Lust, Attraction & Attachment: How are they connected?

Have you ever had the confusing sensation that your sexual fantasies or lust, romantic longings, and long-term emotional union feelings have been running down various tracks? Ask yourself, Which of these is love?

Think about the last time you came across someone that you considered attractive. Firstly, lust generates within yourself. You may have stammered, your palms may have sweated; when attempting to saunter backwards, you may have said something shockingly asinine. And chances are, your heart was in your chest thudding. No wonder that, for centuries, people believed that love had originated from the heart.

Love is all about the brain, as it turns out, which, in turn, makes the rest of your body go amplified.

Mating, reproduction, and the rearing of young people are mediated by three main, separate, yet interrelated emotional systems in the brain: lust, attraction, and attachment.

Each emotional system is correlated with a specific brain neurobiology.



And each has evolved to control a specific aspect of bird and mammalian reproduction.

First Phase: Lust

We start with lust, the first level, fun-filled and flirting-fuelled. Two sex hormones become active in our bodies at puberty. Suddenly, we are concerned with the urge to find someone to be physical with. Have you ever been to a club and someone in a packed bar makes eye contact with you? If so, compliments! That means that you have participated in the old flirting practise of the age.

At coping with unrequited lust, we humans are reasonably fine.

Animals aren’t quite so tactful, though. As an example, take the flirty male wolf spider. When he meets an unwilling woman, she doesn’t just withdraw, she eats him! But don’t feel too bad when you’re rejected next time. It could be a whole lot worse.

It will take less than a second for our brains to determine whether or not we are drawn to someone.

Second Phase: Attraction

If you make your way through all of stage one’s flirting and imagination, you will shift to stage two-romantic attraction. This is the stage you’re madly in love with. Dream of fireworks, Romeo and Juliet, tinted rose glasses, love-in-the-tummy-butterflies. Everything you can think about and talk about is your new relationship, much to the detriment of everyone else around you.

The game of Attraction acts like a chemical factory. It shoots arrows laced with love drugs into our weak brains and bodies as our own personal cupid. Adrenaline, dopamine and oxytocin are the love drugs, which are released alongside lower serotonin levels. You may have an elevated heart rate, feelings that are obsessive, and finally, addiction.

Third Phase: Attachment

Welcome to the next stage: Attachment. For the long term, you are in this relationship now. You’re pretty sure you and your other half are long-term partners, whether it’s a mortgage, a marriage, getting an adorable puppy together or raising a couple of kids.

The brain responds with a dose of the love hormone, oxytocin. In a long-term partnership, it works like glue.

In terms of evolution, being trapped with your partner long enough to produce and raise offspring to help our species survive may have been beneficial.

Congratulations to those of you who are lucky enough to make it through the three stages of love! Don’t thank romance, though, thank science.


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