Love, Sex and Attachment

Love, Sex and Attachment

February 12, 2015   On Being

 [From Krista Tippett’s interview of Helen Fisher]

Helen Fisher knows how powerful love is as a leading anthropologist/explorer on the new frontier of seeing inside our brains when love and sex happen. In her TED talks that have been viewed by millions of people, and the research she does for Match.com, she wields science as a sobering, if entertaining, lens on what feel like the most meaningful encounters of our lives. In this wonderfully personal conversation, Helen Fisher reveals how we can take this knowledge as a form of power for giving conscious new meaning to the thrilling and sometimes treacherous human realms of love, sex, and marriage.

I’m Krista Tippett and this is On Being. Today in a wide-ranging, personal conversation with the anthropologist/explorer of the science of love, sex, and marriage, Helen Fisher. She’s well known for her TED talks and her research for Match.com, where she’s chief science advisor. When we fall in love, it turns out, it’s dopamine that makes us feel obsessed with the object of our desire, while chemicals released during sex activate a profound sense of bonding.

Fisher: "Americans love romantic love. We just love romantic love. But we don't pay much attention to attachment."

Fisher: “Americans love romantic love. We just love romantic love. But we don’t pay much attention to attachment.”

In her TED talks that have been viewed by millions of people and the research she does for Match.com, Helen Fisher wields science as a sobering, if entertaining, lens on what feels like the most meaningful encounters of our lives. She is a leading anthropologist/explorer on the new frontier of seeing inside our brains when love and sex happen. And she reveals how we can take this knowledge as a form of power — to give conscious new meaning to the thrilling and sometimes treacherous human realms of love, sex, and marriage.

Helen Fisher is a Visiting Research Associate and member of the Center for Human Evolutionary Studies in the Department of Anthropology at Rutgers University. She is also the Chief Scientific Advisor to the Internet dating site Match.com. Her books include Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Mating, Marriage and Why We Stray and Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love.

******

[Excerpts From Interview Transcript:]

“And I’ve always been interested in why we’re all alike, as opposed to why we’re all different. So when it came time for my PhD dissertation, what I was most interested in — I figured that if there was any part of us at all that we had all in common, it would be our reproductive strategies. It would be our sex lives, our romantic lives, and our reproductive lives.”

“And of course, I mean, for obvious reasons, I mean, this brain system of romantic love, and I do think it’s different from lust. I do think they’re very different brain systems... But romantic love evolved for that reason to enable you to overlook everything in order to be with this human being. And of course, that’s what you really need to do to start that mating process.”

“I mean, we are shedding 10,000 years of our farming background and all of the concepts that arose with that. I mean, the fact that a woman’s place is in the home. Women don’t have a head for business. Men should be the head of the family. Men should be the sole family provider. ‘Til death do us part. All of that is vanishing. Before our very eyes, 10,000 years of these concepts. And so we’re at this time of disorganization where nobody knows really how to go forward.”

“And it’s very interesting, I was on some radio with a guy from China. It was a great learning moment for me because I was talking about romantic love and how you can remain in love long-term as well as loving the person. And you can sustain this long-term romantic love in a deep attachment. And he said, ‘Why would you want to do that?’”

“But in the “Singles in America” study that I do with Match.com, we ask them, ‘What must you have in a relationship?’ And, ‘What’s very important?’ And they must have somebody they can trust and confide in. They must have somebody who respects them. They must have somebody who makes them laugh, which actually is very important biologically.”

“And if you and I and other people just spend some time loving somebody. And it’s interesting how they respond. I mean, it — a man and I sort of left each other a couple years ago. And so now, I don’t have that intense need for him. I can love him in a — in the way he should have been loved all along. With a deep attachment, a real understanding for who he is, and just giving him the time he needs with other people. Not being at all upset if I don’t hear from him. Released from that passion, you can finally love somebody in some new ways that are — that can be very comforting. Not only for them, but for you.”