Falling in love with your senses.
~ May, 2021 ~ Love. It’s powerful. It’s all-consuming. It’s fragile and it’s heady.
And we are all desperately looking for it.
But how do we know when we are in love? Is it something we feel and sense or something we choose?
If we ask Erick Fromm, he’ll tell us it is a choice.
“Love is a decision, it is a judgment, it is a promise. If love were only a feeling, there would be no basis for the promise to love each other forever. A feeling comes and it may go. How can I judge that it will stay forever, when my act does not involve judgment and decision.”
― Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving
Fromm is right. Love is a decision we make. Love is permanent and our feelings are fleeting.
But even if this is true, we still need to recognize the role our senses play in setting the stage for love.
Because it’s our senses and feelings that help us identify love prospects. And it’s these same senses and feelings that tell us in no uncertain terms when we have found them.
Our senses ultimately make love tangible, real, and all-consuming. They ignite desire, reinforce our beliefs and ultimately push us to rationally recognize what our body already knows to be true.
In fact, if we are honest with ourselves, it is the senses that often set the stage for love and our mind that follows.
“Ha! hold my Brain; be still my beating Heart.”
— William Mountfort’s Zelmane, 1705
Hearing is one of the first senses that we develop as infants. By 23 weeks, most babies in the womb can discern sounds. As a result, babies tune into voices before they can see to form bonds and connections. Interestingly, as we get older, we also rely on voices and sounds to fall in love.
So, how does this work? Well apparently, both men and women alter their voices when they talk to prospective mates.
In her article, Is My Voice Attractive, author Edith Zimmerman notes,
“If we can’t see the person we are looking to fall in love with, we often will try to build a romantic illusion around their voice instead. There are some dates I wouldn’t have gone on had I heard the person’s voice beforehand, and I’m sure the reverse is true. Sometimes the voice just sounds right, and sometimes it doesn’t.”
Voices can put us off just as easily as they can entice us to hear more. But what type of voice makes us swoon?
Well according to a recent study on voice attractiveness and manipulation from the Royal Society found that men and women tend to prefer partners with lower-pitched voices.
Our attraction to voices is undeniable. And Reality TV shows like Blind Date and Love is Blind have tapped into this attraction to try to draw lovebirds together for decades.
Voices can be powerful vehicles to drive attraction and propel people to fall in love. But how do we really know if we really hear the sounds of love? Just listen to your heartbeat.
When we fall in love our body releases epinephrine and norepinephrine into the bloodstream, causing our hearts to beat faster. If we love the sounds or voices that we hear, then our hearts will beat wildly in response.
“Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight! For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night.”
— Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
When we fall in love, our brain also releases oxytocin and dopamine into our system. These chemicals also make our eyes dilate.
Why? Because dilation is apparently related to our biological need to procreate.
According to research from the Association for Psychological Science, we find those who make direct eye contact with us more attractive. And the longer we hold this eye contact, the stronger our feelings of love become. This is because prolonged eye contact causes our brain to release phenylethylamine, a chemical responsible for amplifying feelings of love and attraction.
So, give it a go. Stare into the eyes of someone you are after for 2 minutes and see what happens. Scientists believe that you’ll find this person infinitely more attractive.
Apparently gazing into your significant other’s eyes will also help to synchronize your heart rates — ensuring that you and your partner are completely operating in unison.
“Nothing smells as good as the person you love”
It turns out that how someone smells can play a huge role in whether you will find a person attractive and a suitable love prospect. Animals not unlike humans use scent and pheromones to help communicate sexual desire.
Apparently, we also feel attracted to a person because of their MCH genes which subconsciously communicate how resistant a person is to disease. Ultimately our bodies are more attracted to the smell of people who have a different immune system make-up from our own. Who knew that survival of the fittest had everything to do with your nose?
Smell is also often cited as one of the most important qualities in finding a good match. In fact, one study found that for heterosexual women scent ranked higher in importance than the looks and personality of a prospective male.
Not surprisingly, every person smells in a slightly different way because we each have a unique olfactory fingerprint. But interestingly couples that have similar perceptions of scents tend to also have more success in their relationships. Effectively, if they can smell together, they stay together.
The more the soul knows, the more she loves, and loving much, she tastes much.
— W. H. Murray
When you fall in love, you don’t expect your taste buds to change. But apparently, they do. And the longer you are together, the more your tastes fall in line.
Love also makes things you taste seem sweeter. I say “seem”, because nothing happens to your tongue receptors in love. But according to researchers, those in love perceive food and drink to be sweeter. Participants in a study were actually given water (which they were told was a new drink) and asked to rate its sweetness. Those in love ranked it sweeter than those who said they were not in love.
Given there was no sugar in the water, the perceived sweetness had nothing to do with changes to the participant’s taste buds and everything to do with how their brain was processing information around taste.
At the touch of love everyone becomes a poet.
Touch is actually the first sense we develop. Our bodies love touch, and skin-to-skin contact with someone we love triggers the release of feel-good hormones in the body like serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin. Oxytocin is actually known as the bonding hormone and is the same hormone that is released between mothers and their babies when they touch, which is why skin-to-skin contact between a mother and a baby or two people in love feels so good.
Interestingly touch also increases our likelihood to want to interact with prospective partners. One study found that a simple touch on the arm was all it took to get many women to agree to dance, talk or engage.
Falling in love is a choice we make. It is a promise and a judgment. But it’s hard to ignore the role that our senses play in setting the stage. Because our sense of sight, touch, smell, taste, and sound are all instrumental in helping shape who we fall in love with.
And it’s our senses that make our love feel real and tangible.
So, let your senses guide you. Your head might be running the show, but it’s your senses that will bring that love to life.
© Courtney Burry 2021
Looking for more love stories? Be sure to check out more of Courtney’s work here: