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The alchemy of love The alchemy of love
by Joseph Gatt
2021-02-14 10:24:18
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You see a man or a woman and you have a “crush.” In scientific language, you get what's called an “endorphin rush.”

Endorphins are those hormones your brain secretes when you fall in love. Very healthy hormones. Very good for the immune system. That hormone which brings a sense of euphoria. Where everything is bright and positive.

But endorphins are also dangerous hormones. They are secreted when you fall in love, but also when you inject heroin or sniff cocaine or smoke crack cocaine or marijuana.

Let's focus on love. The endorphins give you a sense of euphoria. But the absence of your loved one can give you the same sense of helplessness and anxiety as a heroin addict who has no heroin to inject.

inlov0001_400That is, you meet a guy or a girl. You have a deep crush. You see him or her. You get a sense of euphoria. The guy or girl stops showing up or disappears. You feel a longing, a craving, some kind of withdrawal syndrome. Their absence makes you restless, irritable, clumsy.

The guy or girl reappears. You get that endorphin rush again. You get that sense of euphoria again. He or she talks to you. You get an even bigger endorphin rush or sense of euphoria.

But love is tricky and complicated territory, just like drug addiction can be.

First off, maybe you met a good man or a good woman. He or she does not want you to suffer the withdrawal syndrome of rejection. So he or she helps you “taper off.” That is, he or she will hang out with you, take some distances, give you false hopes, and eventually disappear when your endorphin rush calms down and your brain regains a natural state.

Second scenario. Maybe he or she is cruel. Maybe he or she is a psychopath, and tells you flat out that they are not interested and ask you never to come close again. They might as well ask you to dig your grave and die. How are you going to survive without the drug.

Third scenario. Maybe he or she fakes interest, to take advantage of you sexually. Your endorphins bubble, you sleep together. But you get a sense of anxiety. He or she does not display the same euphoria that you display. He or she is cold and distant and aloof. Because you're a drug addict, you're in denial and believe that it's just “their personality.”

Fourth scenario. You are a drug addict and he or she is just playing around. You two date, but your partner plays this vicious game and keeps threatening to leave. He or she knows that you are a drug addict and addicted to him or her, and he plays with your addiction by threatening to withdraw and leave.

Fifth scenario. The best scenario. You are both addicted to each other. Your endorphins bubble around each other. He is your drug and you are their drug. This can be a little dangerous because eventually your body ages a bit and stops secreting endorphins like it used to. Cortisol, the grumpy old hormone replaces endorphins, and suddenly you two grow anxious around each other.

Sixth scenario. You both get endorphin rushes when you see each other. But socially or legally, your relationship is not allowed to happen. You parents will oppose your union. Or society will oppose your union. Or the judge will oppose your union. You feel a sense of emptiness, you no longer get your drug dose. Withdrawal syndrome is rough.

Seventh scenario. You both have endorphin rushes around each other. But you both cynically threaten to call it quits and deprive each other of the drug. Eventually, cortisol sets in and replaces endorphins, and withdrawal syndrome become mild.

The main problem: as we age, our brain has less ability to secrete endorphins, and tends to secrete more cortisol, or the “anxiety” hormone. That is why as couples age, they start becoming more anxious around each other.

The anxiety leads a lot of couples to seek “relaxation” either in the form of alcohol use or in the form of exercising, yoga or other stress-relieving activities.

What causes the anxiety? Age is one factor. But the other factor is that, like any other drug, drug addicts become more and more addicted, to a point they no longer feel an endorphin rush and constantly feel anxious, even after they have injected the drug.

The remedy? Some couples need a constant endorphin rush, are constantly around each other, to the point where they reach the constantly anxious state.

So the idea is to limit the amount of time spent with each other. Couples who go on a date once a week are a lot more likely to stay together than couples who spend time with each other 24/7.

The other secret is what I call the “marathon runner's” secret. Professional marathon runners are also drug addicts in a way, as running also makes the secrete lots of endorphins. But what marathon runners do is they pace themselves, and set time goals for each mile or two that they run, rather than focus on the entire race.

Couplehood kind of works the same. You're going to run a lifelong marathon, but you need to set goals for every mile or two, or every year or two, of things that you want to accomplish.

In sum, if couplehood is only about pleasure and endorphins, you're soon going to become anxious around each other.

But if couplehood is about setting yearly goals and working towards them and reviewing them, you'll live a long, happy life. Because endorphins, when in good doses, are excellent for the immune system.

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