Article by Marnia Robinson and Gary Wilson

Are Pair Bonders More Vulnerable to Addiction?

Are we pair bonders more vulnerable to addiction?

'Opium' ad

In Human Brains Are Built to Fall in Love, we looked at the neurochemical reality that lies behind our instincts to fall in (and out of) love. We saw that our ancestors may have been pair bonders for a very long time, implying that pair bonding serves important ends for our species. We observed that the same bonding behaviors that effortlessly strengthen our pair bonds also reduce stress and increase well-being.

In this article we'll look at a hidden pair-bonder vulnerability that causes misery both in and out of the bedroom. Namely, the tendency to pursue excess.

Human Brains Are Built to Fall in Love

What do your dainty eyeteeth mean for your love life?

Marriage dreamsHuman behavior varies a lot. As compared with other primates, we're heavily influenced by culture, religion, family upbringing, and so forth. As a consequence, it's logical to conclude that our fitful monogamy is purely culturally induced and not instinctual. (On the other hand, we readily seem to accept that promiscuous tendencies are wired into our brains.) 

In fact, we are programmed to pair bond—just as we're programmed to add notches to our belts.

What Porn Users Taught Me

“By Jove, it’s the reward circuitry!”

girl in a martini glass
A dedicated member of the “to each his own taste” club, I’m all for freedom of speech. However, my website happens to discuss the highs and lows of sexual satiety in terms of the highs and lows of the typical addiction cycle. To my surprise (and theirs, I’m sure), men from all over the world showed up in my site’s forum complaining of addiction to porn/masturbation.

The Passion Cycle

Are lovers struggling against a neurochemical tide?

mating rats It seems like a "no-brainer" that more orgasms and more intense orgasms will satisfy more. However, the "I'm done!" feeling after orgasm delivers a powerful subconscious signal to the limbic brain, which can create restlessness down the road. Is it time to rethink our lovemaking strategy?

What Would Kinsey Say Now?

Cover of Kinsey bookPerhaps addiction is a graver danger than repression

August 25th marks the 53rd anniversary of Alfred C. Kinsey's death. He was a key figure in condemning sexual repression, and I'm grateful for his contribution. At the same time, I hope our society can now exercise the same courage he once demonstrated—by rethinking some of his conclusions in light of recent discoveries about the effects of sex on the brain.

Kinsey fiercely opposed the Victorian attitudes about sex that darkened his childhood. Determined to break the association between guilt and sex, he insisted that repression was our greatest peril.

Orgasm's Hidden Cycle

You're finished...but your brain has just begun.

throbbing brainOrgasm feels great, and if climax were the end of the story, partners would project the good feelings generated in the bedroom onto one another—and effortlessly dote on each other forever. Few do.

Another Way to Make Love

Elude the Coolidge Effect with a forgotten approach to sex

lovers Recent posts discuss (1) why lovers might want to know more about what's going on in their limbic brains, (2) how too much intense stimulation of the brain's primitive reward circuitry can lead to subtle mood swings and a need for more stimulation, and (3) how dopamine fluctuations drive the Coolidge Effect (the tendency to lose interest in a mate after sexual satiation.) I've also mentioned that there's a way to make love that helps ease dopamine extremes and promote harmony.

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