Love, Actually

What do we really know about this man?


Petraeus. Broadwell. Kelley. Allen. Love triangle . . . quadrangle. Whatever.


Except. It’s not. A “love” whatever.


Let’s acknowledge all the people we know for sure have been hurt so far: betrayed spouses and children; extended family; friends and colleagues, even neighbors.


Now. As to love . . ..


The writer William Wharton once received an early-hours phone call from his eldest daughter, who asked him to define love. He made a quick cup of coffee, called her back, and said (I’m paraphrasing): “Love is a combination of three things: mutual admiration, mutual respect, and mutual passion. If you have one of those between you, that’s par for the course. If you have two, you’re world-class. And if you have all three, you don’t need to die to discover what it’s like in heaven. You already know.”


Mutual admiration, respect and passion. To which I would add a modest fourth: compassion.


Take a look at the names above. In this ever-widening scandal, have those four people demonstrated admiration, respect, passion or compassion for their spouses?


Does a bear save it for the Port-a-Potty?


So it’s not love. What is it? Aside from power, lust, curiosity, arrogance. Not that those aren’t sufficient. When you’re thinking with testosterone (females have it, too, especially athletic, slim women), ethical concerns fade into the “doesn’t apply to me” background.


Just in time to be quoted, there’s an interesting new study on the effect of infatuation on the brain. What happens, say researchers, is that infatuation shuts down certain essential portions of brain activity with regard to the other person. You can still drive a hard bargain for a car or teach second-graders how to spell, but with regard to your maladie d’amour, you’re on rocky cognitive ground.


Here’s what gets eliminated: Judgment. Reasoning. Fear. The recognition of negative consequences.


No wonder the initial weeks and months of infatuation feel so heady. The brain is bathed in glow. Yet just because it feels super doesn’t mean you need to act on it.


In fact, instead of wasting time on infatuation, people in relationship could do themselves a hormonal favor by bedding the person to whom they’ve already made a commitment. Spouse, partner or significant other. Oxytocin is a powerful hormone that promotes attachment, and a new study unexpectedly found that “when men in monogamous relationships got a sniff of the stuff, they subsequently put a little extra space between themselves and an attractive woman they’d just met”. Orgasm releases surges of oxytocin into the body. It also supports the pair-bond.


When it comes to beginning horizontal tangos on the sly, chances are not only will they go rogue and turn public, but they’ll also prove this: Your brain was on drugs.

1 Comment

Filed under Broadwell, Infatuation, Infidelity, Morality, Oxytocin, Petraeus, Testosterone, William Wharton

One response to “Love, Actually

  1. Pingback: The Best Line Ever About Petraeus | Clarissa's Blog

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