The Science Behind Why Falling In Love Really Does Make Us Stupid

by Tara Suess

I consider myself to be a fairly intelligent person. I have a bachelor's degree, I was an (almost) straight-A student and I'll admit a little part of me dies inside when I overhear the improper use of the word “literally.”

But here's the thing: When I'm talking to my significant other, I suddenly become partially brain-dead and forget how to “English.”

Atrociously composed sentences will fly out of my mouth, such as, “I sleeped well last night,” or “I stealed some extra napkins.” The cringe-worthiness of these f*ckups is enough to make me want to crawl into a little ditch and stay there for a while.

It's embarrassing, and it catches me completely off-guard because I don't usually make those kinds of mistakes, except when I'm talking to my SO. What gives?

As it turns out, I'm not the only one who struggles in the intelligence department when I'm preoccupied and thinking about that special someone. That crazy, mystical, whirlwind emotion called “falling in love” may actually be responsible for the stupid things we hear ourselves say aloud around our crushes and significant others.

A 2013 study conducted by Dr. Henk van Steenbergan at Leiden University in the Netherlands, in conjunction with researchers at the University of Maryland, found that a budding romance or new love may temporarily diminish cognitive resources.

Fifty-one participants who were involved in new romantic relationships (specifically those which were six months or less) were asked to differentiate important information from irrelevant information in as little time as possible.

They completed this test after listening to romantic music, which was intended to remind them of their partners, thus eliciting feelings of love. The participants were also asked to complete a survey that assessed the strength and intensity of the love they felt for their significant others.

The study found a correlation between poor performance on the test and how head-over-heels in love a person was feeling, regardless of gender. The less in love, the better they performed on the test. The more in love, the worse they fared.

It seems that being loopy in love lessens our ability to focus and multitask because our SOs are taking up some vital brain space. It's sort of like how your computer slows down because you have too many windows and programs open at one time.

When you fall in love, that person becomes pretty important and takes up a lot of your brain's “hard drive” space. You can still function and get along fine, but everything might just run just a little slower.

The good news? That head-over-heels loopiness can't last forever.

In fact, van Steenbergen concluded that in order for a relationship to survive long-term, regaining cognitive control is crucial. This makes sense.

The honeymoon phase doesn't last forever. Eventually, the rose-colored glasses fade, and that “drunk in love” feeling wears off.

When your love matures to a steady flame instead of feeling like the crazy fireworks of a new relationship, your cognitive function should mellow out back to normal. In the meantime, however, you might just have to make do with your “struck by Cupid's arrow” brain.

So, falling in love can make us a little stupid. It's true, but it's probably not worst thing in the world.

Maybe it even has its advantages. They say humility is a virtue, and forgetting how to speak your native tongue is certainly humbling at best. I can't say for certain that I'll one day entirely cease saying stupid things around my significant other, but as long as he can forgive my lapses in intelligence (and so far, he has), I'll call it a win.