Cupid Has Something to Learn

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Cupid cartoon Have you ever had a wonderful romance go sour soon after a passionate beginning? Have you noticed that marriages often end very rapidly - now that church and state can no longer keep us glued together "until death do us part?" Perhaps you know of a union that's depressingly stagnant. Despite a persistent longing to stay in love with one partner, we rarely do. Why not? Because we're biologically programmed to do otherwise.

It's time to put the blame where it belongs…on Cupid. The "hot" neurochemicals on his dart drive us toward impulsive fertilization behavior, with nasty repercussions. In January, 2004 the BBC aired a special called Love Is the Drug, which revealed that being in love is physically similar to the buzz of taking drugs - and also produces withdrawal symptoms. Dopamine, which is the neurochemical released by the brain when it is aroused (and also the culprit behind all addictions), has effects on the body and mind similar to cocaine or speed.

Cupid keeps us so focused on the intense thrills of this over-stimulation that we don't see its hidden costs until it's too late. Yet, sooner or later, the body begins to protect itself from the over-stimulation associated with those thrills. Dopamine levels drop, and other neurochemicals act as a satiation mechanism. These changes put a damper on our desire for union - at least with each other (though not with new potential mates - thanks to Cupid's underlying motive...more babies). cupid

These shifts happen at a subconscious level, so we never suspect the real cause of our changing feelings. Meanwhile, our ache to feel good again can make us unbearably insistent that others meet our temporarily exaggerated needs - whether we are demanding more intimate contact or someone to clean out the garage. We may also attempt to raise our sagging spirits by shopping compulsively or watching sports non-stop. Or we may simply withdraw emotionally, or even suffer severe depression.

Neediness and defensiveness effectively stop the production of the neurochemical that gives us the urge to bond with each other (more on that in a moment). So, we withhold much-needed affection, reach for a beer and the remote, take remarks the wrong way, grow less generous, see each other's faults in an exaggerated manner, nag or whine, and - too often - find each other less attractive.

broken heartIn short, Cupid's strategy can lead to emotional distance between partners, despite a powerful initial attraction. In its most radical form it may produce a "one night stand." But in long-term relationships it can foster infidelity or a sexless marriage. Indeed, without realizing why, many couples avoid sex because of the subsequent fallout from those sizzling passion arrows. That strategy, however, causes them to miss out on the many emotional and health benefits of intimacy.

Is there a way to teach that chubby cherub with the poisoned darts a lesson? Yes. It has been around for thousands of years. Like the ancient Chinese Taoists, you can learn another approach to intimacy by retraining, and then keeping your "hot" neurochemicals at moderate levels during your encounters. That way you avoid the intense highs and lows that so often lead to disharmony or distance between spouses. This new (or rather, very old) approach is not hard, but it is different - and surprisingly enjoyable. By choosing not to kill your desire, you and your partner both stay interested in closeness.

Best of all, this approach to intimacy increases the flow of a neurochemical called the "cuddle hormone" (oxytocin). The result? A strong, consistent monogamous attraction that deepens the bonds between spouses. As one man who tried it said, "my wife looks better to me than she has in years." Increased "cuddle hormone" naturally counters your innate addictive drive for hot thrills, too, making it easier to stay with the new approach. cupidMedical research also shows that the oxytocin reduces stress and depression, and helps heal addiction by reducing cravings. In short, there are many benefits to re-educating Cupid.

This technique is not hard to learn -although it is very different. You take a very gradual approach, beginning with a few weeks of careful preparation. The transition is fun, and guaranteed to bring the sparkles back into your union.

Who says old cherubs can't learn new tricks?