General Question

TheOnlyException's avatar

Why do we love?

Asked by TheOnlyException (2182points) March 30th, 2010

What makes us fall for that person. (Or in some cases those PEOPLE..)

why is it simple things about them like their smell, their smile or even the way the walk can send our heart into flutters?
Why is it that it sneaks up on you and hits you with the force of a train going at 120mph?

We don’t choose to love, certainly not. Just another one of those things affected by those around us.

Why is it a lot of people fall in love when the people we meet are so random, so really you could fall in love with anyone?
Anyone know what is it that makes us chase after someone?
Is it a chemical thing, or physical or a mix?

All these feelings and I stop to wonder, why?
If anyone can shed any light on it, I know this question isn’t very clear at all, but just any ideas of what makes us fall for someone.
is it that we are attracted to people that remind us of our parents (those who nurtured us?)
or those of a similar race
or with a certain temperament, smell, voice, size

if you know anything i would be extremely interested.
also why we have no control over it, why we continue to love even when it is unrequited and puts us in such pain?

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34 Answers

CMaz's avatar

“We don’t choose to love”
Yes we do. By putting ourselves in that situation.

“why we have no control over it”
Now that is another thing all together. In modern times, it makes it easier to mate.
Since we just can’t bonk one another over the head any more. :-)

TheOnlyException's avatar

@ChazMaz By not choosing to love is that, I mean, we dont sit there thinking, oh i really want to love X, Y or Z. It just one day, happens, and you either realise it at once, or over time. By its not like choosing to open a window, or close a door, it just.. happens.

ragingloli's avatar

To ensure the survival of our species.

CMaz's avatar

@TheOnlyException – You would be surprised of the choices we make, not even knowing it.
You might have the urge and the desire. But you still choose to act on it or not. :-)

TheOnlyException's avatar

@ChazMaz well okay, I have to agree with you there. We do choose to spend time with that person or not, to prolong the love, encourage it, allow it to grow. (Or the opposite)
So in that, I can understand what you mean about choosing to love. But even then, I feel if we tried to not love that person, it would be futile (hence no control.)

CaptainHarley's avatar

The urge to merge is extremely strong because that’s how we keep the race going. So our hormones, our emtions, our senses, our ideation… all are geared to procreation, especially when we’re young. As I’ve gotten older, I look for different things in my partners than simply a proper hip-to-waist ratio and an ample busom ( both of which indicate good health and childbearing effectiveness in a woman ). It’s not entirely clear what role pheremones play in human attraction, but we know they’re there and they have at least some effect.

Trillian's avatar

@TheOnlyException What is your definition of love? Is it that heady rush you experience when you first kiss someone new? Because that isn’t love, it’s chemicals that the brain secretes that tells us we’re warm and happy. The use of the word love has become synonymous to lust. We equate that to love because of Hollywood and popular music. We do that because we’re a pack of idiots who can’t be bothered to really fall in love because we feel entitled to instant gratification. Then, six months after that chemical effect has worn off, we try to blame each other for not being what we wanted and we “fall out of love” with that person. We also generally try to hurt them in the process.
Ask yourself, truly, is that love? No, it isn’t. It’s a misuse of the word. True love accompanies respect and admiration and is long term. It takes work and commitment to form a real relationship and feelings of love ebb and flow. It’s staying together during the ebb and not doing thing to hurt the other during that time that makes the flow so much stronger and worth the ebb period.

Exhausted's avatar

I fell MADLY in love with my first husband. He could literally take my breath away. I hung on his every word, I craved his attention/touch, I adored him. I was obsessed with him. He was a very poor choice for a husband and looking back now, I think my attraction to him was more about me than it was him. I think I was empty and desperately needed someone to fill me up. I was very insecure and needed to be loved. I also think the reason I chose him was because he was exciting, full of life and a bit of a bad boy. I was a sheltered, “good girl” that needed a safe way to experience that excitement and I could do it through him without feeling responsible for the events because they were his doing. I don’t think it was love because it wasn’t realistic and not recriprocated. I am now married to a man that is calm, reasonable, sensible and loves me dearly. He soothes my soul and that is so much more desirable than the crazy insanity I had with my ex.

msbauer's avatar

interesting you should say SMELL is something that attracts us to a person…biologists suggest that the major histocompatibility complex (MHC; it’s a component of our genes) is largely to blame for this olefactory attraction as well as supporting a bit why opposites attract. apparently we tend to find people attractive who have an MHC more dissimilar to our own. im not sure of the details, but MHC determines in some way the odor of your body. in a classic study, claus wedekind had females smell the t-shirts that males had sweated in (how lovely!). they seemed to prefer the smell of the t-shirts of guys whose MHC was most dissimilar to their own. however, in other study by ihara and colleagues, long-term relationship success was not related to MHC dissimilarity. in other words, tying these 2 studies together, INITIAL attraction can be predicted by the MHC difference but SUSTAINED attraction cannot!

why have we evolved this way? the idea is that it is better to mate with someone with a different MHC than your own because it benefits your offpsring…the MHC is related to the immune system, and the more diverse the MHC (formed by having 2 parents with very different MHCs mate) the stronger the body’s immune system-fighting powers. in studies with rats it seems to hold up quite nicely, but when humans enter the picture with their long-term relationships it seems that people use criteria beyond mere scent, not surprisingly.

i’m sure i’ve sufficiently sucked all the fun out of love with this message, but i think it’s super neat to find support for a physiological and adaptive basis for physical attraction.

davidbetterman's avatar

It’s a chemical reaction to external stimuli.

TheBot's avatar

I have rarely fallen in love. Literally just once or twice. For various reasons, I have never been in a relationship (it’s ok I’m still young), but I still know what triggers love for me. The short answer being: I don’t actually know the specific aspects I look for, or have a set idea of the “ideal woman”. I know that I never fall just for looks though. Never. My friends go crazy trying to find tv series actresses which I would consider attractive, but the truth is I only fall for charm, -which does include a certain amount of good looks, mind you -, a very rare quality in a woman in my experience. It is the vaguest, yet probably the most significant criterion, because it is so subjective and holistic.

ThrallKiller's avatar

Hmmm, it’s hard to really put a finger on it since it’s different for every person. I fell in love with my wife because she’s so incredibly beautiful and has an amazing personality. She’s easy to talk to, easy to fight with, easy to make up with, and just easy to love. :)

stevalente's avatar

Most of people tried to explain love, but i think it’s not possible yet. I’ve read one thing once that I think is great for this discussion you’ve proposed: Nobody would fall in love with somebody if they had never listened something about “love”. Maybe we’ve created it.

PacificToast's avatar

You can choose to love some one, or be attracted to them. We love because God created us to be humans made in his image that glorify him by loving others and Him.

MrsDufresne's avatar

This is a really great question. The reasons why we love, are as vast as the number of individual human beings on earth. For myself, the reason why I love my husband is…just because.

Disc2021's avatar

Science tells us it’s really a bunch of neurotransmitters – for example, dopamine. Smell also has a large impact on our emotions, as @msbauer supports.

I dont think that this necessarily takes the fun out of the question “Why do we love?” – I think it suggests that maybe we were simply just built to love.

Why were we built this way? Similar to asking why we exist – or where we come from.

davidbetterman's avatar

Actually, the reason we love is to be loved in return.

CaptainHarley's avatar


I know lots of people who continue to love when it’s obvious that the object of their affections does not return that love.

davidbetterman's avatar

Then they had best find someone who will love them, or continue with their unconditional love of those too broken to return said love. @CaptainHarley

babaji's avatar

it completes us…

Just_Justine's avatar

Chemistry is a mysterious thing. I do believe it is about psychological triggers. Meaning something about the person their hair, their way of walking, is something our brain has stored as attractive. Infatuation is also an odd concept, meaning that the nutty Professor we admire so much makes our heart skip a beat. Lust might be about how we are feeling emotionally at that point of time. But love, we choose, because from all of the above we make our final decision based on compatibility, and validity of the idea of a relationship with that person.

Pandora's avatar

I agree with @Chaz and @Just Justine. I once was in love with a guy that I knew would not be good for me. So I chose to ignore the feeling of love.
When I first met my husband, I wasn’t in love with him. As a matter of fact I could not stand him. But once I got to know him, I let my guard down and fell in love with him.
What many people call love is just lust with a prettier name. Real love comes from accepting a person as they really are.

CMaz's avatar

“Real love comes from accepting a person as they really are.”

And that takes time.

TheOnlyException's avatar

@msbauer that is so interesting about the MHC!
I have heard of that people with differing immune systems being attracted to each other. But do you know if we are consciously able to smell and be attracted via the smell, or is it subconscious?
I was reading the page from that link you posted, about the female college students smelling the t-shirts and preferring the scent of the males with different MHCs to their own… it doesn’t take the fun out of love, i love the idea of a chemical attraction, it seems so primal and raw

davidbetterman's avatar


“Real love comes from accepting a person as they really are.”
And that takes time.

And heart…miles and miles of heart…

mattbrowne's avatar

Because we can immerse ourselves in something wonderful putting rationality and biochemical explanations aside for a while. We ask why questions later.

TheOnlyException's avatar

@mattbrowne :) I agree with you there.

CMaz's avatar

The minute people fall in love, they become liars.

TheOnlyException's avatar

They have to be, humanity would be doomed otherwise.

Response moderated (Writing Standards)
Dr_Lawrence's avatar

We are neurologically wired to be attracted to good potential mates. Our needs for companionship and for sex interact to produce intense infatuations (lust) we call “falling in love.”

What most of us refer to as the intense, lasting bond between partners (Love) is very different in origin and nature from that intense infatuation (lust). Love can develop with or without the sudden infatuation stage.

We love in order to satisfy our needs for closeness and to form pair bonds that typically (but not necessarily) result in reproduction.

In my opinion, life without Love is like fine food ingredients prepared without herbs and other seasonings. It will fill you up, but it fails to satisfy your appetite or result in a thrilling sensual experience.

Joybird's avatar

Love is a complex emotion. It is not greater or lesser than any other emotions. It is just one of many. It is a combination of other emotions and experiences across time. We develop reference for it from our phenomenological maps…the knowledge of our early experiences and continued experiences. Love is a generic emotion. We love our pet. We love other people. We love our favorites…whatever they are. And romantic love is the combination of generic love with sexual attraction and/or sexual activity. Sexual attraction is a product of facial similarithy to self and family of origin as well as symmetry in features. Sexual attraction is also a product of pheromenes. Men detect fertility. Women detect a wide range of information from pheromones, health and sickness, as well as differences in immunological system. Women experience “good chemistry” with men who are most similar in looks but who have the most different immunological systems from the range of available suitors in close proximity to them. (one reason why long range romances usually hit the skids…mates begin to tune in to possible suitors in closer proximity) And then you add oxytocin. hugging produces it in women. It is produced in much lower amounts in men. Sex produces copious amounts in women automatically binding her to her sexual partner. Men produce this effect slowly across time via companionship and sex with the same partner. This is one reason why consummate philanderers have a hard time commiting. They aren’t binding to one partner and thus diluting the impact of physiology.

You asked about smells and voice. Males with deeper voices are statistically more attractive to females in general. Women feel men with “good chemistry” smell good even when they aren’t wearing cologne or anything else with a scent.

Any questions?

heathyrzang's avatar

Love is a system of chemicals (dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin) being released in the brain. It’s a lot more complicated than just that but that is big part of it.

Being animals ourselves we do what all other species do… we find mates to continue on our species. Humans are different though of course since we have deeper interactions than most animals. We form connections.

Love is a difficult subject to define and further study needs to be done; it is such an unlimiting power. Many people think that was the main purpose to life. To love and be loved.

If your serious about knowing look up some books. WHY WE LOVE by Helen Fisher is a good one.

GabrielsLamb's avatar

That depends completely on the individual.

But love itself when it is within right action on a “spirit” level *take that however you want depending on your personal belief system… Love is a universal energy that flows through everything.

I think only a small margin of what and how people play it out can actually be attributed to what love truly is in a genuine sence.

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