The Origin Of Love: Myths And Science

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia, LCSW
Updated November 10, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Science has often explored the origin of love. Hormones like oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin are usually believed to play a role in romantic feelings and attachment. It’s also believed that humans’ capacity for love may have developed to promote procreation and help the species survive in groups. Family love is also frequently viewed from an evolutionary standpoint as a tool to maintain relationships that typically provide safety, shelter, and food. While it can be fascinating to look at the science behind love, speaking with a therapist about the specifics of your relationships may be more helpful in addressing any interpersonal challenges you may be experiencing.

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The Role Of Hormones

Love is often believed to be a complex interplay between various hormones, neurotransmitters, and other neural processes in the brain that control the emotional response and drive us toward romantic connection. 

The primary hormones involved in love may be oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin. Oxytocin typically creates attachment and trust, while dopamine can provide motivation and reward. Serotonin usually increases our sense of contentment and well-being during bonding activities, such as cuddling or sexual intercourse.

In general, the role of hormones in the formation and expression of love has long been studied. Hormones like oxytocin, vasopressin, and dopamine are typically known to be involved in the formation of close bonds between individuals and in the expression of love.

Studies have also suggested that these hormones may be linked to the intensity of a person’s romantic feelings and their attachment level to their partner.

Social Psychology And Evolutionary Biology

Social psychology and evolutionary biology are two branches of science that may explain love's origin. Social psychology usually looks at how culture and interpersonal relationships influence our emotions, while evolutionary biology normally looks at how natural selection has shaped our behavior. 

Through these two branches of science, we can gain insight into why humans form solid bonds and why we may experience the emotion of love.

Generally, as humans evolved, so did our capacity for forming social connections associated with feelings of love. Over time, this may have helped us to survive in groups by providing support through mutual aid in times of scarcity or danger. It may have also promoted procreation by deepening the bond between mates to ensure their offspring's survival. 

Infants may begin developing cognitive abilities that influence their reactions to stimuli at a very young age, potentially including positive responses toward love from others, such as parents or caregivers.

This reinforcement may help them form positive relationships with others throughout life, possibly creating stronger bonds based on feelings of trust, loyalty, and understanding that may represent the basis for more mature forms of love, such as romantic relationships or platonic friendships.

Plato's Origin Of Love Myth

In Plato's Symposium, he tells a myth about the origin of love between humans. According to the myth, humans were four-legged creatures with two heads who walked upright. They were powerful beings, and they threatened the gods, so Zeus decided to split them in half as punishment. After being split in half, these "creatures" felt incomplete and desperate for their other halves. Their longing for completion was what we know today as "love."

Plato believed that this myth explained why people feel attracted to certain people or certain types of people – because our souls may believe that if we find our "other half," then we can become whole again. 

He also believed that when two people are in love, their souls may be fulfilled because they are reunited with their missing piece. This can explain why, when two lovers break up, it can feel like a part of them has been taken away, because their soul may believe that part is gone forever. 

The Myth And Modern Life 

Plato's myth on the origin of love may still resonate with us today because it can give us insight into why we experience love in specific ways. We may not realize it consciously, but for some of us, deep down in our souls, we may yearn for someone who can make us feel complete again – someone who can act as our “missing piece.” 

This may be why, when we meet someone special, it sometimes feels like something inside us shifts; this might be our soul recognizing its other half for the first time!  

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The Origins Of Family Love

Evolutionary biology has largely explained why some humans feel so strongly about family love. From an evolutionary standpoint, family and tribes can be vital because they usually provide us with the necessary resources to survive and reproduce. 

Some may form close bonds with their families because these relationships give them food, shelter, and safety—all things that are normally necessary for our survival and well-being. 

As humans evolved, our brains likely developed mechanisms for forming strong attachments with our families to maintain those important relationships over long periods. This can explain why families often have a deep connection to each other—our brains may be hardwired to preserve those relationships. 

The Role Of Culture In Family Love 

Culture may also play an essential role in shaping how we view family love. In many cultures, intense loyalty to one's family is seen as admirable; it can show strength of character and commitment to one's kin. This type of cultural reinforcement may further strengthen the attachment between families by reinforcing positive behaviors within the group.  

Progression Of Love And Relationships

The way we meet people may have changed dramatically over time. In older generations, arranged marriages tended to be more common, and families would often choose prospective partners for their children. In modern times, people tend to be more likely to meet through online sites or apps. We can now connect with people from all over the world without ever leaving our homes! 

This advance in technology has generally made it easier than ever to find potential partners with similar interests and values. However, some traditionalists may prefer to still meet their partners through family or friends, and that can be perfectly okay, too!  

Showing Affection 

In past generations, couples usually showed their affection differently than they do today. For example, holding hands in public could be considered scandalous, but now, it is usually regarded as a typical expression of affection between two people. 

Also, physical intimacy in a relationship was not always very well accepted before. Couples were normally expected to wait until marriage for such displays of affection. Nowadays, though, kissing in public can be much more common, and physical intimacy is often encouraged before marriage (if both parties are comfortable). Additionally, couples may express their love without conventional marriage, which is becoming increasingly common.  

Communication Habits 

The way we communicate with our partners may have also changed significantly over time. In the past, communication mainly happened face-to-face, but now, conversations can occur through phone or video chat. 

This can make it easier for couples to stay connected even when they live far apart. Technology can also enable people to communicate more openly about their feelings and experiences with each other—something that wasn’t always possible before due to social taboos regarding discussing emotions or intimate topics between two people who weren’t married yet. 

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Benefits Of Online Therapy For Relationships

Online therapy can provide specialized therapists and more diverse treatment approaches than many local areas may be able to provide. In addition, couples can choose therapists who specialize in their particular area of need, whether that be working through issues such as communication difficulties, infidelity, parenting struggles, or unresolved conflict. 

Furthermore, specific services, such as video conferencing, can empower couples to engage in real-time dialogue and interactive activities with their therapist, which is not always feasible with traditional face-to-face therapy sessions.

Effectiveness Of Online Therapy For Relationships 

​​One study by The American Psychological Association (APA) found that couples who receive therapy for their relationship issues generally saw “significant improvements in relationship satisfaction, communication, and problem-solving skills” after only three months into their treatment plan. The same study also found that the effects of therapy were usually still felt up to five years after treatment ended.  

Another study conducted by The National Institutes of Health (NIH) looked at the long-term effects of couples therapy and found that “the gains achieved through counseling were maintained over time” with no significant changes in participants’ levels of satisfaction or problem-solving skills during follow up assessments two and nine years later when compared to pretreatment measures. Another study recommended the use of online couples therapy as an alternative to traditional in-person therapy.


Social psychology and evolutionary biology tend to offer many explanations as to the origin of love. For instance, humans may have developed the ability to experience love in order to help the species survive and promote procreation. In addition, family love may have served as a vital tool to help groups stick together in small tribes where they could often rely on having safety, food, and shelter. If you’re interested in additional insights into love or your own relationships, you may benefit from working with a licensed therapist in person or online.

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