The three different brain pathways of intimacy
Modern research on couples has shown that there are three types of intimacy in relationships all with different brain pathways, different body chemicals involved and different energies. Lust happens in the very beginning of most courtships. This stage lasts roughly about 6 months of a new relationship. Romantic love may follow if there is good physical or emotional chemistry between two people. This stage lasts roughly about 4 years, which evolutionary principles state is enough time to procreate and raise a child to toddler age. With multiple children, it roughly lasts about 7 years so that the family is preserved and the male can help the female in the children’s’ younger years. (It is that way in some animal species as well and then the male will leave and start a new family with another female).
Have you heard the term “the seven year itch?” Well now you have a new definition of it. It is the end of the romantic love stage. For the couples that stay together, they now enter the attachment stage. Below are some facts for each stage:
1. The Lust Stage
- Craving for sexual union with almost any partner.
- Sexual attraction without necessarily liking
- Testosterone, Dopamine driven
2. The Romantic Love Stage
- Sexual attraction with liking
- Elation and obsession that enables a person to focus attention on one partner at a time, conserving energy and time.
- Norepinephrine, Dopamine, Serotonin
3. The Attachment Stage
- Liking without necessarily sexual attraction
- A feeling of calm, peace and security which motivated our ancestors to love this partner long enough to raise their young
- Oxytocin, Vasopressin, Serotonin
- Loving couples are also good caregivers for each other
Let me add something to the above. It is possible to have the best of the romantic and attachment love stages. The psychologist, Robert Sternberg calls it “Consummate Love.” Of course – this concept is the topic of my next week’s article. Stay tuned!