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Loyola University Psychologist Explains Differences Between Love and Attraction


You’ve probably felt it before, that moment when sparks fly between you and someone special. It is an exciting time when you experience your first feelings of affection, even feelings as strong as love. Perhaps you are receiving these feelings from an instant attraction that you share when you meet someone’s eyes across a room. Sometimes the attraction can be so strong that it confuses you.

If you have ever been confused about your feelings for someone, you are not alone. It can be difficult to tell the difference when you are attracted to someone or are in the cupcake phase of a relationship. Fortunately, this article contains information that can help you sort out your feelings.

Is it attraction or attachment?

Many people don’t realize that attraction is part of love. Scientists have divided love into three parts: lust, attraction and attachment.

Lust is self-explanatory, and it’s not hard to tell when you’re feeling this way, as some particular reactions happen to your body. Attraction is just that – being attracted to the person, which can quickly lead to lust. However, attachment is what people mean when they say love.

Attraction and attachment can feel the same, leaving you confused about what you are feeling. It is a confusion that is common and almost everyone experiences this at least once in their life.

Trying to figure out the difference between attraction and attachment was a subject of an article written by psychologist Theresa E. DiDonato Ph.D., assistant professor at Loyola University of Maryland. She explored the idea that people sometimes have trouble differentiating between true love and instant attraction. According to her, the two are powerful emotions and can be intertwined in ways that can be confusing. However, some subtle differences can help you determine what emotion you are actually feeling.

Goals make the difference

One of the most significant differences, according to Dr. DiDonato, is the target of your emotions. For example, when you feel the need for attachment, your goal is to get closer to the object of your affections. You will want to feel a connection and possibly share your life with that person. If you feel the desire to have the person around frequently, you may feel true love.

On the other hand, the attraction may be more temporary. You have a desire to fill and once this is done, your desires go away. You will not feel like sharing your life with the person, although the attraction may reoccur in the future.

While these two goals are specific and different, sometimes it is still difficult to tell your emotions apart. Emotions can cloud your thinking, so you need to look for other clues.

Other differences between attraction and attachment

Goals are not the only way to know how you feel. It’s not even the best way. You may need to consider more than one point to resolve your emotions.

Dr. DiDonato pointed out a few other differences that can help you distinguish what emotion you are actually feeling. Here are some of the points he made.

  • If you would be willing to sacrifice for the person, that is attachment. It is attraction if not.
  • If this person satisfies your need for support (emotional, mental), there could be a desire for attachment involved. If not, it is simply attraction.
  • The desire for attachment gives you the confidence to be honest and authentic. If you feel the need to deceive the person for any reason, you are feeling attraction.
  • If intimacy has become more important than the satisfaction of lust, that is a clear indicator that you may be attached to the person.

The last point is not always as clear as the other points. Dr. DiDonato said that sometimes intimacy or intimate attraction can trigger attachments or the desire for it. So even if you only feel an instant attraction, further exploration of that attraction can make you long for a close relationship with that person.

All of the points Dr. DiDonato wrote make perfect sense. Think about how relationships get started. It is doubtful that people form relationships with someone they are not attracted to. However, people start relationships before falling in love all the time. That is a clear indicator that instant attraction can lead to love.

There are also those who wait a while before being intimate, while others can wait until marriage. Sure, they are attracted to each other, but they choose to develop an attachment before exploring close ties. This is not to say that falling in love is always a choice, sometimes it just happens unexpectedly. However, in this case it is easy to see the difference between love and instant attraction.

Love: a chemical reaction?

Scientists have long explored attachment and attraction on a chemical level. However, neither emotion comes from any reaction in your heart (although both can make your heart beat a little faster). These emotions have been shown to occur or are intensified by chemical reactions in your brain.

Since both emotions can come from reactions in your brain, this could be one reason why people get confused. However, they occur by different chemical reactions in different areas of the brain. That is one of the reasons why you can experience both emotions at the same time.

According to researchers from Harvard University, the chemicals responsible for the attraction are dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin. Those responsible for attachment are oxytocin and vasopressin. While there may be a slight overlap, these sets of chemicals cause very different reactions in your body.

Behavior of attraction chemicals

It may surprise you that the chemicals responsible for your feelings of attraction are the same chemicals responsible for your feelings of drug addiction. It can be scary to think about, but it doesn’t mean that you will become addicted to the person you are dating. It just means that dating an attractive person gives you the same feeling of euphoria that you would get from being high (no matter how you put it, it sounds strange).

These chemicals can make you feel dizzy and excited. They can also cause you to eat and not sleep. Dating an attractive person seems to keep you on your toes and can help you lose weight! It seems like a win-win situation.

If you notice any of these feelings or behaviors happening to you, it is very likely that you will feel the attraction. If you experience them long enough, you could jump into attachment.

Behavior of attached chemicals

The behavior you get from the chemicals of attachment may not be as exciting as the behavior you get from the attraction, but the actions could be more stable. These chemicals cause binding behaviors. The Harvard researchers said these bonding behaviors could include activities like breastfeeding and childbirth.

Before you start to think that your partner’s bond is the same as your baby’s bond, don’t forget that the difference is that you’ve had the attraction phase and probably the lust phase with your partner that you didn’t have with your partner. baby. That is what makes attachment romantic. However, the bond is just as strong in both situations.

The downside of chemical love

In general, being in love is a great thing. However, you’ve probably heard the saying, “love can make you do crazy things.” This could not be more accurate.

All of those chemicals that float around your body can affect your hormones as well as your cognitive functioning. You could make some irrational decisions simply because the chemicals are flooding your judgment, especially if the relationship breaks down. Sciences has shown that these are the same behaviors that drug addicts exhibit.

This is generally not a cause for concern. Those irrational decisions are usually harmless. However, if you find yourself making decisions that may harm yourself, your livelihood, your partner, or someone else, you may need to take a step back.

Instant attraction = love at first sight?

Some people believe in love at first sight, while others don’t. However, attraction is part of love and instant attraction happens often. Therefore, in a sense, love, at first glance, happens much more than you think.

What does not happen often is attachment at first sight. In fact, this can sound strange and possibly even a little alarming, since attachments often take time to develop. There may be some mental illness when this happens, but that is a discussion for another article.

Final thoughts on the difference between love and instant attraction

After reading this article, you should be clear that attraction is simply a part of love. Therefore, there is no difference between the two. You could say that the attraction is simply a beginner’s love or love without an emotional bond. One could even say that an attraction is the idea of ​​the possibility of love.

Neither of these definitions would be wrong. The attraction, even if it is instantaneous, is a version of love that has not yet become a commitment. It can disappear as quickly as it developed. Love, it seems, is a fickle emotion.


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