Hormonal overdrive: love’s bitter science

love, love, love
January: a time of resolve and fresh starts.  It’s also the month in which most relationships break up.  No more waiting till the holidays are over, or putting up with your nasty-ass mother-in-law.

But while some couples were busy running from the mistletoe, the singles were nursing their lonely hearts over rum… and a little egg nog.

Now January’s bright days are beckoning us to hit up the bars, the gym, online dating sites lookin’ for love.  But even for those of us shunning dating in favour of a bowl of ice cream and tears — we just can’t get matters of the heart out of our heads.

And that’s where Danielle Groen’s article in February’s Chatelaine is highly instructive.  Her story, This is your brain on love, explores the science behind falling in love.  Connecting hormones with brainwaves, Groen explains falling in love hits the brain’s euphoric centre, “closely resembling the euphoric brains of people high on cocaine.”

The story looks at how websites like match.com and eharmony mine our personality types to help us find the best mates. But one of the anthropologists behind these sites warns love isn’t as easy as slipping your key in the right lock.  Helen Fischer tells Groen, “we’re not simply puppets on the string of DNA… kissing a frog is still kissing a frog.”

I agree, having recently ventured onto some of these sites myself, I can testify that although our “types” might be in-sync, a 5″7, slight, bespeckled IT manager who loves his car, isn’t going to go ga ga over  this 6″0, outspoken, gangly cyclist.

Moreover, the role our hormones play in making things click is way out of control.  The most alarming for me is the (apparently long discovered fact) that the pill can block our natural hormonal instinct to club the right caveman.  But moving into date-o-philic January, worshiping your hormones can give your inner dumpaholic heart:  your date might tick all the boxes on paper, but if the rush of attraction doesn’t materialize, don’t force it.  After all, there’s plenty of fish in the sea.

Postscript
A friend gave me a line on two amazing lectures on love by leading researcher Helen Fischer:

http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/helen_fisher_tells_us_why_we_love_cheat.html
http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/helen_fisher_studies_the_brain_in_love.html

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