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Ms. M: Love On The Brain

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Ms. M: Love On The Brain

It’s wild, exhilarating, and euphoric. You’re happier than you could have ever imagined or dreamed. What is this thrilling feeling that makes you feel so powerful and ecstatic that you could conquer the world?

Two days later you haven’t heard from your newly found beloved. You tell yourself it’s no big deal. Everyone gets busy.

Another two days go by. Still, nothing. Your heart sinks and hope dwindles. Despair transforms into insecurity. You check social media. Clearly your darling dear is still alive and active.

Doubt swirls in your mind stirring up thoughts of all of your inadequacies. Maybe it was something you said. You wonder if you’re attractive enough, smart enough, rich enough, educated enough, enough . . . enough. Suddenly, you’re at rock bottom thinking of the worst possible scenarios. Perhaps you should go out with that annoyingly persistent person from work, just to keep yourself from getting too attached too soon. Besides, everyone can benefit from a little ego boost now and again, right?

Just as you reach for your phone, a text chimes. Could it be your amour?

Better than drugs, better than sex, better than the best head you’ve ever had. Better than milkshakes, lemonade on a hot summer day, or hot chocolate on a cold winter night. Better than Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, Warren Buffett’s fortune, The Beatles, Hendrix, Joplin, and Dylan.

Welcome to the greatest drug available to mankind. It’s not simply love and it’s not simply lust. It’s the something in between, the place where uncertainty fuels passion and passion longs for fulfillment. For better or worse, infatuation has inebriated most of us at some point or another, and it doesn’t discriminate based on gender, race, orientation, religion, cultural or socioeconomic background. This madness must be a universal trait, yet it doesn’t always lead us toward harmonious destiny.

Scientists now understand that this ferocious emotional disturbance begins with a molecule in the brain called phenylethylamine, or PEA. PEA is a natural amphetamine that causes feelings of excitation, elation, euphoria, and exhilaration. Neurons in our limbic system—our brain’s emotional core—become sensitized by PEA and other neurochemicals revving up the brain, enabling us to lay awake all night, caressing and conversing with our lovers. We are quite literally PEA-brained, preoccupied with thoughts of our beloved, giddy, optimistic, and sometimes absent-minded. We can’t eat, we can’t sleep, we are high on natural speed. This feeling of being alive, is one of the greatest feelings on Earth.

Dopamine and norepinephrine play a substantial role as natural stimulants as well, saturating the brain, transforming the senses, and altering reality. But our brains aren’t wired to withstand this violent emotional volcano erupting in our heads. Psychologists, neurologists, and sexologists have all separately concluded that this stage of courtship typically lasts anywhere between 18 months to three years. There are exceptions to it lasting longer, however. Obstacles such as distance or a wedding band on one lover’s hand and not the other, most certainly fuel the fire. Ah the powerful passion of affairs, with their taboo secrecy, possess the tenacity that only marriage can envy.

But the end of infatuation happens to us all, especially when you begin to see your sweetheart regularly and routine sets in. The brain just simply cannot maintain the natural high of romantic madness. And it’s a good thing too, because otherwise we would never get anything done! Our brains, it seems, care more about productivity and evolution than staying high from infatuation.

The good news is, that although we lose the high that comes from the beginnings of courtship, a new chemical system takes over. Endorphins, short for endogenous morphines, are opiates, similar to morphine. Opposite of PEA, they are calming and sedating. With every orgasm, oxytocin is released, promoting bonding with our partners, and laying the foundations of trust. And as a relationship builds over time, attachment develops, stimulating these new endorphins, making us feel warm, safe, and secure. Indeed, love is nothing more than one big outrageous speed ball.

So, what are the implications of all this research? Well, for starters, we can accept the fact that if we want a situation where we are in a long-term relationship with someone and we still want to get wildly excited about each other, we have to really work on it. In essence, we have to fight a biological and neurological tide. Novelty, danger, time apart, and cultivating mystery can help jolt a new wave of excitement. But to think we’re no longer in love with someone, simply because we’ve lost this high, would be immature and irresponsible.

We can also begin to recognize when relationships aren’t suited for us and it’s time to move on. Perhaps that feeling inside that tells us someone is our soulmate, our destiny, or the one, is really just dopamine, norepinephrine, and PEA deluding us in our intoxicated state. The best way to be sure? See if you’re still happy and blissful at year four. Then you’ve not only grown into attachment, but you’ve also built something worthy of your time, and of your life.

Have a question or comment? E-mail Mal at AskM@centerforeroticintelligence.org

Previous columns from Ms. M: 

Dildo Girl: Meet Ms. M 

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