Why do we Fall in Love?

inlove

Why do we Fall in Love?

Have you ever wondered how much of love is biology and how much is psychology? If you’ve ever wondered if chemistry just happens or can be created, if love at first sight is real and all other things about love, you are living in a wondrous time. Why do we fall in love? Science has some answers. There are three different systems in the brain, that when brought together spell the emotional and biological phenomenon we call love. First is the sex drive created to ensure the perpetuation of our species. The feeling of romantic love helps you focus on one person making sure you don’t waste any time or energy. The last part is the comfort and security you feel when with a long term partner, giving you time to raise children together.

Love feels fantastic because the pleasure centers of the brain are activated when we fall for someone. Dopamine, the chemical that makes you feel euphoric, enthralled, and sleepless mirrors other experiences, such as being high on cocaine. Love at first sight does occur, though more to men than to women. Men are visual creatures. Whereas women fall in love in terms of who a person is, their charm, status or power rather than their physicality. Love at first sight may be an evolutionary advantage, producing offspring in a short amount of time rather than the long, drawn out process we go through today with society as our backdrop.

Timing of course is just as important in falling in love as it is with everything else in life. If you’re too busy with work or focusing on your responsibilities you may not notice the perfect person for you, when they’re just inches away. But with a little free time and the right mindset, a sort of openness, not necessarily looking for it, love can hit you like a lightning bolt. If you want someone to fall in love with you, do exciting things together with them. This releases dopamine and norepinephrine into the brain, mimicking romantic love. There is a difference between love and lust. You can feel love for one person. But lust dissipates after sex. And you can feel attracted to someone without being compatible, or jealous if they are into someone else.

How do you keep the spark alive? By trying new and exciting things together, and doing the things you did when you were first dating. Perhaps someday all of our questions on love will be explained. Will that kill the romance? Or will it give us a finer appreciation of the nuances of love? Only time and intrepid scientists will give us the answers. For more on this topic read, Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love by Helen Fisher.

Both Sexes get Jealous but over Different Things

jealousy

Both Sexes get Jealous but over Different Things

Most people agree that just a smidge of jealousy can be a good thing. It shows how much you mean to your partner and vice versa. But we have to be careful in the quest for recognition, rekindled desire or appreciation. Some use jealousy as leverage to dislodge these emotions from our lover. But we should not play with the heart of another too cavalierly. Such machinations often make matters worse. The only good jealousy, the kind that leads to positive change, is taken in small doses. In larger forms, possessiveness and covetousness are destructive forces that ultimately tear two people apart. Both sexes experience jealousy, but they do so differently and over different things. That’s according to a new study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. Chapman University’s David Frederick in conjunction with UCLA’s Melissa Fales conducted this study. They decided to try to use big data to see if a phenomenon in a previously conducted study was supported or torn down. The finding was that the majority of men are outraged by sexual infidelity. This is true even when no emotional connection is involved in the act. Women on the other hand are torn up over emotional infidelity even in instances where no sex takes place.

The researchers reviewed a survey taken by NBC.com back in 2007. 63,894 participants took that survey. The questions in the survey surrounded dating and relationships. One section in particular was of interest to these researchers: “Take a moment to imagine which of the following situations would be MOST upsetting or distressing to you.” The first answer, you found your partner in a sexual relationship with someone else, but they have not fallen in love with that other person. The second was you found out your lover fell in love with someone else, but had not slept with them. 54% of men said a sexual affair was the most egregious transgression. This same answer was selected by 35% of heterosexual women, 34% of gay men, bisexual men 30%, bisexual women 27% and lesbian women 34%. Researchers believe these gender-specific responses have evolutionary roots. Men’s concern over sexual infidelity stems from the need for assured paternity, for supporting one’s own genetic offspring. For women, pair bonding is the issue. From an evolutionary standpoint, a woman wants to know the guy will be around to help raise her vulnerable young and provide for them.

The problem is this programming helps us survive a Stone Age world that no longer exists. Does this sort of ingrained thinking help or hurt our aims in the modern love sphere? How our current needs and these ingrained processes interact is a point of concern. How does this pan out with couples who don’t want children or can’t have them? What about countries where gender equality has nearly come to pass? What role do messages from advertising, our culture and the media play in our selection of a mate and how do these interact with our Stone Age subconscious? Researchers say the results aren’t exactly cut down gender lines. In fact, there was a little more variance among different nations in the world. The cultural and contextual factors are important and play a significant role. Although there is an overall pattern, individual men and women also have different perspectives. But this research doesn’t take such nuances into account.  Sorting it all out however is complex. We may never have a formula for how human jealousy works, or how human relationships should be conducted in the modern world, for that matter. But further insights such as these can help us know ourselves better and figure out how best to negotiate the modern needs of love with those that inhabit our subconscious from our ancient past. For more on the evolutionary roots of love pick up a copy of, Snakes, Sunrises, and Shakespeare: How Evolution Shapes Our Loves and Fears by Gordon H. Orians.

Fidelity and Promiscuity; Evolutionary Adaptations found in Both Sexes

INFIDELITY

Fidelity and Promiscuity; Evolutionary Adaptations found in Both Sexes

Conventional wisdom states that men always have a wandering eye. Though many settle down to healthy, monogamous relationships, it is believed that they are still prone to promiscuity and always wanting sex. For women, however, they are supposed paragons of fidelity. Once a woman finds a man she wants to settle down with, her heart is his. She won’t stray unless he treats her terribly, or so it is thought. At least these are the messages we are fed through the media, our families, and our cultural superstructure. But is it true?

Practically, we’ve probably all observed a “one woman man” who makes a great husband and father and wouldn’t dream of cheating. We also know women who would prefer not to settle down and see their love life as one unending adventure. So what’s going on here and what does science tell us? A recent study out of Oxford University is illuminating our view on the sexes and how fidelity and promiscuity play a role in our evolution. Oxford researchers believe that the faithful and the not-so-much are actually pretty evenly distributed throughout the sexes. What’s more, each person’s position fulfills a specialized role.

To conduct this study, Dr. Rafael Wlodarski and his Oxford team combed through data from two other studies. One was called the “sociosexual orientation inventory.” Here 600 people answered a questionnaire which investigated their tendency to enter sexual relationships without commitment. The other study measured the length of people’s index and ring fingers. 1,300 participants took part in total. The length of one’s ring finger in comparison to the index means more exposure to testosterone in the womb. This finger phenomenon holds true for all primates, and is associated with higher levels of promiscuity. Men were in fact more likely to engage in promiscuity than women. Dr. Wlodarski and his colleagues weren’t surprised by that, but what researchers wanted to know was if each sex had a separate sexual strategy that they engaged in. Researchers found, however, that being promiscuous or faithful were strategies that both sexes engaged in, and have genetic underpinnings.  Dr. Wlodarski and colleagues believe our sexual strategies are in fact phenotypes.  They are the outward expression of underlying genes. Here’s where natural selection comes in. Perhaps genes that promoted successful mating strategies were passed down from one generation to the next.

Phenotype differences between men and women are surprisingly similar. For men, promiscuity to faithfulness was expressed in the ratio of 57:43. For women, promiscuity was outdone by faithfulness but only by a slight margin 53:47. What’s shocking is both of these ratios are really close to 50:50. During the Stone Age, childbirth was dangerous business and a child under four had a low chance of survival. The more women were inseminated the more likely our species would survive. Also, the greater gene variety, the healthier our species would become. Therefore, in a mere evolutionary sense, men and women benefited to a certain level of promiscuity. The faithfulness part comes in as a young child requires both parents to survive in the wild. Therefore, the expression of faithfulness and continuity between parents helped children and our species continue.

Biologists have considered this in theory, but Dr. Wlodarksi’s findings add weight. That theory is called evolutionarily stable strategy. This theory states that those behaviors that helped the species survive become more prominent, whereas those that did not became less so. But what does this mean for the state of modern love and marriage? In the future will doctors be able to genetically test a person and tell them which pattern of love fits their makeup and who is their best match, be they faithful or promiscuous? Does this mean that certain couples would fare better with an open relationship while others would naturally be more monogamous? Science is still a long way away from helping us engineer or hack our love lives. But it certainly is food for thought. If you want to know how science can make your love life sweeter read, Principia Amoris: The New Science of Love by John Mordechai Gottman.

Gender Roles have made a Dramatic Shift

stay-at-home-dad

Gender Roles have made a Dramatic Shift

47% of the workforce will be women by 2050. In 1950 that number was 30%. Though we take our ideas of gender roles, men the breadwinners and women the housekeepers, from outdated 1950’s style thinking, the truth is that throughout history men and women have worked together in different ways to provide for the family and manage the household. The number of women may even surpass the number of men in the short term. Gender roles have made a dramatic shift due to the Great Recession.

Traditional male employment industries such as construction and manufacturing took a nose dive. Meanwhile, the only industries that seemed to have survived and thrive are those traditionally the spheres of women such as healthcare, the service industry and education. So does that mean that men are flooding the household realm while the women work outside of the home? Though there has been an uptick in househusbands, research has shown that there is no flood of men into the home. A 2009 New York Times article points out that women who are laid off spend their extra time doting on the children. Time spent with the children remained low no matter if the man was gainfully employed or not.

While the focus used to be more on the job search and the nuts and bolts of finding employment, the emotional sphere seems to be making its way to the forefront as well. Psychologists are noting that men are becoming more able to communicate their emotions than in years past, expressing fears and anxieties about joblessness and other issues. Since the early days of humankind men have gone out and brought home the bacon, either by hunting, or by bringing home a salary. While modern feminism broke women away from traditional roles, men have been slow to adapt. Their egos are wrapped up in their jobs and providing. Though many feel at home being in the home, others chafe at the idea, feel it isn’t manly or are lost. Many social scientists and psychologists note that this breaking out of traditional gender roles is good in the sense that it brings egalitarianism into a marriage or cohabitating relationship. Still, women and men aren’t treated equal. Women still make less than men. Men and women are now free to define themselves. They are struggling with the gender roles of the past, but they are free to define their own future. For more on this topic read, The Unfinished Revolution: Coming of Age in a New Era of Gender, Work, and Family by Kathleen Gerson.

How Women can save their Relationships When they earn more

FEMALE-BREADWINNER

How Women can save their Relationships When they earn more

In America today, the mother is the sole breadwinner in 25% of households that have a child under eighteen years of age. That number has increased four times since 1960, over five million women. Though, in general, men make more, the number of educated women in professional careers has exploded. There are lots of couples where the woman makes more than the man. There is a growing number of stay at home fathers too; their numbers increased by the toll the Great Recession took. Men however often feel threatened or that their sense of manliness has diminished if their wife makes more or is more successful than they have been.

Since men were the traditional breadwinners it makes sense that their egos would be bruised by the woman in their life being the sole breadwinner or earning more. A Cornell University study from 2010 found that men in a cohabitating relationship between the ages of 18 and 28 and together for more than a year were five times more apt to cheat if he was financially dependent on the woman. Another problem is women feeling guilty about foregoing household duties and taking on too much of the chores and childcare to compensate, driving themselves crazy and wearing themselves out in the process.

Washington University in St. Louis in collaboration with colleges in Denmark conducted a study and found that when a wife’s salary was just a nudge higher, her husband was 10% more likely to need prescription medication for insomnia, anxiety and erectile dysfunction (ED). The higher her salary the higher his chances of experiencing ED. An independent survey of 1,033 women found that they were less satisfied and more embarrassed by their relationships when they made more than their partners. So what is the solution? How can women save their relationships if they earn more? It isn’t easy and of course it’s different for every couple. One important thing is to not over-criticize your man. Don’t emasculate him.

According to relationship coach Alison Armstrong, a woman needs to make a man feel as though he is a provider, even if he isn’t bringing in dollars and sense. For instance, lots of women do things men can do, try to change them and constantly critique how things are done. But this wears her husband down. It doesn’t build him up or make him feel like a man. Find ways to encourage him. Let him know that his contribution is important. Show your gratitude for having him in your life. Include him in financial decisions so he doesn’t feel emasculated. Ask his help with things and ask his advice, even if you don’t really need it. Call him your mentor and tell him you couldn’t do it without him. To read more on this subject pick up a copy of, When She Makes More: 10 Rules for Breadwinning Women by Farnoosh Torabi.