“I Think I Love You” – David Cassidy
The year was 1979. The carpet was a deep shag in baby blue. I lifted and lowered the needle of the record player for the 14th time that evening to restart the song. I needed to hear it again. I had not cried quite enough.
“Two hearts, two hearts that beat as one, our lives have just begun …” Lionel Richie was speaking to me. And to Steve Leuke, of course. Not that Steve knew he was part of this deep love and the pain associated with my imagined relationship with him. He was probably home playing Pong and eating Doritos with his little brother or something. Teenage girls pine — it’s what we do. And I pined for love with the best of them. Fueled by sappy love songs and romantic movies, I waited for my life to begin once I found love. Love. I was ready to feel it, ready to say it. Turns out, it would be quite a few years before that would happen in the real world, but at least I had lots of practice in the mirror beforehand.
Cupid’s chemical concoction
Romantic love has its own special effect on our bodies and brains. The fireworks are less mystical than Hollywood leads us to believe. Who we are interested in may be up to us, but once physical attraction kicks in, we are at the mercy of our biochemistry and a cocktail of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. No wonder Robert Palmer is “Addicted to Love.” (I figured I’ve already dated myself, so bring on the 80’s references.)
Attraction, however, does not merit the use of the L word. The bonds of attachment bring on the chemicals that really inspire the proclamation of love. Oxytocin and vasopressin are released as we reach a deeper, more committed phase of these feelings. (Oxytocin is also released in mothers during birth and breastfeeding.) (1) We are usually aching to speak of our love at this point. The L word comes more easily, but can be scary, because the stakes are higher.
Shout it from the mountaintops
And here’s why. Communicating feelings of love and affection towards others gives us a wide range of health benefits. In addition to a big smile, you get lower stress hormones, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure and a stronger immune system. In fact, highly affectionate people don’t produce as much cortisol and their blood pressure doesn’t spike as high under stress. It’s like love offers a protective layer against the negative effects of stress. (2)
Saying “I love you” is good for you, plain and simple. It’s not always easy to muster, and when it comes to family, it’s quite easy to forget to say as we all know it already, right? But saying it is good for relationships, good for starting conversations, and verifiably good for our health!
Je t’aime, ti amo, ich liebe dich, te quiero, I love you… choose your favorite language and let it rip. Kisses and hugs are allowed too. Happy Valentine’s Day, Team!
Inspiration for the Valentine spirit:
16 Weirdly Adorable Ways to Say ‘I Love You’
TED Talk: How to Love and Be Loved.
- The science of love. BBC Science: Human Body and Mind. Accessed Feb 9, 2017.
- Study: Expressing love can improve your health. Arizona State University: ASU Now. Feb 8, 2013. Accessed Feb 8, 2017.