So Many Questions: Author Dawn Maslar reveals 'The Science of Love'
Crazy in love? Yep, probably, says “The Science of Love” author Dawn Maslar. But the good news is that while your feelings of temporary insanity might be driving you — and everyone around you — nuts, she believes there is a perfectly logical explanation behind why we act the way that we do.
With a background in science and biology, Maslar fould one of her own mystifying relationships and subsequent heartbreaks made her question whether or not she could make sense out of the roller coaster of emotions she was experiencing.
Turns out, she could. Exploring everything from whether or not “love at first sight” truly exists to explaining why we get so caught up in those Hollywood love stories, her approach is one that strikes a chord with everyone who's ever had a crush, been in love, fallen in lust or wondered when the white knight is going to arrive.
In other words, she's a firm believer that there's still hope for even the most hopeless of romantics.
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Question: It doesn't seem very romantic to associate love with science.
Answer: Well, yes. If you want love to be blind, then yes. But there is a science to love, and I think that if people understand it, they don't get caught up in the mistakes. In the long run, it helps them out. But it still can be romantic.
Q: What are some of those classic mistakes?
A: One of the biggest ones is to believe in love at first sight. There really is no such thing as love at first sight, and that fallacy causes a lot of problems for people because they think if it doesn't happen instantly, it's not the right person. And they throw back a lot of good fish when they do that.
I work with a lot of women and I have workshops, and one of the things they say is, “I can't find ‘him'.” And they have this impression that if they walk in the room, they're going to lock eyes with “him” and this music is going to start playing and someone's going to pull up a horse, they're going to jump on it, and they're going to ride off into “Happily Ever After Land.” And when that doesn't happen instantly like that, they give up. When they understand that love is a process, they'll take the time to get to know someone and understand that initial part is not really love, it's based on sexual desire. We sometimes call that lust.
Q: You say that love is actually a form of temporary insanity?
A: There is a tipping point in our brain, and we go through a cascade of biochemical processes, and that's what we call falling in love. That's the euphoric feeling. What happens is, our serotonin levels drop — serotonin levels become equivalent to someone with obsessive compulsive disorder. That's why we want to be around them all the time. The other thing that happens is the cortisol levels increase — that's the stress hormone.
Now, not only are we obsessive, we're stressed. We can't stand not to be around them. It's Mother Nature's way of getting people together long enough to have a relationship. At the same time, she pairs down parts of our brain. And the main part she shuts down is our judgment. But it's just temporary!
I want people to understand the process in the timetables, because that insanity part only lasts about two years and a lot of people pop out of the two years and think the love is gone. And that's really where the true love really comes in. We can continue on with what Mother Nature gave us. Or we can start judging them and building walls against the other person.
Q: Is that why we find a good love story so irresistible?
A: We have what are called mirror-neurons. If you watch a love story or a sad story and a person starts crying and all of a sudden you feel yourself choking up. That's from our mirror-neurons. We can feel what the other person feels. When we watch a love story, we get caught up in it, and it's almost like we feel like we're falling in love all over again. And part of most love stories is, there is a process of the dopamine chase phase where tension makes it better. So, we see that a lot of times in these love stories — that gives us that sense of desperation. And, of course, that satisfying conclusion, and we get that burst of serotonin levels. For a split second, it's happening to you. And that's totally appealing.
One of the stories that drives me crazy a little bit, and I understand why women love it, is “The Bridges of Madison County.” And the reason women love it is that in the end, we found out that he never gave up, he always wanted her. And it's that real, true love that everybody craves and that everyone wants. Nothing's going to get in his way, and his career is not the most important, you are the most important thing in his life.
Q: So, do men feel that, too, or is it just women who get caught up in this?
A: Women are built a little differently. Our brains are actually different than men's. We are inclined to be nurturing, loving and to be pulled in by love. He is more inclined to be pulled in by respect. So, in his story — he's going to have thousands of women craving him, instead of just the one whisking him up. He doesn't want to be picked up and carried off.
Q: What inspired you to get into this kind of study?
A: Well, I didn't do very well in my own life. I struggled with relationships for a long time. At one point in my life, I was teaching biology on campus during the day and, at night, I was following around a semi-employed, bad-boy biker in the band. And my day life did not fit with my night life. And I felt almost embarrassed trying to incorporate both of them — something was off. And to make matters worse, I was rejected!
And I kind of hit an emotional bottom and realized what I was doing. And I discovered that I could only change myself, which led to my first book. From that, I started doing workshops and coaching women — and I had the same questions coming up over and over again. And, of course, my training is still in science and biology, so I started digging into this from a biological standpoint because I said it's got to make biological sense.
I figured it wouldn't take too long to study this, but I've been working on this for more than three years now. It's convoluted and it takes a lot, but it actually makes perfect sense now of what happens when we fall in love and why we make the mistakes we make.
Kate Benz is the social columnist for Trib Total Media and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-380-8515.