Search Results for: label/Dr Helen Fisher

Read, Think, Stay

Cameron said…
Athol- the readers pretty much trashed you in the comment section but you have to admit some of their comments were rather funny. Instead of dismissing their comments (or getting upset over them) why not take them as constructive criticism? Several readers noted that inspite of your wife’s open legs policy, you still cheated on her with your emotional affairs(one of which lasted an entire year); therefore your relationship advice is easily rejected. Actually, these readers are raising a legitimate point; frequent sex doesn’t necessarily compensate for other problems in the relationship and it doesn’t stop your partner from cheating. Apparently, nightly sex didn’t prevent you from seeking emotional satisfaction from other women; perhaps you should have been more concerned with your emotional(rather than sexual) bond with Jennifer. Btw, that would probably make an interesting post (subtle hint).

Also, the term “doormat” was used to describe Jennifer. I have to admit that one thing I dislike about your blog is that you sometimes do make your wife sound like a real pushover. Of course, I don’t know if this is really true or if you just tend to exaggerate her easygoing nature. Does she ever get really angry or short-tempered with you? How does she express it? I think the problem I have with your description of your wife is that she does not come across as a real person; she seems too Stepford Wife-ish.
I have covered all of this before in earlier posts but not in a connect-the-dots kind of way. If you’re new to the blog via the Daily Mail… I probably look like a jerk.
One of the critical underpinnings of my approach to sexual understanding is the work of Dr. Helen Fisher. I make explicit mention of this in the Acknowledgments page of the book. I’ve written two posts on her work here. There’s a lot of good stuff there and do watch the video of her. It’s excellent.
However, the 10 second summary of her work is that there are three separate body systems at work when it comes to love and sex.
In Love = Dopamine based excitement / OCD like mental obsession on person of desire. (This is why SSRIs can kill off romance and interest in sex btw) The addition of Game understanding is that Alpha Traits compliment this process.
Pair Bond = Oxytocin / Vasopressin (female/male) based emotional bonding and closeness. The addition of Game understanding is the Beta Traits compliment this process.
Sexual Drive = Testosterone based all purpose generic horniness towards the opposite sex. Physical fitness compliments this process.
You can have all three systems functioning for a single opposite sex person, or experience one system responding to one person and another to someone else. It’s critical to understand that they can work in unison, but they are separate biological functions at work. Kind of like you have hot and cold water taps in a sink, you can have either tap turned on, both or neither. They can work in unison, but they are separate plumbing functions at work.
So on one level when someone says “I love you but I’m not in love with you”, they are actually saying “I oxytocin you, but I don’t dopamine you.”
So what does that mean for me personally?
Well I have a very high sex drive. Let’s not kid anyone here, if the girl in the red dress walks by, I look. I can’t help it. It doesn’t matter who she is or if I even know her… I’ll look. I can have no expectations, intent or relationship with her. Just baseline testosterone turns my head. My baseline horniness drives my sex drive with Jennifer… as far as testosterone is concerned, she’s a warm, willing and promixal vagina. Giggity.
I have a very high frequency sex life with Jennifer, she touches me physically a lot, I’ve watched her give birth twice and we have been together as a married couple for sixteen and a half years. That all equals vasopressin, vasopressin, vasopressin and yet more vasopressin. So I am truly and deeply pair bonded to her. I love her with my whole heart endocrine production of vasopressin. Make no mistake on this point though, I do love her.
So Jennifer gets two really big check marks for holding my relationship interest. I’m into her from a testosterone and vasopressin standpoint. But the dopamine… well here’s where it gets awkward.
When I first met her… yes, oh my God yes, totally head over heels in love with her. But that was twenty years ago and since then I’ve said that those feelings of being in love and crushing on her come and go. (Read those Dr.Fisher posts linked above)
Now dopamine is related to a need for stimulation, and I am a very intense person with a need for high stimulation, and Jennifer is a much calmer lower stimulation person. So in terms of holding my romantic interest, Jennifer is just too low key for me. She really likes reading books and taking a nap on the couch for example. For sure all the sex is great, but she gives it up so easily that it’s not exactly a dopamine engaging challenge.
That short fall of dopamine has been a marriage long issue for me to handle. It’s not simply that I’ve had two serious emotional connections to other women, but I’ve more truthfully had crushes of some degree on nearly every single woman I know at some point in time. I did crush on Jennifer on and off the whole time we’ve been married, but in all seriousiness, I crush everywhere on everyone all the time. It’s really quite annoying to be honest.
My first true emotional affair I only realized in retrospect. It was about ten years ago and the line between friendship and something more happened when we started meeting for breakfast once a week. I would have said then that “we’re just friends” and all the typical Rationalization Hamster bullshit; they were dates. After about 4-5 weeks of this, she basically stopped the relationship and I think that’s simply because she decided I was never going to make a proper move on her because I loved (vasopressin) Jennifer.
Jennifer knew about that relationship, but never did anything about it. It hurt her, she was scared of losing me, but ultimately she was a doormat about it. If she had told me to knock it off I would have instantly stopped.
A few years back I met another woman that I had an instant attraction to. One of those out of left field this-is-your-soulmate crushes. I was overwhelmed with dopamine for her, all the while being firmly attached with vasopressin to Jennifer. I was terribly confused by these emotional poles. I would be at home feeling perfectly comfortable and relaxed with Jennifer, but plagued by thoughts of the other woman. I would try and steel myself against not being affected by her, but the steel would turn to jello on seeing her, talking to her or emailing. Attraction is not controllable.
So I had a simple choice to make, (1) go the “Eat, Pray, Love” route, and make a serious transition move for her and screw over Jennifer and the kids in the aftermath. Or (2) “Read, Think, Stay”, and figure out how to sort this mess out and not screw over my wife who fairly objectively was doing right by me. Good sex is after all good sex.
It took about three months to come to my final decision and as I’ve repeatedly said, the Talk About Marriage forum is a place that greatly helped with that decision. I knew after reading hundreds of stories of cheated on spouses, that I could not do that to Jennifer. Once again, Jennifer was too passive in dealing with my attraction issue. If she had chewed my head off about it and expressed how hurt she was, I would have broken away much quicker. It took over a year for the feelings for the other woman to resolve after my decision to work things with Jennifer.
It was also at the forum that I started discovering applying Game to marriage issues was unusually successful. My problem was that I didn’t know why they worked and I was endlessly repeating myself on the forum to new people, so I needed a way to make my advice more permanent that as answers in a forum thread. I also started reading dozens of books all around the subject matter of sexuality and thought long and hard.
The result of all that study, personal mistakes, experience and determination to find a practical workable solution, is the blog and the book. It’s a cross-fertilization of biology, behavior modification, pick-up artistry, Talk About Marriage and my nursing experience. If it works I added it, if it didn’t I dropped it.
So back to Jennifer and myself…
Marriage is along journey and we had now learned that we had a critical flaw in our otherwise harmonious marriage. I was a high-stimulation husband, she was a lower-stimulation wife. Without addressing that issue I was eventually going to get a dopamine fix from someone else at some random point in the future.We had no less than three serious verbal disagreements about finding solutions to that before Jennifer started responding to what I was asking of her.
Our practical solution was that Jennifer consciously started paying attention to higher-stimulation sex with me. I’m better about asking for it when I realize I’m becoming wound up or bored too. Another major tool in balancing us is my writing and effort on the blog. It’s an exciting, fun, stimulating experience for me. I get dopamine from writing something good, or seeing a lot of hits, and I now hit refresh on the book sales web pages like a rat hitting the food pellet lever in a science experiment. You don’t have to get it all from sex.
Jennifer for her part has learned a great deal about sexuality and relationships over the blog years. I doubt she would ever let me get away with obvious interest in another woman like she did before. She would probably keylogger me, gather evidence, expose and offer Plan A or Plan B just like I suggest in Chapter 27. I’ve also quite consciously painted myself into a corner by writing from a pro-marriage and monogamy perspective. If I cheat on her, my career as a writer is over.
In terms of Jennifer being written about as a total Stepford Wife / Doormat. This is probably unavoidable to some extent. I’m far more comfortable writing about my own shortcomings, than about hers. If I write about hers, it will just come across as bullying/smearing/insulting/demeaning, plus Google is forever and a few angry sentences are searchable for all time. Also she is by nature low-stimulation and gains enjoyment from being submissive to me. So she really doesn’t act badly all that much at all. But as you can see, that was part of the problem for us… it’s not a feature, it’s a bug.