Sex, Love and the Brain
By Lynn Somerstein, PhD, RYT
There’s a saying in neuroscience, “neurons that fire together wire together.” You might wonder what that has to do with sex and love, but attraction starts out in the brain, which is probably not the first place you think about when you think about sex and love, but the brain is more powerful and more changeable than you might think. Early impressions are strong and hard to modify. But hard doesn’t mean impossible. Could that apply to your love life? You can change that too.
Some folks are lucky and fall in love with the right person and they stay together and live happily ever after, but I think most of the time that’s not the case. Most of us fall in and out of love several times, and it can feel like the best sex in the world one minute and then the next minute suddenly the relationship is over and it feels like death. It is death, in a way, because the relationship has died.
You can be addicted to bad choices in love. Maybe your early experiences, perhaps with your parents, perhaps with others, set you up to seek out a certain type. Often people fall in love with someone who reminds them of their parents. This is OK for some, but what if your parents weren’t the best, what if they had dangerous flaws, like acting out bad tempers, or addictions. You’ll find someone who matches those bad qualities and you’ll discover yourself in a relationship that may be quite satisfying in some ways but a pack of trouble in other ways, so you break up. And then you find someone else who is not that different than your previous partner, and you keep doing it and you heart is broken over and over again. You’re stuck on the type of person that is just not good for you. You might find that kind of person exciting. We all know someone who seems to trade in partners pretty often, but in the end all these different partners are simply a type, different editions of the same book, they all merge into one.
When you think about it, you might say to yourself that things start out exciting, but they don’t last. What is that excitement really about? Do you feel powerless in the thrill and energy of a new love? Powerless to resist? Just can’t stop? Can’t help yourself? Maybe you’re addicted to the sort of person who simply isn’t good for you. That’s what addiction is about, it’s almost as if you’re in a trance, hypnotized by a type.
Can you change the kind of person you usually find attractive and like somebody else? Or, said another way, can you figure out what’s going on and then change yourself? If your early relationships weren’t that good and you weren’t that happy when you were a child, you have to watch out for yourself. Often people look for partners that remind them of their parents, and they don’t even know it sometimes. How do you break the mold?
Here’s a suggestion. Make a list of what your last few partners have in common, both positive and negative qualities. Compare them and look for similarities. What were the reasons you broke up with your last two or three loves? Why did they leave you? Try to find a pattern in your history. Of course, this is easier if you work with a therapist who can help you refine your insight and your understanding. When you know what’s happening, you’ll be able to begin to know what you really want and then find someone who is a better fit.