The Joy and Heartbreak of Love

A diverse group of hands and arms reaching up toware a multicoloured heart

Saint Valentine may be giddy at the thought of his name associated with love and celebration for all eternity even while some shake their heads at the commercialism of it all. There are definite expectations around the day for those who have partners including flowers, chocolate and a lovely meal. Ignore it at your peril!

There is genuine science behind love and heartbreak. Love generates a waterfall of the hormones oxytocin and dopamine. Feelings of love stimulate the same areas of the brain that are triggered when using addictive substances. Huey Lewis and his song, The Power of Love, (scroll to 2:10 for the actual song) hit the proverbial nail on the head as it moves through what the addiction to love can mean.

Older adults who have been through the cycle of love, marriage and perhaps divorce – sometimes more than once – are increasingly opting for finding romance within their existing circle of relationships. Long-time friend relationships that are familiar and comfortable can blossom into love or for some, an easy friends-with-benefits arrangement.

On the other side of the relationship coin is heartbreak. Few get through the teenage years much less early adulthood without experiencing the breakup of a relationship that felt like it was everything. As a teenager or a 60-something, heartbreak is the same. Science tells us that those heady levels of oxytocin and dopamine drop but the hormone cortisol increases. Cortisol is responsible for stress and increased levels can lead to high blood pressure, weight gain and increased anxiety.

If the hormonal ups and downs of romance aren’t for you, women may opt to join in the relatively new creation, Galentine’s Day. Fans of the show Parks and Recreation may recall that Galentine’s Day originated on that show when the female protagonist, Leslie Knope (played by Amy Poehler), chose to gather her gal pals together and celebrate female friendships with a festive brunch. The idea caught on and now it is a tradition among many friend groups to enjoy an afternoon or evening out with friends.

No matter how you choose to celebrate love, it’s important to remember that it isn’t about one day of the year but the journey we all go on throughout our lives. In a spiritual sense, it is love that connects us all so celebrate those you love with every opportunity.