While working out this morning (yes, it was a recovery ride from yesterday’s 37-mile jaunt) I was watching some Netflix.
I started plowing through some TED talks about “Sex, Secrets & Love.” Honestly, this is a topic that I spend quite a bit of time thinking about on a day-to-day basis.
The episode that really got me thinking was the talk by Helen Fisher: “Why We Love and Cheat.”
The underlying concepts in the talk are talking about some of the chemistry of the brain and how things move from the beginning of a relationship, which she labeled lust, through to love, and finally to attachment.
Romantic love, she described, as as the stage of a relationship where you get (not her words) NRE — new relationship energy. This is the part where you can’t not think of the person you you’re in love with. Where everything they do is awesome. The part where you’re just floating on air.
Attachment, on the other hand, is the comfortable period where you’re programmed to (her words) put up with your partner. It’s a constant. A known. It’s stable.
She goes on to say that you can be in different stages of this with different people. Simultaneously. Right around the 17:00 mark on the video she goes over exactly this — mostly glossing over it before moving on to the rest of her talk.
But stopping there to contemplate is something I did. If we are capable or being in these different stages of relationship at the same time, why is it that we societally try to tamp that down? If we are married, for instance, why not also have the opportunity to get some of that NRE charge that you’re brain craves? Or give into lust?
Similarly, if you can be in different stages with different people, can you not also be in the same stage with multiple people? For the “lust” part, certainly. Assuming you’re alive and not self delusional you go through your day thinking at times “damn, aren’t they hot” as some cutie walks past and piques your interests. Similarly, people can date multiple people before choosing to “go steady” with someone. Attachment is trickier. You can’t (legally) marry multiple people… but that’s not to say that people don’t form all sorts of long-term relationships in non-traditional families.
As I’m writing this I’m struck by another notion as well. The sense of directionality of the states as laid out by Ms. Fisher: Lust, Romantic Love, Attachment. As though it’s supposed to be a a path that gets followed. What if you’re happy at romantic love (perhaps a friends with benefits)? Or even just lust (swinger)? Moving all the way to attachment is also possible (polyamory) if that’s where things are destined to go. Oh, and I think this isn’t even just three states that you can navigate between… it’s a continuum where there’s no simple integer that defines the status of a relationship.
I guess this is just a rambling bit of processing for me. Thinking about relationships and how it works in “real life.” It’s way more complicated than it seems, isn’t it?