The Molecule of More

(Jacob Rumans) #1

pair feed each other, groom each other, and share parental chores. Most
of all, they stay close to each other and display expressions of anxiety
when separated. It’s the same for humans. Humans engage in similar
activities and have similar feelings, particularly satisfaction that there is
another person whose life is deeply entwined with their own.
When the H&Ns take over in the second stage of love, dopamine
is suppressed. It has to be because dopamine paints a picture in our
minds of a rosy future in order to spur us on through the hard work
necessary to make it a reality. Dissatisfaction with the present state of
affairs is  an  important ingredient in  bringing about change, which is 
what a new relationship is all about. H&N companionate love, on the
other hand, is  characterized by  deep and  enduring satisfaction with  the 
present reality, and an aversion to change, at least with regard to one’s
relationship with one’s partner. In fact, though dopamine and H&N
circuits can work together, under most circumstances they counter each
other. When H&N circuits are activated, we are prompted to expe-
rience the real world around us, and dopamine is suppressed; when
dopamine circuits are activated, we move into a future of possibilities,
and H&Ns are suppressed.
Laboratory testing supports this idea. When scientists looked at
blood cells extracted from people who were in the passionate stage of
love, they found lower levels of H&N serotonin receptors compared to
“healthy” people, an indicator that the H&Ns were in retreat.
It’s not easy to say farewell to the dopaminergic thrill of new part-
ners and passionate longing, but the ability to do so is a sign of maturity,
and a step toward long-lasting happiness. Think of a man who plans
a vacation to Rome. He spends weeks scheduling each day, making
sure he will be able to visit all the museums and landmarks he’s heard
so much about. But when he stands among the most beautiful artwork
ever created, he thinks about how he’s going to get to the restaurant
where he has reservations for dinner. He’s not ungrateful to see the
masterpieces of Michelangelo. It’s just that his personality is primarily
dopaminergic: he enjoys anticipation and planning more than doing.
Lovers experience the same disconnect between anticipation and expe-
rience. The early part, passionate love, is dopaminergic—exhilarating,

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