Love makes the world go round; it’s been making my world do a happy spin for 50 years. So why does love cause some marriages to spin out of control, crash, and burn? As my husband and I have counseled couples, it seems like a hundred times we have listened to one of them say, “I can’t help who I love and don’t love. I just fell out of love with my wife and in love with Lisa. It just happened.”
To this I say, “Rubbish!” You can’t play that game because this old lady knows you have been a mind-wanderer. You decide whom you will love—or not love. Science has proven that a man or a woman can decide to love their spouse, and when they make that decision their brain will begin releasing the needed neurotransmitters to create that fine feeling called love. Basically, love is neurological—it happens in the brain, not the heart!
When we first think loving or longing thoughts toward someone, our brain releases a flood of dopamine and we feel oh-so-fine. This wonderful feeling makes us think we are “falling in love.” Love starts in our soul but quickly begins to control our feeling neurons through neurotransmitters.
As a man or woman continues thinking of the person of interest, they experience feelings of desiring a closer relationship and commitment. That’s what oxytocin does. Now things are beginning to solidify in the relationship.
The next stage of a relationship—the desire for the relationship to continue long-term—is generated by a release of the third major neurotransmitter called vasopressin. It brings feelings of tenderness and provokes the protective instinct. This is a feeling of fully developed love because it causes a man to cherish his woman and a woman to honor her man. It is at this point in the brain that both parties start to think of the other as “my man” or “my woman.” Many married couples never arrive at this place of bliss, for when they failed to focus their thoughts on the one they began to love, their brains never produced the needed vasopressin.
Love comes and love stays because of our thoughts. As a person continues to think loving thoughts toward their spouse, their brain continues to release neurotransmitters. No one falls into or out of love; we think our way there. When a married person simply thinks about intimacy with a different person other than the one to whom they are married, it causes the brain to stop releasing the attachment hormones toward their spouse, and without those hormones they stop feeling bonded to their spouse.
God says in Proverbs 23:7, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…” The mind wanderer dwells on how much is wasted on the status quo and then indulges in imaginative thoughts of discovering love with someone else. The brain accommodates by redirecting the “love” hormones to the imaginary lover. They soon feel trapped in a loveless relationship—one that they created with their own thoughts.
Love starts and stops in the brain. Many people—and especially women—say, “I am not going to pour myself out for him when he is not loving me like he should.” Be careful what you think. Bad feelings beget bad feelings.
When I see my husband come in the door, my flesh and my soul have yearned for his coming and my brain has thought about how I can bless him. My soul wants to respond to his need, therefore my brain has been thinking accordingly. While he has been away from me many women have flaunted themselves before him, but his soul remembers my smile and my longings to please him, so he guards his thoughts to be focused on me only. This is walking in the Spirit of God and truth. It is walking in my spirit. This is love. This is marriage. This is commitment, and this pleases God.
Anyone who has an occasion to do counseling would find Create a Better Brain through Neuroplasticity: A Manual for Mamas a very useful tool to have on hand. All the excuses we have heard over the years are no longer valid due to what has been learned in the study of the brain. Either we create who and what we are, how we feel, and why we are weak or strong, or brain damage produces it. Either way it is nice to know what you are dealing with. Knowing the science can cut out a lot of “I can’t help it” nonsense and can also help the counselor understand why someone might be having odd changes in their behavior. I highly recommend this book for anyone who deals with folks, especially in marriage or addiction counseling.