Repairing Relationships

Building intimacy and joy into your relationships

Is That Love You Are Feeling Or Just Lust?

There is a physiological reason why your lover is a hard habit to break.

I had a dream

But it turned to dust

What I thought was love

That must have been lust"



A new study from the Journal of Sexual Medicine that analyzed 20 studies on the effects of sex and love on the body found that two parts of the brain, the insula and the stratium, are key in the way that desire develops into love. The study concluded that lust is triggered in the part of the brain that controls pleasureable feelings such as sex and food, while feelings of love are activated in another part of the brain that controls habitual behavior over time. Concordia Psychology Professor Jim Pfaus, lead author in the study, noted that "the change from desire to love is the bonding mechanism in relationships."

We see this physiological pattern in mirage relationships. Men use physical attraction and charm to begin a relationship.To keep the momentum of the incipient romance going, they use approval seeking to create the illusion that the couple shares so many tastes, views and goals together. Thus the relationship moves from lust to a feeling of love of the whole person. For the romantic, it is written in the stars, and for the religious it is God's Will that the two lovers have found each other. At this point, commitment is made to either become engaged and wed or cohabitate. This is the honeymoon stage, when the bonded couple experiences weeks or even months of bliss. To the lovers, the relationship will always be one of true, unconditional love. Best-selling author Dr. Harville Hendrix describes this brief interlude as a time for couples "when fears are held at bay...and romantic love is going to heal them and make them whole."

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Unfortunately, millions of marrriages are founded on this sandy bedrock of dishonest courtship based on lust. After the thrill of the honeymoon fades, the man will realize he has committed himself to a stranger. He will have to continue portraying himself as his deceptive character of courtship or the relationship will be threatened. Over time, the man's latent resentment of having to fake it will poison the union. Other mirage men will simply live a secret dual life of doing what they really enjoy to preserve the marriage or cohabitation to avoid the financial and emotional costs of a messy break up. Thanks to Professor Pfaus, we now know the physiology behind this destructive pattern of human behavior.

J.R. Bruns, M.D., is co-author of The Tiger Woods Syndrome, a book about repairing relationships.


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