Falling in love is a mysterious thing. One moment you’re minding your own business, and in what feels like the next moment, you find yourself head over heels for a guy you met a few months ago. Your heart beats faster at the mention of his name, you can’t help but smile at the mere thought of him, and you just can’t get enough of him. To you, every little thing he does is magic.
While you might assume that this exhilarating whirlwind of lovey-dovey feelings that you’re experiencing is just what it feels like to fall in love, here’s something surprising: Men actually fall in love totally differently from the way women do.
Before you start to worry, this isn’t to say that he isn’t experiencing his fair share of gushy feelings, but the hormones that are spiking for him aren’t the same ones that are spiking for you, making for totally unique “falling head over heels” experiences.
So what is he going through? How does a guy fall in love, and what’s so different about it from a woman’s experience? A TikTok from Julie Theis, who has a master’s degree in psychology and her own trauma recovery and relationship mentoring business, might have the answer you’re looking for. “Men don’t fall in love through sex. They fall in love through the promises that they make and then keep to you,” shares Theis. What does she mean by that? Let’s find out.
For Women, It’s Through Sex. For Men, It’s Not
You know that guy that you weren’t too sure about to begin with? The one who you decided to go out with, but didn’t know if you were attracted to him or not? And then, as soon as you slept with him, you were absolutely smitten? Well, there’s a reason for that.
Sex causes women to release a hormone called oxytocin, which is commonly referred to as the “love hormone.” Why? Because oxytocin is what causes us to form deep, lasting bonds with someone. It’s what new mothers release when they’re breastfeeding their newborn baby, and it’s what women release when they’re engaging in the intimate act of sex (as well as afterward) and falling in love with someone.
“Women do fall in love through sex. That’s why whenever you hear someone like, ‘I know it’s going to be casual, I don’t actually like him, I’m going to be a player too,’ biochemically, that’s really hard,” says Theis. Women have a far more difficult time keeping things casual once sex is involved because, as far as our bodies and brains are concerned, this is anything but casual.
But for guys, this isn’t the case. While men do release some oxytocin (among a few other hormones), studies find that women’s levels of oxytocin are significantly higher than men’s. “But [oxytocin] is actually not what bonds them to someone … You cannot sleep your way with a guy into making him care. That’s not how it works,” Theis says.
However, it should be noted that, for women, while sex can press fast-forward on the “falling in love” storyline, sex is not necessary to begin to fall for someone. The “deep and intense feeling of affection,” as clinical psychologist Barbara Greenberg puts it, can develop before a woman gets intimate with a man. Sex simply puts it on a fast track.
In the Beginning, He’s Releasing Testosterone
So what are the main hormones a guy is releasing in the early days of a relationship? For starters, testosterone, which is actually what causes a man to pursue a woman in the first place. “In the beginning, in that initial lust phase … the testosterone is peaking because he’s on that pursuit,” shares Theis. When his testosterone is high, he’s doing everything in his power to win you over; it makes sense that his heightened levels of testosterone would cause him to take on the typical “masculine role” of being the pursuer in a relationship, since testosterone increases a man’s preference for femininity.
According to Theis, it’s the fact that his testosterone is what is causing him to chase you that means getting intimate with him too quickly will have the opposite effect of what you were hoping for: “His levels of testosterone are the highest when pursuing, you get what you want, [and] they just drop. Which means, after sex, if it’s in the beginning, he actually likes you less … Testosterone does not create commitment. It peaks, dips.” And she’s right – researchers have found that men in a long-term relationship (over a year) had lower levels of testosterone than men in new relationships. “This is believed to act as an evolutionary role, as men with lower testosterone are more likely to be better caregivers and less likely to pursue additional sex partners,” reports Medical Daily.
So What Does Make a Guy Fall in Love?
We now know how a guy doesn’t fall in love, so how does he fall in love? What causes a guy to take himself off the market and commit to one woman? What makes him fall hard, totally head over heels for her? Something called vasopressin. According to Dr. Helen Fisher of Rutgers, romantic love is broken down into three categories: “lust, attraction, and attachment.” The hormone that’s associated with attachment, along with oxytocin, is vasopressin. “I say men fall in love through the commitments they make and keep because this is more of a sign of vasopressin release … this chemical takes time to develop,” says Theis.
So is there a way you can somehow “trigger” his vasopressin release? Well, sort of. While you can’t force someone to feel something they don’t, there are a few things you can try that might give him a vasopressin boost. “Really, the way you can increase a man’s bonding hormones is through the way you communicate. One of the ways vasopressin is released is him accomplishing a task. So let him do stuff for you,” Theis says. Then communicate to him how much his accomplishing the task made you happy. “Tell him your feelings about that. Now you just triggered vasopressin, dopamine, testosterone,” says Theis.
Another thing Theis mentioned? Loving yourself more than you love him – not at all in a selfish sense, but in the sense that you aren’t smothering him with attention, pursuing him more than he’s pursuing you, and being far too available to him. “She has boundaries. She has her own life. She’s not mothering him. That triggers his masculinity and makes him want to pursue,” she says.
So He’ll Never Feel What I Feel After Sex?
You might be wondering if a man will always like you less after sex, as Theis warned about sleeping with a guy too quickly causing his testosterone levels to plummet. But here’s some really good news: Waiting to get intimate until after he’s committed to you actually makes it so that he’ll be able to experience that oxytocin high with you.
“The testosterone is highest in the beginning, and testosterone receptors block that oxytocin. However, after he commits and is dating someone for a while … testosterone is naturally lower, letting him feel that oxytocin, letting him bond with you,” says Theis.
It’s time we stop expecting a man to fall in love the same way we do, and instead, take time to understand how his brain works. This won’t just make it so that you’ll be more clued in when it comes to his inner workings, but you’ll be far less likely to get your heart broken.
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