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Evolution & Unrequited Love

Evolution and Unrequited Love.

A term called ‘frustration attraction’ indicates that getting dumped by your partner makes you love the person harder. Most of us have been dumped by someone we really love and an equal number also dumped someone who really loved them. ‘Abandonment rage’ and ‘frustration depression’ are two more terms that may paradoxically work to hasten the relationship’s end. As discussed in my blog The Brain Function in Unrequited Love, this follows resignation and despair, which sink in when an unrequited lover’s brain’s reward system begins to realize that their love is never going to be reciprocated. Human need to belong is much deeply rooted than any other social animal.

Gender Differences

Researchers have found that although the brain images of the men and women in unrequited love study discussed in my blog Science, Brain, Attraction, Love & Sex were basically the same, activity in men in a region of the parietal of the temporal lobe associated with the integration of visual stimuli. It is interesting to note that 90% of pornography is for men while women spend their lives trying to look good for them. It is also believed that men choose their partners by sizing them up visually.

In women, regions associated with memory recall are more active. From an evolutionary perspective, a man’s looks were not determinants of his being a good provider and protector. Hence, looks of a prospective partner do not matter as much for women.


Love at Risk

Researchers have warned that antidepressants may jeopardize romantic love. Romantic love is characterized by low serotonin as well as high dopamine and norepinephrine. Hence, essentially, low serotonin would explain the obsessive thinking attached to romantic love. In certain MRI studies, subjects, mostly unrequited or rejected lovers, reported that they thought about their beloved 95% of the day and couldn’t stop thinking about them. This kind of obsessive thinking is comparable to OCD, and is also characterized by low serotonin. As discussed in my blog Effects of Limerence, physical desire assumes a key part in unrequited limerent love, yet is insufficient to stop the limerent completely, if not fulfilled. It is never the fundamental requirement; rather, the limerent concentrates on what could be characterized as “achievable”. However, Tennov says that “the most consistent result of limerence is mating, not merely sexual interaction but also commitment”. Limerence can be increased after a sexual relationship has started, and higher the level of limerence, more prominent is the craving for sexual contact. While sexual involvement, in older times demonstrated commitment on part of the limerent object, on moral and social grounds, and led to partial relief from constant struggle with uncertainty for the limerent – in present times this is not necessarily the case.

Serotonin-enhancing antidepressants blunt the emotions, including the elation of romance, and suppress obsessive thinking, which is a critical component of romance. When you inhibit this brain system, you can inhibit the unrequited lover’s well-being and possibly their genetic future. Antidepressants also inhibit orgasm, clitoral stimulation, penile erection, in general, the body’s entertainment system. As the study goes, from an anthropological perspective, a woman who can’t get an orgasm may fail to distinguish Mr Right from Mr Wrong.

It might be enlightening to know that without an orgasm, men lose the ability to send courtship signals. Like an unrequited lover who had lost his motivation and self-esteem once said-I just stopped dating.

On the other hand, because antidepressants inhibit depression, unrequited lovers may lose their ability to send an honest clear signal for social support, while they have been put on antidepressants to get over the pain of rejection in unrequited love, and those with mild depression, lose the necessary insight to make hard decisions, like coming to terms with reality.

While it is not advised to not put an unrequited lover on antidepressant, if need be, it is important to consider these factors before prescribing.

Here are some interesting statistics:

  • Married couples report having sex 68.5 times a year (1.3 times a week)
  • 15 to 20% of couples have sex less than 10 times a year, regarded as a sexless marriage.

In my next blog, I am going to discuss the effect of hormones on gay and lesbian unrequited lovers. Any personal experiences or comments on this subject are welcome.

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