. But as Dr. O'Reilly says, that may not be a bad thing. When all your feel-good hormones are spiked, there's a tendency to become irrational. "When your neurotransmitters are destabilized by new romantic love, your mood becomes unsteady," she says. "You don’t always make the most wise decisions. Because you’re infatuated and you make all of those decisions based on this new, shiny, seemingly perfect object of your affection." So if you feel like falling in love is leading you to make questionable decisions, it's likely that you're chemically bonded to your partner.

3

Cuddling Is Your Favorite Thing About Sex

If you haven't been much of a post-sex cuddler, but your new partner brings it out of you, chances are you might be chemically bonded to them. As you know, the brain releases dopamine to "reward" us for doing something that feels good, like having sex or bonding with your partner. While testosterone and estrogen motivates us to have sex, it’s dopamine that makes us want to cuddle afterward. In fact a 2016 survey from the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada and Trojan condoms, found that cuddling after sex can boost sexual satisfaction and increase closeness among couples. That's because your body releases oxytocin, the love and bonding hormone, during sex.

4

You Can "Feel" Your Partner's Pain

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There's a lot of empathy in relationships where couples are deeply bonded together. "When they hurt, you hurt," therapist Dr. Tracey M. Phillips, tells Bustle. "Sometimes, this means feeling the actual physical pain that your partner feels." If that sounds crazy, it's not too far off. A 2004 study published in the journal Science found that we are hardwired to process pain when a loved one is hurt. Researchers conducted a study of 16 heterosexual couples and measured one partner's brain activity while the other received a short jolt of pain. When one person was feeling pain, brain activity in their partner was triggered enough to elicit an empathetic response.

5

When Your Partner Is In A Bad Mood, You're In A Bad Mood

A 2010 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that couples in close relationships have similar levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. While this study found that couples' hormones can be in sync, it's not necessarily a good thing in this case. Cortisol is the stress hormone, so this suggests that when one partner was in a bad mood, the other was just as likely to feel it as well. In fact, a follow-up study found that couples whose cortisol levels synced up had low levels of relationship satisfaction. Instead, researchers say well-balanced relationships are ones where one partner can help calm the other down when they're feeling overwhelmed.

6

You Really Like Kissing Your Partner

A 2013 Oxford University study found that kissing helps us to find and keep the right partner. According to research, kissing allows us to subconsciously assess a potential partner by picking up on "biological compatibility cues." Kissing was found to be useful for finding a person you want a relationship with long-term. Couples who make it a point to kiss a lot were also found to have higher levels of oxytocin and had higher levels of relationship satisfaction than couples who don't kiss a lot. When couples have higher levels of oxytocin between them, they were also found to finish each other's sentences and touch more. In short, they were totally in sync.

7

You Just Don't Want To Be With Anyone Else

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The rush of feel-good chemicals you get in the early stages of your relationship inevitably fade. But as we know, that's not necessarily a problem. In fact, according to Dr. O'Reilly, about six to 18 months into your relationship, you will experience a chemical shift in your body. "This passionate love eventually transitions to the second phase of love, which is companionate or attachment love, as you get to know each other better," she says. You lose that "untamed loving feeling" because your body shifts from releasing dopamine, adrenaline, and serotonin to vasopressin and oxytocin.

"These are believed to play roles in bonding parent to child through breastfeeding, cuddling and kissing," Dr. O'Reilly says. "They’re so essential to bonding and creating a lasting relationship that when you suppress vasopressin in animal experiments, parents will abandon their young." Research has also found that oxytocin helps men in particular stay monogamous. So even with all the options out there, these bonding hormones make it so you stay faithful to just one person.

8

You Love Your Partner’s Scent

When you’re chemically bonded to your partner, you’ll be intoxicated by their natural scent. According to Phillips, these are pheromones, which draw you into your partner’s presence. It’s what helps you attract each other in the first place.

Once you’re in a relationship, your partner’s natural scent can have a way of making you feel comforted and at home. As Dr. Navya Mysore, M.D., provider at One Medical, previously told Bustle, “When we recognize the smell of a loved one, this can release oxytocin, which is a hormone and a neurotransmitter that is involved in childbirth and breastfeeding.” So, the same chemicals that get released while you’re hugging, kissing, or having sex, also get released when you’re taking a whiff of your partner’s favorite sweatshirt.

9

Sex Feels Different With Your Partner

Although oxytocin gets released after sex, not everyone gets attached after sex. For instance, Hafeez says, men usually have lower levels of oxytocin post-orgasm than woman, which is why it may take more than that for them to form an attachment. “Feeling attachment after sex depends on the sex you are having, what meaning you ascribe to sex, and who you are,” she says.

If you feel like sex is different with your partner because it’s more meaningful or you just feel more connected, you may be chemically bonded. As Shadeen Francis, MFT, a marriage and family therapist specializing in sex therapy, previously told Bustle, "Oxytocin gives us that warm and fuzzy feeling after orgasms that make many of us want to nap, snuggle, or get comfy. If open to connection, this hormone makes us feel connected or attached to the person we have just slept with." So, it’s a mix of hormones and your willingness to explore a relationship with someone.

Studies Referenced

Saxbe, D. & Repetti, R.L. (2010) For Better or Worse? Coregulation of Couples’ Cortisol Levels and Mood States, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. http://www.celf.ucla.edu/2010_conference_articles/Saxbe_Repetti_2010a.pdf

Wlodarski, R. & Dunbar, R.I.M. (2013) Examining the Possible Functions of Kissing in Romantic Relationships. Archives of Sexual Behavior, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131010205142.htm

Melton, K. & Boccia, P. (2019) Examining Couple Recreation and Oxytocin Via the Ecology of Family Experiences Framework. Journal of Marriage and Family, https://www.baylor.edu/mediacommunications/news.php?action=story&story=206875

Sources

Dr. Jess O’Reilly, sexologist

Dr. Tracey M. Phillips, therapist

Danielle Forshee, PsyD, licensed psychologist

Dr. Sanam Hafeez, neuropsychologist