Post-Romantic Stress Disorder
Been reading this awesome book by the father of the “inner child” movement that helped so many of us recover from childhood wounds. Bradshaw looked to experts in the fields of love, relationships, and science to infuse this book with smart advice for writers of love stories– unintended I’m sure–probably wrote it for actual real people in love or falling out of love fast and wondering what the hell happened.
fMRI imaging makes it possible for scientists to actually view the different areas of the brain and pinpoint the exact chemicals our bodies produce when we fall in love. I wrote them down somewhere but basically there are two or three hormones that kick into overdrive, one being testosterone (easy one:) and two others which act on the body like amphetamines. Thus the reason why we sleep and eat less when falling in love. Great for a diet, not so great for optimum clear-headedness.
Crazy in love is more than just a cliché, as it turns out. These chemicals bath our brains, saturate specific areas, suppress serotonin. That drop in serotonin is what creates obsessive thought patterns where you just can’t get that beloved other off your mind. Every waking moment is devoted to thoughts of them. Or, if you’re together, you can’t keep your hands off each other.
This chemical reaction called being in love is natural and was meant to keep the species procreating and populating the planet. But that was back when we didn’t live so long. When people say “forever” these days, they might be in for a shock. About 17 months in, that “in love” feeling wears off. This confounds most people. Some think their marriage or partnership is at fault and divorce or split. “We just fell out of love” they say. Some stay together, but aren’t happy. Most marriages fail, something like 70%.
The lucky 30% make the necessary adjustments into mature love and live (mostly) happily ever after. But the rest of the population live basically miserable lives. Because we are programmed by genetics to form pair bonds. That’s just the way we’re built. Some people turn into love junkies, swinging from one 17 month high to the next. They might stay with their partner but have affairs or engage in other risky behaviors.
Bradshaw sets out to show everyone in a loving, committed relationship how to stay that way. As someone who has been married three times and in love more than I can reveal without embarrassing the hell out of myself, I recognized many of the dysfunctional patterns Bradshaw illustrates. And as someone who wants to stay married, and faithful, and while I’m at it, blissfully happy, I’m interested in his methods for attaining this Nirvana on earth. (I didn’t get to that part yet, will report on methods when I do!)
I needed this book way before now, but somehow have managed to keep my third marriage alive, if not always finely tuned, for 29 years. We’ve had our ups and downs and always have been able to repair damage done. Still, I’m one of those types who wants to know why shit happens. I write a lot about love but before this believed it to be an unfathomable mystery. I wondered what was wrong with me. What happened to the young woman who would do anything for her man? Why was I different?
Not so different after all. 70% of other people wonder these things, too (or at least the ones given to introspection). The answer is easy: it’s all in your head. The chemicals inside specific areas of the brain, to get technical. And thanks to science, we now can learn how to undo those obessessive patterns and blast new and healthier pathways through the brain. Which seems to me would be helpful after the in-love phase ends and that hungry for fattening foods and other bad-for-you- things feeling returns. Stay tuned for those fixes for our love-starved brains when I finish the book:)