A certain someone catches your eye, and your heart beats faster. Just being near them fills your chest with a warm glow. Nothing in your life feels complete until you share it with them. So what is this mysterious force that makes us feel these things? What is love? Like any good challenge, we believe it can be solved if you just keep asking the right questions.
Common wisdom places the origins of love in appearance: after all, the common phrase is "love at first sight," and we've all met someone we just can't take our eyes off of. Yet we've all experienced relationships that waned long before looks, and we also know of couples whose love has endured for their entire lives. So while beauty may help us get noticed, that's only the first step.
Some scientists suggest that chemicals called pheromones, special scents too subtle for us to notice consciously, could be responsible for attraction. Ants, bees, and even some plants use pheromones to communicate, so it's possible humans might send subconscious signals the same way. But even when our loved ones go just a little too far with the perfume or aftershave, we still love them. And the spark of love still exists when they (and their scent) aren't around. So if it's not smell, then what?
There are always turning points in relationships, actions or experiences that solidified our love or showed us that it wasn't as strong as we thought. Whether it's a person's sense of humor, or their hobbies, or just a shared affinity for foreign films, actions and behaviors can draw us closer or make us second-guess our attraction.
To further put these actions in context, take a look at the other people in your life too. We have friends we enjoy spending time with, make us snort with laughter, and even like the same weirdly specific foods. So why does a friend’s hug feel nice, while that special someone’s hug makes us glow?
Although there are many theories, none can fully explain our varied experiences of love. Maybe we haven't found the right corner of the brain yet, or the right mix of hormones and neurochemicals that set things off.
In the end, there are only two things we know for sure: love is wonderful, and it's complicated. But the uncertainty is half the joy of it. It’s a mystery that binds us to each other, both in our relationships and as shared experiences across time and space.
Today, we encourage everyone, amateur scientist and professional alike, to perform experiments of your own. Ask yourself who you love, and why—then take that result and tell your special someone all about it.