168. Sex & Dating: The 3 Phases of Love & Why We Love and Cheat

07 takeaways from this talk:

After putting 32 people into a Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (FMRI) brain scanner, we found that…

00:01:36 The falling in love process goes pretty much like this:

  1. Lust & sex drive. Your instinctive and uncontrollable desire for sexual gratification gets you out of your pajamas and off your couch on Friday nights and out in public. Knowing how to interpret body language & non-verbal flirting cues determines whether or not you meet someone or, as Louis CK puts it, “you beat up a stranger at the end of the night to get your energy out that way.”
  2. Romantic Love: Obsession and craving. Your ability to focus your sex drive on one individual person. The mere thought or sight of the person you are in love with causes your brain to produce dopamine, an organic chemical associated in reward-motivated behavior. As a result, this person takes on ‘special meaning.’ Their wine glass is different from every other wine glass, their gestures and things are set apart from everything else. With each continued experience with this person, your brain becomes conditioned to producing, and your body becomes addicted to, this dopamine. This addiction results in extreme mood swings and illogical behavior. You become sexually and emotionally possessive of the person. If this feeling is mutual, then the both of you two love birds are on your way to step three. If, however, the other person does not reciprocate your romantic feelings, then you learn how to cope with rejection and the breakup process.
  3. Deep, long-term attachment. The sense of calm and security experienced with that one person that allows you to tolerate him or her and remain together indefinitely; or at least long enough to rear children.

“Love consists of over-estimating the differences between one woman and another” George Bernard Shaw

00:05:43 Love is not a series of emotions, but an ambitious drive the comes from the same reward-center of the brain that pushes you to study harder and earn your diploma, to strive for a promotion at work, and to fight the odds of failure and make your startup a success.

Love is also more powerful than your sex drive. Having your sexual advances rejected isn’t the end of the world; you’re disappointed but not heart broken. But being rejected in love is something humans throughout the ages have killed and fought wars over.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Recall in Glenn Wilson’s lecture Lovesickness: The Problematic & Pathological Side of Love that if being in love is painful, the loss of love and unreciprocated love is excruciating. Researchers have found that the degree of pain registered in the brain resulting from the loss of love and unreciprocated love is equal to being physically burned on your skin.The same limbic system areas of the brain are activated whether a person is experiencing unreciprocated love or trying to overcome a drug addiction.

Also, watch Frank Conner’s lecture The Psychology of Love & Phases of The Breakup Process for more information on managing a broken heart.]

00:08:21 Thousands of years ago men and women had equal status, with women bringing in as much as 80% of the family reveneue and food. However, plow agriculture with it’s ability to mass produce food and the requirement of physical strengh women did not have put men into a dominant position in the household and in society, but the industrial and post-industrial revolution has brought men and women back towards equal footing, and all over the world women are moving into the job market and regaining an equal status, economic power and education with men.

00:10:25 There are many things men and women have in common, but also many, many gender differences, with more and more being discovered every day. These differences should be acknowledged and respected because men and women need each other to advance:

  • Communication. Women tend to be much better communicators than the average man. Roughly 54% of all writers in the USA are women.
  • Sexual expression. Women are beginning to have sex earlier in life, have more sexual partners, and express less remorse for the partners that they do have, marry later, have fewer children, and leave bad marriages and parters for better ones.
  • Marriage equality. With gender equality, marriages are predicted to become more symmetrical and companionate as both men and women would prefer to remain single than be in a relationship with someone they neither respect nor are romantically attracted to and ‘in love’ with.
  • Marriage stability.

    Humans are living longer and healthier. In the US, 85 years old could still be considered as middle-aged. And statistically, the older you become the less likely you are to get divorced.

  • Intelligence. Never before have women been as interesting and educated as they are now.
  • Problem-solving. Women tend to have better social skills, be able to collect and work with larger amounts of data, and be ‘web-thinkers’ with the ability to handle complex problems, whereas the average man removes ‘extraneous’ information to focus on the core issue solve problems using a step-by-step approach.

There are many more male geniuses in the world, and there are also many more male idiots in the world. When the male brain works well, it works extremely well.

00:16:42 The three systems: lust, romantic love and long-term attachment do tend to go together because with orgasm comes a spike of:

  • Dopamine, which is associated with obsession and romantic love
  • Oxytocin and vasopressin, which are associated with attachment

Which is why you feel such a cosmic union with a person you’ve made love to, and why a seemingly casual, open-sexual relationship can quickly develop into a romantic attachment.

But these three systems aren’t always connected linearly, and you can experience all three of these phases separately and simultaneously. You could be perfectly happy and attached to your long-term partner with absolutely no intention of leaving him or her, while also simultaneously feeling an obsessional romantic love for someone you’ve just met or work with, while also feeling the strong sexual urge for sexual gratification.

“In short, humans are capable of loving more than one person at a time.”

00:18:19 Over 100,000,000 anti-depressant prescriptions are written every year in the US. While anti-depressants may be necessary for the short-term, they can have horrible consequences in the long-term because anti-depressants work by raising your levels of serotonin, which suppress the production of dopamine and kills your sex drive, which also kills orgasm, which you recall releases the dopamine, oxytocin and vasopressin which is associated with romantic love and attachment.

Your brain and its systems are all interconnected, and when you tamper with one system, you affect the entire system.

In effect, the long-term use of anti-depressants sabotages your ability to love.

Dr Helen Fisher

(Photo from here. Go to Helen Fisher’s Website.)

One thought on “168. Sex & Dating: The 3 Phases of Love & Why We Love and Cheat

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