It’s no secret that love can make us do crazy things. So much art and music has been dedicated to the feeling of falling in love and heartbreak that we all know in our collective consciousness that love is in fact, a drug. But did you know there is an actual scientific reason why love can make us feel so high – and so low? Once you realize that those warm fuzzy feelings are actually dopamine hits, suddenly it all makes sense.
What is “Dopamine”?
Dopamine, often referred to as the brain’s “feel-good” neurotransmitter, is a chemical messenger that plays a pivotal role in our daily lives.
It’s the biochemical superstar behind the rush of pleasure we feel when achieving a goal, the satisfaction of a delicious meal, or that spike in energy you get before you go on a luxury vacation to a new, exotic place.
Can’t sleep at night? Can’t stop your mind from racing? Butterflies in your stomach? Dopamine.
But Dopamine’s influence goes far beyond mere pleasure— it’s a central player in motivation, reward, addiction, and even our ability to learn and adapt.
Most of all— Dopamine is the key to love itself.
Some would argue that love is Dopamine, and not just a byproduct.
With this in mind, dating is all Dopamine; a rush of highs and lows, of those hits that keep us going back for more, that keep us searching for the thing that will send our levels skyrocketing.
Difficult to understand or pin down, and even more difficult to distill, Dopamine is what everyone is chasing on those first dates; when you think about it, we dream in Dopamine— and crave it more than we crave anything else.
The Details of Dopamine
In a recent UK study, Seeking decided to find out just what makes us such Dopamine addicts, and how to beat the fix.
To find a way to sustain your Dopamine levels is to cheat the dating system, and to create a dating life for yourself that will be free of the steep lows that make the dating game such an unpredictable one.
Seeking’s study found that 95% of British daters admit to experiencing a spike in intense chemical pleasure when meeting a prospective date, with 88% admitting that this is what they look for when dating— that it’s an essential, and non-negotiable part of the dating process.
There are some that don’t enjoy that rush, but the majority are on a quest to max out those levels.
That natural high is something that everybody knows well, but equally, one that everyone experiences slightly differently. 69% of British daters described feelings of excitement when their levels rise, 60% reporting increased happiness, and around a quarter gaining a boost in confidence when their Dopamine levels begin to elevate.
Dopamine’s effect is pure addiction— and a staggering 72% of respondents said that they found it just this.
The Dopamine rush of dating is uncontested; and the love drug is probably the closest that anyone can get to finding the highs of less legal substances— without the harmful side effects that come with the crash.
Then again— one could say that the Dopamine crash is worse; who hasn’t been laid up on their couch and miserable after a breakup?
That’s a Dopamine crash; and it can last for months. If not years.
Start Fast, End Fast—?
In the realm of modern dating, that initial “spark” of attraction can often ignite with a burst of intensity, but its flame tends to flicker at the same pace – typically after just about five dates.
In the world of dating apps, a particular trend emerged: the optimal duration for virtual conversation before suggesting a physical rendezvous hovers around seven days. Beyond this timeframe, there’s a risk of interest dwindling as the euphoric surge of Dopamine slowly wanes.
It’s no wonder that nearly half of the study’s daters (47%) confessed to ending their relationships once the Dopamine had run dry.
There’s a key aspect of maximizing Dopamine, however, and it’s one that has been analyzed over and over again.
The main hindrance to our production is stress.
When you date someone who hinders your Dopamine levels, you’re dating someone who brings stress into your life.
How do we max out Dopamine levels, then?
- Navigate Modern Dating: The initial “spark” of attraction can ignite intensely but tends to diminish after approximately five dates. It’s important to acknowledge this, and then let it go. Let dating carry you to the next partner, and learn what you can from those dates that don’t work.
- Dating App Dynamics: Learn how to use dating apps successfully. Talk to multiple people, have extensive conversations, as well as a variety of conversations— stress causes a dip in Dopamine, so try to minimize stress by taking each individual as a chance to learn something, and share something.
- Take the High Road (or don’t): Dating can be messy. There are circumstances where you should maintain your aura of mystery and those where you shouldn’t— in the end, when someone gets to know you, they’re going to see past all of this. Dopamine isn’t maxed out by a relationship that looks like an ideal, it’s maxed out by the real thing.
- Do Better: Don’t limit yourself to a specific “type.” Be open to dating individuals with different backgrounds, interests, and perspectives. Sometimes, when you meet someone, your Dopamine levels are going to flatline. Sure, that’s fine— but you don’t quite know where that will lead after a few more dates. You need to keep an open mind— Dopamine is a mental thing, it’s sparked by chemistry, but it’s also something that no one quite understands. Just like chemistry between people; it’s a mystery right up until it isn’t.
- Balance Those Equations: Seek partners who share your values, interests, and long-term goals to build something that feels stable; a foundation can endure more than you think, and can generate Dopamine for a lifetime. In the end, as much as we love our Barbenheimer couples, you do need to be aligned. When you’re alone with yourself, your partner should have the same vibe.
- Independent Dopamine Production: You’re your own source of Dopamine, in the end. And maybe this is a difficult thing to contend with in the face of the rush of dating. But really, when two people who are independent producers of their own Dopamine levels meet— then a new chemical reaction occurs. We’re not saying start a yoga class, but Dopamine can come from multiple sources; imagine how that could look when combined with another independent manufacturer.
The enemy of Dopamine is always going to be that stress reaction.
Raising your standards and setting boundaries can help manage your dopamine levels and make better decisions with a clear mind. Avoid toxic partnerships that make you bounce between the highs and lows. Say no to people who only feel good in the short term and start playing the long game. To save yourself the frustrations of dating someone who makes you wait, makes you second-guess, makes you feel unsupported and unmotivated— well, there’s a single solution to that one.
Date better people.
There’s only one place you’re going to find them, anyway: Seeking.com.