Sometimes love – the romantic, squishy kind of love – can be pretty frustrating. I’m not even talking aobut the vagaries of trying to deal with another person on an emotional level. I mean the very basis of love, the “Oh, my, I’m having these feelings for that person? Well, that’s durned inconvenient…”
It’s well documented (and often entertainingly explained) that the basis of attraction and the emotions we tend to bundle around the word “love” are based in neurochemistry. We really have very little control over who “feels” right to us – although there are some indications that meds such as the pill can make the exactly wrong person feel right.
Worse, the neurochemicals are consistently variable – causing things like the “honeymoon period” and the “seven year itch” and more. At some point, if you pay attention to your friends and acquaintances, you can start to see patterns in the rise and fall of relationships. The members of a community pair-bond, seem to thrive, and then somehow drift apart, leading to despondency until everyone does a kind of “shift one partner to the left” and the do-si-do starts again.
Like I said, it can be frustrating. Sometimes it feels like we are all doomed to be castaways on a sea of endorphins and oxytocin, inconstant as the tides (yet just as predictable).
Of course, if being in love makes you feel helpless, how much worse is it when the relationship is over – for some completely legitimate, logical, rational reason like infidelity, religion, finances, distance, or Obama’s birth certificate – and yet you still have that feeling for the absent partner? You can do the smart thing, the intelligent thing, and still feel like it’s just the end of the world for you – despondent, foods have lost their savor, etc.
Here’s the good news: you’re not pitiful for feeling that way! Recent research shows that stuff is also part of the neurochemical process.
The research is done on the prairie vole, an animal relationship scientists love to study because they act the way most human dramatists like to pretend we do. That is, they pair bond – I mean, really pair-bond, til-death-do-us-part monogamy. The way that conservative marriage proponents believe humans are supposed to (at least, the heterosexual ones).
The tests were on three groups of voles:
- One group had formed “fraternal” bonds, with same-sex (male) voles.
- One group had formed pair-bonds with heterosexual mates, and was allowed to stay with them.
- The third group was the Broken-Hearted Vole group: they’d been allowed to pair-bond, and then had been torn asunder from their mates.
The Pit of Despair, and More!
Watching the videos of them bob limply, it’s easy to imagine them moaning out “Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone” with their tiny vole voices.
It’s Not Your Fault. It’s Chemistry