Red Hot Sex and Real Lasting Love: Understanding the New Science of Desire

3073421287_f8cb2c5726_zAs we come to the time of year where we think of sweets, flowers, and good food as expressions of love, we need to acknowledge that what people really want in their lives is more passion. Buying more “stuff” just doesn’t give us what we really want and need: RED HOT SEX and REAL LASTING LOVE.

To get what we really want, we need to turn to the scientists, not the marketers. Forget candy and flowers. Here are some things that can really light up your life:

  1. Learn About Testosterone

It’s been called the hormone from hell, the fountain of youth, the male aphrodisiac.

It is blamed for wars, gang violence, rape, and the monosyllabic grunts of Sylvester Stallone.  It is credited with making men strong, shrinking their bellies, protecting their heart, and boosting sexual desire in both men and women.

It is perhaps the most misunderstood player in the human sexual symphony.  It is what makes those born with an XY chromosome, male.  It is testosterone.    Here’s how it works:

In the first weeks in the womb, the tiny fetus is neither male nor female.  It has all the basic equipment to develop as either sex.   At around six weeks, the sexual identity is finally determined when the special cells in the testes produce male hormones, the main one being testosterone.  “It usually does a nice job,” says Theresa Crenshaw, M.D., an authority on hormones in men and women, “crafting the penis and its neighbors, the scrotum and testicles, along with the requisite body contouring.”

We don’t get much action from this hormone until it is awakened with a bang when the boy reaches puberty and testosterone levels rise 400-1000%.  “Teenage boys become walking grenades, just waiting to go off,” says Dr. Crenshaw.  “As production kicks into high gear, the psychological and physical impact of testosterone is overwhelming.  More than any other substance, testosterone controls the development and maintenance of masculine characteristics.  Facial hair sprouts, competing with crops of acne.  The voice cracks and deepens.  Shoulders broaden, hips narrow.  Muscles become lean and powerful.  Body hair and body odor make fine companions.  Sperm gets produced and wants release, often.”

But it isn’t only men who need testosterone in order to develop their full sexual potential, women need it as well. Though present in much smaller amounts, women too, have testosterone in their bodies.  Those women who feel that the world would be a much better place if testosterone were eliminated are probably not aware of recent research which shows the importance of testosterone to the developing female. 

“Although it is only about 10 percent of the amount circulating through teenage boys,” says Dr. Crenshaw, “it is this testosterone, not estrogen, that causes the heightened erotic sensitivity of the clitoris, breasts, and nipples.  It maintains the fullness, thickness, and health of her genital tissue as well.”

We need the right balance. Too little testosterone and we become irritable and depressed. Too much and we become overly aggressive.

But the right balance of testosterone isn’t just for guys. There is also evidence that satisfactory levels of testosterone are necessary if a woman is to have a healthy sexual life. “The fact is,” says Susan Rako, M.D., “that female sexuality without testosterone is a house without a foundation.”

If you want to read the best book on testosterone, I recommend: James Dabbs, Heroes, Rogues, and Lovers: Testosterone and Behavior

  1. Learn about oxytocin and vasopressin.

According to Dr. Crenshaw, oxytocin is a crucial bonding agent for relationships—think of it as hormonal superglue. Oxytocin bonds and attaches us to those we love, or perhaps causes us to love those it bonds us to—mates, family, friends, babies. She calls vasopressin the “monogamy molecule.”

These hormones have been widely studied in small, mouse-like creatures called voles. One type, the prairie voles are monogamous and steadfast lovers. Their cousins, the mountain voles, are Casanovas and to after sex with any voles they can find. It turns out the prairie voles have many more receptors for oxytocin and vasopressin.

We can control our levels of these important hormones. The more we show trust, the higher levels of oxytocin and vasopressin we produce.

If you want to read the best book on oxytocin and vasopressin, I recommend: Paul Zak’s The Moral Molecule: The Source of Love and Prosperity.

  1. Learn about the anatomy of sex, love, and relationship.

Too many of us focus on either one type of desire or the other. Often men want more red hot sex and women want more real lasting love. Many try to trade one for the other. “I’ll give you more sex if you give me more love or I’ll give you more love if only you’d give me more sex.” But the new science of desire teaches us how to have it all.

Helen Fisher, Ph.D. is a world-renowned scientist who has researched the reasons we fall in love and why we fall in love with that special person.  She is a biological anthropologist, a Senior Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute, and Chief Scientific Advisor to the internet dating site Match.com. She says that falling in love is much more than a feeling. “Romantic love,” she says, “is a mammalian brain system for mate choice.”  Its nature’s trick to get us paired up. It involves two brain/hormonal systems “lust” and “attraction.”

Lust is a strong desire to have sexual intercourse and is driven, in both men and women, by the hormones testosterone and estrogen. When we are attracted we lock into that special person and are truly love-struck and can think of little else. Scientists think that three main neurotransmitters are involved in this stage; adrenaline, dopamine and serotonin.

The initial stages falling in love activates our stress response, increasing our blood levels of adrenalin and cortisol. This is causes our hearts to race, our mouth to go dry, and we sweat when we are in the presence of our loved one.  When Fisher scanned the brains of the “love struck” couples she found high levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. This chemical stimulates “desire and reward” by triggering intense rushes of pleasure. It has a similar effect to taking cocaine. Serotonin is responsive for the lovely preoccupation and focus we have on our partner.

But here’s something few people know. Although that wonderful feeling of “falling in love” doesn’t go on continually forever, it does not fade away, never to return. Dr. Fisher told me, “Romantic love is like a sleeping cat. It can be re-awakened at any time.”

That’s what I’ve found counseling people from all over the world. In my new book, The Enlightened Marriage: The 5 Transformative Stages of Relationships and Why the Best is Still to Come, I draw on the new science of sex, love, and relationship, to show how we can have it all.

Why is this Important? It’s understandable that we all have strongly-positive memories of the romance stage of love. But too many of us want to stay in this phase and feel we’ve lost something when the hormonally driven feelings of lust and attraction begin to wane. Further, as we hit stage three, “Disillusionment,” many couples break apart and feel there is something wrong with their marriage. “I love you, but I’m not in love with you anymore,” becomes a constant refrain. As a result too many men and women leave the relationship before reaching stage 4 and 5, where can truly learn about real, lasting love.

If you want to read the best book on the new science of sex, love, and relationship, I recommend: Helen Fisher’s The Anatomy of Love, in addition to my own book, The Enlightened Marriage.

 I look forward to your comments and questions. I’ll be teaching the first ever Master’s class online on having an Enlightened Marriage.

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