The Dynamics of Love: A Scientific Exploration
A look at love through a scientific lens.
Posted Jan 27, 2018
Love is perhaps the most common human pursuit. People crave love and intimacy. Wanting to be understood, cared about, and close to another being motivates us to take action like few other desires. So, if we all want love, why is it so hard for many of us to find or hold on to? Why do we push it away or dismiss it? Why do we have trouble admitting we feel it? It isn’t just so we can listen to Al Green, Adele or John Legend sang about it! It is because love is dynamic and experienced in a variety of ways. It touches every aspect of our lives.
At its best, love can make us feel at ease, confident, secure and blissful. At other times it can trigger feelings of guilt or shame and drive us to behave in ways that are unbecoming. I have spent years exploring the dynamics of love through the lens of dating. I have incorporated my clinical experience and personal experience with evidence based treatment models to find an effective way to navigate the search for love. But finding love is just the beginning. Just like the people we love, love itself is complex, sometimes puzzling and always dynamic.
According to Michael Stock, Sr. Engineer, Manufacturing Sciences, “dynamics is the study of the driving forces that describe a system and how it changes”. Keeping this in mind, from the scientific point of view, the Dynamics of Love can be described as an exploration of the driving forces in a relationship (desire, happiness, compatibility, attraction, obligations, etc.) that describe a connection with another person and how it changes due to internal and external variables (communication, family, other relationships, individual mental health, etc).
Stock says, if we use physics as an example, “which by its nature is dynamic”, we see the “total energy of a physical system may be described by the sum of its kinetic and potential energy.” Let's quickly take a look at one of my favorite couples, Randall and Beth from This Is Us. This healthy couple, with a strong connection experienced discord when Randall invited his long lost, dying father to live with him, his wife and two kids without speaking to his wife first. The total energy, or overall health, of the relationship was impacted by Randall moving his father into the home without asking for Beth’s opinion (kinetic energy). However, we must also add the overall strength of their relationship, their history of managing past struggles and their strong intimate connection (potential energy) to the equation. In the end they were able to effectively cope with the situation because Randall’s oversight, though notable, minimally impacted the positive total energy of the relationship. Got it?
Taking a look at love is always a good idea. It is even more necessary during times of turmoil, discord, social unrest, and political uncertainty. Love can be overshadowed by alarm, fear, trauma, hurt and crisis. However, love is always accessible, even if it is tough to identify or summon. A better understanding and curiosity of the Dynamics of Love will make it easier.
This scientific approach is a fun way to organize our understanding of love and explore how thoughts, emotions and behaviors are all intertwined and affect our individual experiences with love. But let us be clear that love is not measurable the way velocity, mass or gravity is. So, you cannot truly determine how strongly one partner’s transgressions, sexual favors or ability to really “get you” will impact the other partner. Again, this is meant to be a fun way to keep love in mind. Let's keep the exploration going and continue to learn more compelling, interesting and fun ways to understand the ins and outs of love.