The neuroscience behind infidelity and fading love

The neuroscience behind infidelity and fading love

Nowadays, one hardly bats an eye when they hear that some celebrity, politician, or even their neighbour has been caught with their hand in the cookie jar. It seems that just about everyone is doing it.In fact, philandering and infidelity are a common psychological phenomenon.

Studies have shown that 20% of married men and 13% of married women admit to having had extramarital relations. Have you ever heard of the seven-year itch or three-month love shelf life? Let’s discuss infidelity and what you can do to extend the shelf-life of your love life.

YOUR BRAIN IN LOVE

You know the feeling… tingling in the pit of your stomach, your heart seemingly skips a beat, you can’t bear to be apart for even a minute. Those are just some of the reactions your body has when your brain emits those feel-good neurochemicals.

  • Epinephrine: sets your heart a flutter; increases heartbeat, blood pressure rises, and breathe quickens
  • Dopamine: associated with pleasure and desire, drive, and focus- basically it is responsible for making you horny.
  • Phenylethylamine (PEA): adrenaline like chemical associated with energy, essential for staying up for hours on end with your lover
  • Serotonin: is like wearing rose colored glasses; promotes feelings of well-being and love
  • Oxytocin: associated with intimacy, makes you want to be stuck to bae all day

All of this sounds amazing, right? The human brain is a wonderous thing, however, it can’t do everything on its own. Without help it will stop emitting this awesome cocktail of neurochemicals and what happens after scientists believe is the reason behind infidelity and cheating.

INFIDELITY BRAIN

Yes, that is a thing. Neuroscientists have found that after six months to two years, the secretion of neurotransmitter levels associated with falling in love begins to fade and the brain's response decreases accordingly. This decline may prompt some people to seek other sexual partners in an effort to regain that level of secretion that was present at the start of the new relationship.

Another factor is cortical control. The limbic system located deep inside the brain motivates you to seek pleasurable activities. While the cerebral cortex allows you to think twice before engaging in risky behavior. Essentially your self-control short circuits when your prefrontal cortex (PFC) is low in activity, and this can cause you to give into impulsive desires like cheating. Brain imaging studies confirm this claim stating that people who have low prefrontal activity are more likely to get divorced compared to others.

In his best-selling book, The Molecule of More, neuroscientist Daniel Liberman mentions that dopamine tends to make people greedy and ignore what they have in the moment. Dopamine is only associated with brief periods of pleasure, and when it crashes, a sensation of pain and emptiness usually follows. The opposite of dopamine is a group of chemicals called the Here & Now Molecule (H&Ns). As their name implies, H&Ns allow people to enjoy what they have now by releasing some of those feel-good neurochemicals we talked about earlier Including serotonin and oxytocin. The release of dopamine inhibits the production of H&Ns, and the release of H&Ns inhibits the secretion of dopamine.

HOW TO MAKE LOVE LAST

Let’s face it, maintaining a healthy relationship requires work from all parties involved. Having said that, there are some scientifically backed methods to prolong the shelf life of your love life.

Remember our friend dopamine? It plays a crucial role in your relationships because it is closely related to your expectations. When reality exceeds your expectations, your brain receives a dopamine hit. Conversely, when reality does not live up to your expectations dopamine secretions will be significantly reduced resulting in a crash.

You may ask, how can you control something that you do not even know is happening? It is easier than you think. To avoid suffering through a dopamine crash you can practice doing these simple things frequently.

1. Create surprises

Routine can be the death of any relationship. Surprise your lover by picking them up from work, ordering or preparing their favorite meal, a small thoughtful gift. The possibilities are endless, let your imagination soar.

2. Manage your expectations

Nobody is perfect, including you. Give yourself and your partner the grace to be human.

3. Give praises

Everyone likes to hear that they are doing something well. You get extra points for being specific, no vague cookie-cutter compliments please. When you praise each other, your words will enter each other's brain to secrete dopamine, which can increase each other's motivation to become better. It’s a win-win.

Now what about those Here & Now molecules (H&Ns) we mentioned earlier. Oxytocin and serotonin are two kinds (H&Ns). They are responsible for long-lasting love because they increase your happiness levels as well as helping you focus on enjoying the present moment. There are a variety of ways to make sure your (H&Ns) remain at an optimal level.

4. Frequent intimacy

Prolonged eye-contact, touching, orgasms, etc. release oxytocin and reinforce the bond between the couple.

5. Express gratitude

Appreciating the good times that you have shared with your partner boosts the brain to release serotonin. Which ultimately allows us to enjoy the moment and achieve lasting happiness.

6. Engage in outdoor activities together

It doesn’t matter what you do, just get outside. Not only does this promote the release of serotonin, but pheromones can also be secreted through sweat glands. Studies have shown that male sweat can increase sexual arousal in women.

Regularly organize group activities: Double date anyone? Building interpersonal relationships with multiple people, prompts the brain to secrete those wonderful H&Ns chemicals.

 

In the end, there may not be a magic potion for long lasting love, but there is a scientific formula. If you can control your dopamine and H&Ns, you are well on your way to extending the shelf-life of your relationship.

 

Research

  1. Infidelity Statistics (2021) – Do Men Or Women Cheat More? (2020, September 1). Her Norm. https://hernorm.com/infidelity-statistics/
  2. Seshadri K. G. (2016). The neuroendocrinology of love. Indian journal of endocrinology and metabolism, 20(4), 558–563. https://doi.org/10.4103/2230-8210.183479
  3. Why People Cheat: The Neuroscience of Infidelity | Amen Clinics. (2020). Amenclinics. https://www.amenclinics.com/blog/why-people-cheat-the-neuroscience-of-infidelity/
  4. When love fades away. (2019). APS. https://www.psychology.org.au/for-members/publications/inpsych/2019/october/Analyse-this/When-love-fades-away
  5. Olivia Choy, Adrian Raine and Roy H. Hamilton. Journal of Neuroscience 18 July 2018, 38 (29) 6505-6512; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3317-17.2018
  6. The Molecule of More: How a Single Chemical in Your Brain Drives Love, Sex, and Creativity--and Will Determine the Fate of the Human Race. (2018). BenBella Books.
  7. Male Sweat Boosts Women’s Hormone Levels. (2019). ScienceDaily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070207172019.htm

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