RELATIONSHIP PROBLEMS: I could have called this blog CHRONICLE OF A DEATH FORETOLD: The SURPRISINGLY identical love agenda of men and women. For quite some time there has been this idea that most relationship problems initiate from bad communication. The main stream idea is that “women come from Mars and men from Venus” (or is […]
RELATIONSHIP PROBLEMS: I could have called this blog CHRONICLE OF A DEATH FORETOLD: The SURPRISINGLY identical love agenda of men and women.
For quite some time there has been this idea that most relationship problems initiate from bad communication. The main stream idea is that “women come from Mars and men from Venus” (or is it the other way round?) so we would only need to learn each other’s language and better communicate to make things run smoothly. Well communication is certainly important. However, if it would solve relationship problems, shrinks and divorce lawyers would have ran out of business. Personally, I do not think that communication is the main explanation or relationship problems. Males and females can get on perfectly until it becomes “complicated”.
Better communication, nurturing our inner child, negotiations and going through forgiveness ceremonies may keep us busy and help prolong the situation but they only address the symptoms of a more fundamental problem. I believe that if we are to address relationship problems, like any imbalance, the solution requires looking for the root cause of such conflicts, which may stem from our good old chemicals that control our behavior.
The trouble begins with sex. Not kinky sex versus boring sex, or too little versus too much but rather mating versus bonding sex. After all, as mentioned platonic relationships between the sexes works fairly well, the problem is when fertilisation (mating) comes in the picture.
Happy relationships: our DNA could not care less. Immortality is what our genes are programmed. Our DNA sends us regular incentives towards a variety of partners and lots of pregnancies: shopping around for unfamiliar genes would have once helped protect the human race against inbreeding.
Our mating behavior is operated by the mammalian part of our brain, which works on impulses. The mammalian brain releases neurochemicals that influence the very perception of our everyday life and interactions with others. The mammalian brain generates emotions of joy, fear and anger and is the place where thoughts affect bodily function and the seat of most of our basic desires such as hunger, mating and sexual urges. Our rational brain, although representing 2/3rd of our total brain, has very little to say in the impulsive choices originating from the mammalian brain such as the look, the odor or the physical traits we are attracted to.
We may be reluctant to admit that we are attracted with this manly successful businessman, or this gorgeous young girl, with many child-bearing years ahead of her, our mammalian brain analyses as “genetic good deals”. Most of us will not even acknowledge that we are fighting and divorcing because of a subconscious mating program. Our rational brain is way too busy to find all kinds of explanations. So what is really going on here?
While you are adamantly declaring your everlasting love as orgasm approaches, your chemicals are playing tricks on you. The very intensity of your glorious climax is killing the passion in its egg as it triggers a cascade of chemicals that are meant to entice you to look for new partners. Yes that is right! No matter what Hollywood movies or moral authorities say: monogamy is not our nature because survival programming has another agenda.
Orgasm, or fertilization sex, releases a high dose of dopamine in particular. Meet your dopamine: it is the very neurotransmitter at the heart of your reward system and thus responsible for your drive and motivation. Dopamine is what makes you get out of bed every morning. When craving ice cream, surfing a wave or having sex with this film start, you are actually seeking more stimulation of your reward circuit. The bigger the surge of dopamine in response to some activity (or person), the more you perceive it as a reward.
When we are constantly engaging in activities or chasing things in our lives, we are not looking for these things, rather the feeling associated with it. The finance trader does not need more money, but his dopamine rises at the possibility to beat his competition. That is the very reason why no amount of money can ever satisfy him. The prolific wife does not really want more clothes but is getting a surge at the idea of looking better than her girlfriends. Umm wonder if the marketing industry knows that? OF COURSE they know. Why do you think they will spend 80/90% of their budget on the marketing of a perfume and a mere 10/20% on the making of the product!
Falling in and out of love is very much driven by our reward circuit and it is unconscious. You cannot force yourself to fall in love anymore than you can help falling asleep after a big meal. When falling in love, our rational brain is switched off, which is why we are blind to faults and literally flooded with neurochemicals of reward.
As explained, the big part of the thrilling rush up to climax is a sharp rise in dopamine. Actually, the pursuit of orgasm is the biggest legal blast of dopamine we can engineer at will. However bodily functions calls for homeostasis, balance, so what goes up must eventually come down!
And bang! Over the edge of climax, dopamine drops suddenly, along with other chemicals, and changes to our receptor levels are set in motion. When dopamine is high, Mrs. Right looks like a million dollar; when dopamine falls, which it does just after climax, we feel unmotivated, tired and apathic and Mrs. Right has suddenly become a second hand car you are tired of driving. This chemical shift affects the very way you perceive the object of your long-lived affection and create emotional distance, at the onset of relationship problems. These withdrawal symptoms last around two weeks.
After passion, we may experience a loss in energy, feeling cranky, irritated at details we once found endearing. The list of after effects is long as they are different in each individual. They may display as restlessness, anxiety, weepiness, feelings of insecurity, emotional neediness, jealousy, and desire for escape. In its extreme forms, the low cycle of dopamine can cause headaches, brain fog, exhaustion, and real social anxiety.
Very few people seem actually to connect the dots between sexual satisfaction and these various symptoms: No come on there is no such thing as this sexual hangover! Right, sexual compatibility is great and gets partners closer, does it really?
Professor Gert Holstege scanning the brain of ejaculating men found that their brains looked liked that of shooting heroin thus confirming that the rush experienced will necessarily be followed by withdrawals symptoms, unless you take more, but then that becomes another story.
More proof: Meet Mr. Rat in a cage with a welcoming female. He will get very busy until he stops after a while going someplace else in the cage. Its chemistry worked its magic and he will stay uninterested for around two weeks unless a new female is then introduced in the cage. His apathy will soon leave space for a renewed activity, sign of his genetic programing not to leave any opportunity unfertilized.
Researches confirm that as the length of the partnership increases, sexual desires decrease in female and so do desires for tenderness in male.
Some individuals may try to fight the process by getting more of these rushes through various means, such as being overly promiscuous or watching porn. This is how they start the dreadful cycle of addiction. Any addiction works on the same principle: the higher the rush, the more painful the fall and the consequences. Going for more of what caused the pain in the first place is just a way of diminishing the withdrawal symptoms.
So are we doomed? Will our genetic program keep us apart after 2 or 3 years or maintain us in an unexciting habituation of one another?
As pair bonding mammals we also have another program that predispose us for physical and emotional closeness. We could not attach to another person, like a mother to her child or falling in love, without specific changes in our chemical circuits. How do you run your bonding program rather than the mating one, most people are subconsciously following, thus avoiding relationship problems, depends on specific behaviour and awareness.
To be continued …
Cupid’s poisoned arrow by Marnia Robinson
Aude is an ex corporate Lawyer with a passion for health, self development and independence which lead her to give up her former career to help others through health.
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