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The science of falling in love

This Valentine’s Day, University of Miami experts explain romantic love and give tips on how to cultivate relationships.
Valentine Day

Michael Beatty, a professor of interpersonal communication at the University of Miami School of Communication, believes that at the heart of falling in love lies an understanding of the scientific process. 

Chemistry, to be exact. 

Female pheromones, called copulins, influence and even induce a hormonal shift in men, increasing their testosterone levels. These reactions produce dopamine in both people, a chemical that reinforces pleasurable experiences and fosters attachment. 

But not everyone finds their chemical match. 

In the modern era of relationships, terms such as a being in the “friend zone” or in a “situationship” have begun to define dating. 

If there is a lack of chemistry, one might find themselves in the friend zone because there are no biochemical reactions to guide a path for romance. But, it could also be because the other person is taking you for granted. 

Beatty’s advice to escape the friend zone is to ‘“stop acting like the friend that is always ready to save the day.” This helps the other person realize that you are not a second option, he said.

Different from being in the friend zone, situationships—a relationship that is undefined or noncommittal—include the biochemical responses because there is physical intimacy, but the individuals are not ready to commit to each other. 

This is not new to this generation, it's just “new jargon for casual dating,” said Beatty. 

Younger generations are perceived as having commitment issues because they don’t settle down until later in life. One reason is because more individuals pursue advanced educational degrees and the decision to move in together before marriage has become more popular, according to Brian Doss, professor of psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences

“Many see moving in together as the next step of commitment before marriage. Most times they will live together out of convenience or to save money on living expenses. That's fine, but it can also make it more difficult to end the relationship if this doesn't end up being their life partner,” Doss said. 

The couple may also not see the purpose in getting married if they already made the big commitment of moving in and joining their lives, added Doss, who also directs the OurRelationship program. 

“Most children born today are born to parents that are cohabitating,” said Doss. This then leads them to getting married without ever deciding that this was the person they wanted to spend the rest of their life with. In turn, the couple may have a higher chance of divorce in the future. 

Beatty offered some tips from the renowned relationship psychologist and researcher John Gottman to defy the odds and be happily together forever. 

“The couple needs to foster mutual verbal admiration, embracing novelty, not being contemptuous, refraining from criticism, actively listening to each other’s problems or thoughts, not withdrawing intimacy and lastly, being able to laugh during conflicts,” Beatty said.