“How did SHE end up with him?”
Men, when aroused (arguably most of their waking hours) are biologically in search of (in most cases) women because of a cluster of genes I’m simply going to call MHC.
The MHC Gene Cluster
Specifically what is happening is, the nonconscious “mind” is being driven by this cluster of genes to find women who have clusters of MHC that are very different from his. If successful, any offspring from this pairing is likely to be quite healthy, with a strong ability to fight pathogens, have a strong immune system, etc.
And as a man, I can tell you…I’ve never once been aware of this process….
So just how does the man find the woman?
Sex and Scent
Women who have dissimilar clusters of these genes smell very differently to men than do those with similar clusters of genes. (I’ll spare you the research though fascinating..)
So, if men were the only factor in the decision about what pairings would happen in the world…everything would be just fine…and then the problems begin…
You see, women *often* have the same “drive” to seek out men with dissimilar MHC clusters of genes….but not always…and this is where the problems begin.
It turns out that women who are taking “the pill” (oral contraceptives)…. at the nonconscious level…are attracted and drawn to men who have *similar* MHC clusters of genes. The children of these pairings often end up quite unhealthy and have very poor immune systems. Nature doesn’t like the pill. Nature gives a bad result for tampering…but there’s more than just this 21st century problem at work….
When women are ovulating…they give off a scent that is much easier to pick up by men…and men behave in a much more caring fashion toward women during this period…caring and jealous…nature is nothing but predictable and paradoxical.
And here another problem begins. When women are ovulating they are attracted to men with masculine features…which may or may not be like their partner’s…At the other end of the cycle, women are drawn to men who are likely to give them feelings of stability and security…again…maybe or maybe not their partner…
And it gets worse…nature is an illusionist….
Boy meets girl and have sex. Old story.
What makes a woman trust?
The Hormone Connection
When boy and girl have sex, a hormone called oxytocin is released by both the man AND the woman. Oxytocin causes them to have sometimes high levels of trust and feelings of bonding between the two of them… Simply put: Smell oxytocin = trust the source.
(Again, the research is scary/shocking but I’ll go on and save the science for another day.)
Men and women know by scent which partners are “best” for “them” with the scary exceptions noted above.
But there is yet another problem.
There are a lot of men and women with dissimilar MHC gene clusters rocking on in their bodies. We have an almost endless supply of potential life partners.
So how do you know that you have found “the one?”
Psychologists, Geoff Miller and Peter Todd, developed a computer program to answer that question.
Basically what they found was that once you’ve met about 9 men/women…at random…you should probably make your choice.
Whether the other person agrees is up to MHC clusters, the pill and where the woman is in her cycle along with personal attractiveness and resource assessment on the part of women…in other words…men shop, pick up items off the shelf and hope…but they have no credit card in the wallet…. women buy.
….of course we knew that long before today…
…back to oxytocin…
Wouldn’t it be something if you could bottle it and…
….you can…and researchers do… with lock and key in hand.
Want to know more?
In one study, researchers found that half of all people inhaling a whiff of oxytocin happily handed over their money to someone who was an ANONYMOUS TRUSTEE for money and offered NO promise or guarantee of return on “investment.”
Placebo group? 10%. (There’s a lot of gullible people out there….)
Oxytocin unplugs the flight/fight response to a significant degree, making the person trust pretty much everything and everyone around them….
…so what’s love got to do with it?
Well, love is an interesting thing…
…love implies things like devotion and trust and monogamy…and it exists….. between mother and children…
The Bond of a Mother
…but what a mother feels for her children is rarely what a father feels for the same children. The biology, the neural processing, the hormonal responses and reactions are all very, very different.
….when that baby is born, there is a powerful bond that almost instantly develops between mother and child…
…and you’d think that the “halo effect” or “washover” of those feelings would spread to the husband…you know…spread the love around…
…you can forget it…
…so what does THAT mean??!!
…in part, it means that monogamy and sexual fidelity are two very different things….and while women are more monogamous than men by nature…there is little difference between men and women when it comes to sexual infidelity…
(how ya’ feeling so far?)
So let’s look at what MIGHT keep people monogamous…if not maintain sexual fidelity.
What might make people more monogamous?
The Emotional Connection
Dr. Helen Fisher has found that in many couples deep in the throes of romantic love…well…the reward centers of their brain light up like a Christmas Tree when they see pictures of their newly found partner….just like with cocaine, cigarettes, gambling….and other addictions.
Robert Palmer who wrote “Addicted to Love,” with the lovely band of women “playing” the musical instruments behind him in the video had it right….”might as well face it…you’re addicted to love.”
So is all lost for the long-term romantic? Isn’t there SOMETHING that a man and a woman can latch onto for the long-term?
As time goes on psychological and emotional connections can be forged between men and women to what is often referred to as “love.” Defining this admiration, trust and respect is not so easy…but those are arguably some of the attributes of what you and I call “love.”
Scientists are a bit more skeptical here…and I’ll save that…for part II.