The System Of Love: Lust, Romance, And Attachment
Just the other night, I watched a Ted Talk given by renowned anthropologist and author Helen Fisher on the subject of love. It is something that I’ve always been interested in learning about, even as a young anthropology student myself. Even today, I am fascinated by the elements of the heart (and other places – wink, wink) that bring people together.
Why do we love? How do we love? Why do some people call their partner a “sexy beast” even though they eat like a pig at a trough or wear their pants half-way down their ass? Some things need explaining.
In this video, Fisher says that the system of love has three different components. First there is “lust” or what we know as our sex drive, the purpose for which is to encourage humans to consider a variety of options when looking for a partner, not just settling on the first person they meet. My translation: that feeling that makes a person – maybe me – smile coyly at the UPS guy because he’s got super nice arms, and then twenty minutes later say, “You go first,” to the guy standing next to me at the meat counter because I wouldn’t mind being pinned by him against a wall somewhere either. You know what I’m talking about. Fisher says it’s like a gnawing. I say it’s more of a throbbing.
The second component in the system of love, Fisher says is “romance” – the emotional craving that a person feels for another. This component goes beyond the physical, she explains – you don’t just want to have sex with that person, you want to be with them, and have them pay attention to you, and possibly climb inside their clothes and stay there. She goes further to state that sometimes, it can turn into an obsession. Sometimes, it can make you blind. Pig trough – I get it now. Again, my translation: when you keep going back to the meat counter, hoping to see that cute guy because when you said, “You go first,” and he replied, “That’s nice of you,” some sort of fire was ignited inside your loins and now you can’t sleep at night without visualizing yourself naked in his car somewhere. OK, maybe that’s still lust, but it’s bordering on “I’ll buy three steaks and a few pounds of pre-seasoned chicken breasts a day if I have to in order to see him again” crazy.
The third brain system, Fisher refers to as the “long term attachment phase”. Basically, she says that this is what allows us to tolerate any human being with whom we’ve mated long enough to raise a child. Funny, I know a few individuals in this particular position. Not me, of course because my husband is awesome, but there are times…like when he claims NOT to have taped over HBO’s special airing of Michael Fassbender in Jane Eyre with his stupid “twenty-four hours straight of car racing”.
All of this is pretty intuitive, right? Like most of us could’ve guessed that we had these three sorts of tendencies in us. What I found most interesting to note however was the fact that these three brain systems can exist in our minds exclusive from each other but also, all at the same time. Fisher explains, “You can feel deep attachment to a long term partner WHILE you feel intense romantic love for somebody else WHILE you feel the sex drive for people unrelated to these other partners. In short we are capable of loving more than one person.” Yes, you CAN lay in bed beside your husband and think about the guy at the meat counter and not explode in a ball of blasphemous flames.
Of course, you can also experience these systems together for one person – like you just want to have sex (for sex sake) with your husband, and you’ve been together for over twenty years, and then there is still the meat guy. Oops, it can get confusing.
“I think honestly, we weren’t built to be happy; we were built to reproduce,” Fisher added. Very profound, and very important to know. We are not slaves to our biology, but in shaping our lives, it definitely helps to understand it.
Ah ha, and that is why the man at the meat counter – sorry to keep bringing him up – will be welcome in my midnight “hot dream” escapades anytime. It doesn’t make me a bad person. It just means that – once again – I am normal. Normal, I say. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to take my cats for a walk.
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