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.

How to Stop Pushing Nice Guys Away and Picking Jerks Instead

pickjerks

How to Stop Pushing Nice Guys Away and Picking Jerks Instead

Speak to a lot of single women of a certain age and they’ll tell you that there are no quality men out there. Some are over-developed man children, they say. Others are sad and sorry pushovers, nice guys who have no passion in life and so stir none in them. Then there are the jerks that seem nice at first but play games, ignore needs, act callously, are distant, disrespectful and drop them without a second thought. So is this an actual social paradigm in the modern world, a list of excuses for broken hearts or a lashing out of the scorned and unlucky in love? Dr. Jeremy Nicholson is a social and personality psychologist who studies relationships. He posits that women’s evolutionary selves and the box our modern society tries to place them in are at odds, placing women in what he calls a “double-bind.” To find out more about what he says and what women can do about it, you need to know about Dr. Helen Fisher. She is an evolutionary anthropologist at Rutgers University. Dr. Fisher says there are three kinds of love: lust, attachment—managing the home, parenting and so on, and attraction, which is what we feel when we like someone and wish to pursue a relationship with them.

For each person, these are different. We’re all like weirdly shaped puzzle pieces trying to find the right fit. Though we are supposed to get all three from one person, sometimes we are attracted to one, lusting after another and still only feel comfortable with the third. Each of these three feelings that we blend together and call love start from different needs. Though you may get all three from the same person, Dr. Fisher argues that the needs themselves are very different. For most women these feelings just happen. But if they look deeper they would notice that there are certain features or cues put out by a partner that makes her attracted to him. These include physique, resources such as income, social status, stability, intelligence, conscientiousness and ambition. In society today, however, a woman needs to be many things to be deemed worthy. She has to be good at her job, her relationship, look beautiful, have a great attitude and raise stunning children. That’s a tall order. To do so she’ll have to be smart, industrious, assertive and motivated. These women, in order to have a mate that fits into her plans, must be agreeable, supportive, cooperative, and so on. Yet, by an evolutionary standpoint, these are not the men who are high in status. Those are often disagreeable. They don’t cooperate and they aren’t supportive. So those men who are culturally desirable aren’t desirable from an evolutionary perspective.

What strategies can a woman employ then to successfully traverse this complex landscape of the heart? Nicholson suggests selecting one of four successful strategies. The first is coming to love in the role of the leader. The businesswoman can also be the superheroine or the dominatrix. She can lead the nice guy to the right places and enjoy the ride. The second is holding off and finding the right guy. Here she will follow him and enjoy his attractive, strong leadership qualities, but will select a mate who also has a kind heart and keeps her wants, needs and desires in highest regard. Next, there is mixed dating. This is having one male partner for the household affairs and partnership, while another is for sexual rendezvouses. This could be an illicit affair, an ethical, polyamorous relationship or something in between. Lastly, there is sharing, balance, communication and compromise. Each person is in charge of their own set duties and the couple works everything out together. Good communication and a solid foundation to work from are key. For more on that state of human affection read, Why We 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.

Why do we Pick So-So Partners over Perfect Ones?

RELATIONSHIP-FIGHT

Why do we Pick So-So Partners over Perfect Ones?

We’ve all been there. We meet someone perfect for us and we blow it. Why didn’t I ever ask her out, we think? Or why didn’t I flirt with him more? We all have someone, the person who might have been, who slipped through our fingers or who we had a chance with and never pursued. But then when we look at our relationships, some of us find that we ended up settling time and again. When you come to the realization that your love life is just one okay match after another, never the mind-blowing RomCom ending most of us want, we start to ask questions. So why is that? Why do we pick so-so partners over perfect ones? Michigan State University researchers think they have the answer. They say it has to do with an evolutionary bias located deep within our genes. It has to do with what scientists call risk aversion. Both humans and animals have it. This is how we avoid danger but also how we evaluate situations which have the most chance of success and which are the most risky, ergo lowering our chance at survival.

In this study researchers created a computer simulation that mimicked the bands of our early Stone Age ancestors roaming in groups of no more than 150 people. They investigated how the behaviors of this community worked and adapted over thousands of generations. Researchers found that the populations who were more risk adverse had better chances at survival. This included what mates they selected. If they decided to hold out for a supposed higher quality mate, they miss an opportunity to be with someone that was available. That person may slip away without them even having a chance to hook up with them or the lover of their dreams. This phenomenon hangs on in the modern dating scene. But in evolutionary terms, missing a chance to mate may be missing a chance to have offspring and thus of passing on your genes. Researchers say resources were scarce back then, including available mates. Today our social networks are much larger. Our dating prospects are far better. Yet we slip into this Stone Age pattern of settling for less. Take into account internet dating and the choices are seemingly endless. But how can we overcome this settle-for-less genetic predisposition which has been so ingrained in us throughout history?

Dr. Helen Fischer is a biological anthropologist at Rutgers University. She says that online dating is just another platform for the same courtship ritual that’s played out over millennia. A young man who is interested in the young woman across the campfire in the ancient days may not have known her. But in conversations with cousins, aunts, sisters and others he knows in the village, he can find out her name, if she is happy most of the time, if she is a dreamer, if she would make a loyal wife and more. Lead author of the Michigan University group Arend Hintze says for our ancient ancestors the choice was stark, either mate now with an inferior mate or wait for Mr. or Ms. Perfect who may never come. For most to risk their future according to Dr. Hintze there needed to be a high payoff. Of course some are more risk averse than others.  Evolution makes a diversity of individuals, some thrill seekers who dare to try for someone “out of their league.” So how can you use this to your own advantage? Whenever you feel yourself setting down, or come to the realization that you have with someone who doesn’t make your heart do somersaults, reconsider the situation. You’ll be doing the same ancient dance, weighing the risks and benefits. But this time you’ll know who you are, and have the benefit of modern technology to find the right person for you. For a little help in that last department pick up a copy of, Love at First Click: The Ultimate Guide to Online Dating by Laurie Davis.

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.