Bring it to Barb


Dear Barb,

We think we know when we are in love, but it’s usually not until hindsight kicks in that we notice the spell we were under. Are we to blame? Is there science behind love and how intoxicating it can be?


Lovestruck Too Fast


Dear Lovestruck,

We have been sold the idea that love is all-consuming and always comes with a happy ending. Truth told, those over-the-moon emotions can be broken into three forms of attachment: lust, attachment and attraction. Each one serves a purpose and causes the release of different hormones within our bodies. When studied by biological anthropologists, interesting things were learned.

Lust triggers the release of testosterone and estrogen with the goal of sexual gratification and fulfilling biological reproduction needs. Attraction releases dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin, creating a euphoric feeling in the centers of the brain. Attachment is rooted in companionship and a mutual desire to grow and support each other. The brain releases oxytocin and vasopressin, which fuel deep bonds.

How can you tell what you’re truly feeling? When you lust, you crave sex. Lust is powerful and takes reason away from the heart, often temporary. Love can spark heat in the beginning, but what differentiates it from other forms of attachment is the desire to become emotionally closer to the person. You want to listen to their needs, create safe space, see their vulnerability and plan a future.

What kinds of conversations are you having? If you find you rarely want to dive into their past, beliefs, interests or anything beyond “What’re you up to?,” it may be just a lust thing.

Ask yourself if you would take this person to a movie you’ve been dying to see? Or a sibling’s birthday party? Love is when we can be out together sharing experiences; lust is when we create our own bubble and keep them closed off, or end up at each other’s place rarely interacting with the outside world.

Another key indicator of love is when talking about your new guy or girl and future plans. Are you using “we” or “I” in conversations?

An easy test is to ask yourself, “What am I willing to sacrifice?” When you truly love someone, you are willing to make sacrifices within your own life to ensure that you are building a partnership. If you aren’t willing to compromise at all, it may just be lust. Barb Rock is a mental health counselor and the published author of “Run Your Own Race: Happiness after 50.” Send any questions related to mental health, relationships or life issues to her at


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