Love evolved to bribe us to commence and maintain… relationships – with lovers, children, family and friends – which we require simply to stay alive and perpetuate our genes. And this biological bribery comes in the form of a set of four neurochemicals that underpin attraction and love: oxytocin, dopamine, serotonin and beta-endorphin.
Oxytocin is important during attraction as it lowers your inhibitions to starting new relationships by quietening the amygdala, the fear center of your brain, meaning that you’re confident when approaching a new acquaintance.
Dopamine is always released at the same time as oxytocin. It’s your body’s reward chemical and is released whenever you do something you enjoy.
Unlike the other chemicals, serotonin drops at the start of a relationship, which is why your mind tends to be overwhelmed with thoughts about your new love.
And finally, we have beta-endorphin. This is the hormone of long-term love. Humans can be in relationships for decades and oxytocin, in particular, is not powerful enough to underpin love in the long-term.
Further, oxytocin is mostly released in significant amounts only in situations related to sexual and reproductive love meaning it’s not capable of underpinning friendship – a key, survival-critical human bond.