Sunday, January 9, 2011

Warning: Extended Infatuation May Lead to Schizophrenia

We all remember that initial thrill. The surreptitious glances, the butterflies in the stomach. Breaths caught in your chest. The frisson of awareness at each touch. Infatuation. It was fun. Exciting. Is he/she thinking about me? When will I see him/her again? You are so enamored you're not even aware that it is uncomfortable sharing a twin bed all night.

Then the relationship progresses into something more subtle. There is honest affection and contentment, but the thrill is gone. The infatuation has matured into something more sustainable. This is the point where something like 66% of marriages fail. It usually happens at the 3 year mark.

My husband and I just celebrated 13 years of marriage. The original excitement, long gone, has been replaced by something more comfortable. Though hardly romantic, it is wonderful to know that I can trust the man I married not to take umbrage when I make him roll over (because he's snoring) in the middle of the night.

I have learned that the initial infatuation phase is partly caused by an increase in our production of dopamine. The high is because we are actually high and creates a form of OCD and an almost addictive state (addicted to love). It is not sustainable over long periods of time and eventually tapers off. Some people, when the high is over, seek a new high in a new relationship -- again, not sustainable. In fact, if you have exposure to dopamine for too long, you could develop schizophrenic symptoms.

As the relationship matures and the dopamine dwindles, our brains produce oxytocin. This chemical is related to orgasms and helps perpetuate the idea of a sustainable love.

This all leads me to romance (like it usually does). A romance novel tells the story of a new love full of dopamine. We readers are like voyeurs, living vicariously through the fictitious characters as they experience that thrill of obsessive compulsive disorder. As a writer of romance I have to pull from my memories and rediscover moments in order to put them into words. It creates a means to relive the euphoria that came along with those infatuations, only it's much less complicated and angst-ridden. It's like young-love light, all of the high, none of the herpes.

And on that note, I will end this post. I hope you are all enjoying your new year thus far.


A.T. Post said...

Oxytocin is also the hormone that makes guys doze off, you-know-what.

So don't get offended, ladies. Can't fight the endocrine system.

Erin Kane Spock said...

Funny, I've never known a guy to want a nap right after his shower in the morning. I'm just saying... :P

Patti Struble said...

Great post Erin. I too write romance; the meet, the doubt, the endorphins spilling their goodness on the page & then some more doubt. Gotta love the roller-rink!

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