by Brianna Kuplent
The dictionary does not have a description for the phrase “falling in love.”
The word falling by itself means “to drop or come down freely under the influence of gravity” or “to drop wounded or dead, esp. in battle.” Love is “a deep, tender feeling of affection and solicitude toward a person, such as that arising from kinship or a sense of oneness.”
So, we are falling freely from the influence of gravity due to a tender feeling of affection that comes from a sense of oneness? The psychological effects of falling in love might sound like the usual “light drizzle” with the “love at first sight” completing the feeling of being in love.
Valentine’s Day surrounds the idea of “falling in love” and expressing it to another person. It begins with how we become attracted to another person, and many say its expression goes beyond Valentine’s Day.
“We like to think of ourselves as part of something that is much larger than ourselves, and mostly that starts with family,” said Richard Veach, a sociology professor at Whatcom Community College. “As we develop, we extend our emotions outside of our family.”
Developing that strong connection with other people could first come from liking their appearance, their intelligence, or their car, but another professor says that there is a subconscious sense that people tap into when they first meet someone.
When we are choosing someone, we look at their waist-to-hip ratio, says Colete Colburn, a psychology professor at Whatcom. The waist-to-hip ratio determines how healthy a person is by measuring the circumference of their waist and dividing it by the circumference of the hip.
For medical purposes, the ratio is an indicator of potential health risks to the person. For attraction purposes, it doesn’t matter which culture you’re from, says Colburn, a defined waist-to-hip ratio can make the opposite sex more attractive.
More physiological factors play into how a person falls in love, such as people in stressful situations tending to connect more with others who are going through that same situation.
“When you’re in fear or under stress it’s a physiological arousal,” said Laura Overstreet, a psychology professor at Whatcom. “Your heart rate increases and your blood pressure goes up.”
“Love is the intimate thing that you feel when you feel mortal,” she said. She added that the most intimate times are at night and when a person feels less secure.
“I think it’s because they have less to lose at the time,” said Overstreet. Overstreet also said that falling in love, when people are stressed or insecure, could result in a temporary relationship.
“I have mixed feelings about Valentine’s Day,” said Overstreet. “Valentine’s Day has become a public expression of your relationship, not private.” People ask others what they received for Valentine’s Day instead of just enjoying the day and being in love, she added.
Veach noted that people place a high value of being in pairs or being in a relationship. “To an extent I think it’s a great consequence of culture,” said Veach. “People in their thirties or older feel more pressure by this because they feel that they have to be in pairs. Younger people put themselves in groups because it’s easier to be in a group than to not have to face a commitment to one individual.”
Overstreet argues that Valentine’s Day increases problems already in a relationship. For people who are in love and give each other the benefit of the doubt, Valentine’s Day is a good day for those couples, she said. But for others, Valentine’s Day is like a test.
“For some people enough is never enough when really it’s all about themselves and their insecurity to do this testing,” said Overstreet. “Getting stuff is not Valentine’s Day. Expressing love is Valentine’s Day.”
Richard Veach said that society is built upon the necessary emotional bond between people. “Love is what binds people together and it’s the most important thing.”
Colburn echoed his opinion.
“It’s a big part of our lives,” she said. “It does not matter how progressive we are (like with careers), people want to love and be loved.”