Love is all chemistry 
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 Love is all chemistry

        Bollywood was right all along and the withdrawl symptoms can
be cured by narcan

13 February 2002 14:54 GMT
Home > News  > World  > Science/Medical
Love and romance? It's all in your chemistry
Science is close to explaining the last great mystery of the universe.
Anthea Milnes finds out what really makes your heart race
11 February 2002
Ever felt bemused by the volume of popular wisdom about love, sex and
intimate relationships? Ever wondered how much of it has value in the
real world, as opposed to in the realms of fantasy and social clich.
From the hairdressers to the House of Commons, everyone seems to have
something to say: men can't commit; women can't wait to commit; women
want a boyfriend with a BMW; men want an adoring 20-year-old to hang
on their arm; women wear their hearts on their sleeves; men hide
theirs in caves on the planet Mars; and love is... er...

Garth Fletcher is director of the International Society for the Study
of Personal Relationships and Professor of Psychology at the
University of Canterbury, New Zealand. He is also the author of a new
book that looks at what psychology can tell us about relationships. If
anyone is qualified to act as a scientific guide through the maze that
is male-female relationships and to tell us, definitively, what love
is, then Professor Fletcher is the man.

"Lots of people," he says, "like to think of romantic love as
mysterious, magical and impossible to measure; but in fact, falling in
love is one of the most thoroughly investigated and well-understood
phenomena in the field of relationship science." The professor is
adamant that contrary to the view of those postmodernists who insist
that "love" is solely a Western, first-world obsession, a cultural
creation that we have all bought into willy-nilly love is a basic
emotion found in virtually every culture and has biological components
that are shared with other mammals.

Full-{*filter*}ed love is made up of three key components: attachment or
intimacy; caring or commitment; and lust. It has its own chemistry.
The hallmark hormones of attachment and caring are oxytocin and
vasopressin. Both are associated with mother-infant bonding and
lactation, but men have them too, and they are produced during sex.
Lust, meanwhile, is associated with hormones such as testosterone,
also present in both men and women, and spiced up in the heat of the
moment by rushes of adrenalin.

Roy Baumeister of Case Western Reserve University, a psychologist
whose areas of expertise include {*filter*}ity and emotion, agrees with
Professor Fletcher, but adds tellingly that, "the modern West has
given love more recognition as a vital form of human fulfilment than
other cultures; other societies have sometimes treated it as a
temporary disturbance or form of mental imbalance."

Marriage is also found in all cultures often with an associated set of
rituals, and always accompanied by duties and expectations for both
men and women. Polygyny (when one husband has several wives) occurs in
84 per cent of cultures world-wide, but even in polygynous cultures
about 90 per cent of individuals actually live in monogamous
relationships. Of course, the amount of power and choice women have in
relationships varies hugely around the world.

The Ache tribe of Paraguay, believe that babies inherit
characteristics from all men that have had sex with the mother during
the course of her pregnancy. Once the baby is born, all the "fathers"
involved are expected to provide">food and to help raise the child. Not
surprisingly, this means that women who discover they are pregnant set
out to seduce good-looking, high-status men. Sounds like fun, but
unfortunately their jealous husbands are sometimes {*filter*} towards
them as a result. {*filter*} jealousy is also a universal emotion.

The factors that attract people to one another in the first place are
also constant. "All over the world people look for the same three
things in a mate," says Professor Fletcher. "Personality factors
related to warmth and loyalty; attractiveness and vitality; and the
possession of status and resources." However, the amount of importance
individuals attach to these three sets of characteristics varies.
Since most of us can't manage to be kind, clever, handsome, fit and
rich at the same time, people work out their own system of trade-offs
and look for a partner whose desirability in the mating market is
similar to their own.

Sounds fine. So where does it all go wrong? Based on more than 100
research studies that have examined thousands of marriages, two
factors stand out as the best predictors of divorce; how individual
partners perceive the quality of their relationship and how
effectively couples resolve relationship problems. By knowing what to
measure in early marriage, relationship scientists can successfully
predict (to 80 per cent or better) which couples will divorce.

Contrary to popular opinion, "resolving relationship problems" doesn't
necessarily mean that couples have to communicate openly and honestly.
Three decades of work by, among others, John Gottman, Professor of
Psychology at the University of Washington, has revealed that couples
in happy and stable relationships often have quite different
communication styles some communicate obsessively la Woody Allen
and others slope off shopping or mow the lawn when problems arise.
There is no evidence that one style is more effective than the other.
"Honesty and mutual understanding are overrated," says Dr Baumeister.
"Some studies have concluded that people who idealise each other and
see each other with a dose of positive illusion have stronger, more
durable relationships."

As for the differences between men and women, the "Men are from Mars"
theory is half true, according to Professor Fletcher. He cites several
examples of stable gender differences in intimate relationships. Women
approach conflict whereas men avoid it; women attach more importance
to status and resources than men in choosing mates; and men are more
favourably disposed towards casual sex than women. What is not well
understood however, Professor Fletcher claims, especially by pop
psychologists such as John Gray, who wrote Men are from Mars Women are
from Venus, is that there is a massive overlap between men's and
women's responses. So about 30 per cent of men express less favourable
attitudes towards casual sex than the average woman, and about 25 per
cent of women are more into casual sex than the average man. Margaret
Clark, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, who is editing a
Handbook of Interpersonal Processes with Professor Fletcher, also
stresses the similarities between sexes: "There are far more
similarities in the determinants of attraction and of successful
relationships for men and women than there are differences," she says.

Dr Baumeister addresses other controversial questions about gender,
sex and relationships. Whether men have a higher sex drive than women
has become a political football on the psychologists' playing field,
but Dr Baumeister and his colleagues have found that on every measure
in every published study, men did, indeed, show a higher sex drive.

Psychological knowledge can help relationship and health professionals
develop more effective therapies and counselling techniques, but
whether it can help individuals directly is less certain. Psychology
may not have all the answers, but it can help us to unlearn the
unhelpful assumptions with which we approach relationships. There is
some more good news too; Professor Fletcher stresses that knowing a
lot about intimate relationships does not remove the magic or
emotional power from love, or make it less likely that you will send
or receive a St Valentine's Day card. Thank heavens for that.

'The New Science of Intimate Relationships' by Garth Fletcher is
published by Blackwell Publishing on 14 February, 14.99.

Also from the Science/Medical section.
Role of specialised {*filter*} cells proved in cloning
An injection of reality
Gene that causes glaucoma is found
Death from skin cancer has tripled since 1960s
Cough medicines 'a waste of money'

Mon, 02 Aug 2004 01:24:56 GMT
 [ 1 post ] 

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