Lust, love, and life.
We all know the crazy things we do when we’re “in lust” and the total preoccupation of being “in love.”
Some of us also know the joyful satisfaction of growing older with the “love of your life.” But how do you write about it? I started with a Google search of quotes about “love, lust, and happiness.” Here are a few that resonate for me about these pathways of passion:
“Sheet ripping, sweat dripping, loud screaming, legs trembling, hair pulling, ass smacking. Now you’re talking.” Anonymous
“Falling in love is like getting hit by a truck and yet not being mortally wounded, just sick to your stomach, high one minute, low the next. Starving hungry but unable to eat. Hot, cold, forever horny, full of hope and enthusiasm, with momentary depressions that wipe you out.” Jackie Collins
“Love never claims, it ever gives.” Mahatma Gandhi
“First best is falling in love. Second best is being in love. Least best is falling out of love. But any of it is better than never having been in love.” Maya Angelou
Helen Fisher, Ph.D. may know more about these various aspects of love than anyone on the planet. She is a biological anthropologist and has written five books on the evolution and future of human sex, love, and marriage. She and her colleagues have studied gender differences in the brain and how our personality type shapes who we are and who we love.
She is also a Senior Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute and Chief Scientific Advisor to the Internet dating site Match.com.
When we fall in love, get married, start a family, and work through the ups and downs of creating a life together over the years, we don’t think much about how our brain functions. However, Fisher has found that human beings have three primary brain systems related to love:
Lust brain system
This system evolved to get us interested in sexual intercourse so that we would be magnetically drawn to potential sexual partners. “I think the sex drive evolved,” says Fisher, “to get you out there looking for anything at all. We lust to ‘get it on’.”
The falling in love system
When we fall in love with that “special person,” we are euphoric. We think only of them, we are ecstatic in their presence and bereft when they are away. The craving is intense and if we lose our lover we are devastated. Romantic love, she thinks, developed to focus one’s mating energy on just one individual. When we’re “in love,” we only have eyes for our partner. That’s a good state to be in to conceive a child.
This euphoric feeling is not meant to last. We wouldn’t make good parents, or be able to be very productive at our jobs, if we maintained this obsessive, driven, roller-coaster state of mind for many years.
The attachment-life system
Unlike most other species of mammals, human children need years of care. This brain system focuses our attention on creating a stable partner bond so that we can create a close attachment between the parents and the child. In this way, the child can survive and thrive long enough to grow up to start the process of lust, love, and life once again.
Understanding how our brains are wired can help us come to peace with certain realities of being human:
- Although we have brains that help us bond with one special person, we also have brains that keep us attuned to lust after others.
We may pledge our commitment until “death do we part,” but our attachment brain system is only structured to bond us long enough to insure the survival of the child, about four years.
Evolutionary forces are there to make us happy. They help us survive as a species. If we want to be happy, we have to put in some extra work.
Evolution and Our Mis-matched Brains
It’s important to remember that our brains evolved hundreds of thousands of years ago to insure our survival during the time we were hunter-gatherers on the savannas of Africa. Many of the problems we have today are because of modern mismatches. During our evolutionary past, we lived in small groups of 150 people. Our choices for mates were limited. Our choices for infidelity were limited.
Now there are so many choices available, we lust after millions of people in a big city and an infinite number of attractive people on-line. Our choices for partners with whom we can cheat are also unlimited. Further, our social support systems are breaking down so maintaining a stable group of people who can help support a long-term committed relationship becomes more and more difficult.
Advice for Those Who Want It All
Some people settle for lots of lusty sex, but never commit to one person. Others make a commitment to one, but lose sexual desire over time. They tell me “I love him/her, but I miss being ‘in love.’” Some have it all for a while, but then something goes wrong. They wonder if it’s worth going through the process again.
For those who want to have it all I offer the following suggestions:
- Learn all you can about the three systems of your brain, how they evolved, and why they work the way they do.
- Look back at your own “love-map” history. What did you learn consciously and subconsciously from growing up in your family? How has that influenced your lust and love life?
Wherever you are in your life—Married and happy, in a committed relationship that is struggling, or single and looking again for love—get some help sorting it all out. Most of us never learned about how to integrate lust, love, and life. It’s never too late to learn.
I look forward to your comments and questions. Visit me at www.MenAlive.com. I offer Lust, Love, and Life counseling for those who are interested.
You might also be interested in my article Infidelity: The Hidden Truth About Lust, Love, and Betrayal.
Photo Credit: Getty Images