Who Else Thinks Love is Better than Chocolate?

“If music be the food of love, play on.” Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

 I love love. Don’t you?

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I love being in love and falling in love. When love is reciprocated, it is absolutely the most delicious of experiences, don’t you think?

In her book Why We Love (2004), the renowned love researcher Helen Fisher purports that the chemical reactions of norepinephrine and dopamine and other brain chemicals we manufacture when in love create a genetically predisposed bliss in the brain that is as natural and potent a drive as hunger. Love and food are both biologically adaptive and addictive. In order to survive, we need to desire love and food. It’s obvious why we require food to live, but love? Certainly less apparent.

We need love to ensure the protection of our offspring. Without love, men would just run around having sex with everyone else and blowing off their children in the pursuit of more sex. Meanwhile, dinosaurs, sable-toothed tigers, and other cave dweller groups could potentially do their children and the mothers in! In their defense, they are the (somewhat) victims of their own biology.

In heterosexual relationships, love prospers when women have a higher, egalitarian valence within the relationship and within society; in turn, men value the relationship and the woman in a manner that supports monogamy and intimacy. Additionally, love and intimacy thrive in nuclear families when the parents are the only adults present in a household (DeMunck, Korotayev, & McGreevey, 2016). Apparently, too many cooks in the kitchen spoils the love soup!

Feminists Rock Love

When heterosexual couples transcend traditional gender parameters, research shows that eros, or passionate love, is the relationship ball in play. Eros blossoms when more egalitarian male-female roles exist within a relationship. Interestingly, when both partners are feminists both partners report overall better relationship satisfaction (Ogletree, 2010). The old saw appears to hold true: Happy wife. Happy life!

medieval-knight-lady-his-beloved-red-dress-66334338There is the notion that romantic love derived from knights protecting royal women and research shows that “romantic love was most likely to be culturally endorsed and valued when female status was relatively high” (DeMunck, et al., 2016, p. 2). When women outrank men, love is nurtured. It seemingly doesn’t work very well the other way around, though. When women are viewed as inferior within a culture, love cannot thrive (DeMunck, et al.).

There are some challenges in a nuclear world (pun intended!)

It’s not all a bed of roses in the world of love within nuclear family societies, however. Unfortunately, those who are identified as unsuccessful at love are also considered to be unsuccessful at life overall (Jenkin, 2017). As a woman who did not have children, I have felt the pressure from many people over the years to clarify why I didn’t have children. The overall sense I receive is that I am perceived to be less of a woman because I chose not to breed and create the idealized nuclear family. So I can certainly understand how someone who is not in a long-term relationship may experience the subtle censure society imposes on the unattached. Our own nuclear families in particular may pressure us to get married and start a family. In response to those pressures, do we as women overestimate our feelings towards a potential love interest (a form of confirmation bias) in order to get “in line” with societal expectations? And then do we add in a good dash of wishful thinking when choosing a mate? Scientists think so (Jenkin, 2017).  Cher says, “The trouble with women is that they get all excited about nothing. And then they marry him.” Sorry guys, but it is funny!

I love chocolate. Do you?

Shakespeare may have thought that music was the food of love, but we know better—chocolate is! Robby, one of my interviewees on the Spaz on Health podcast episode What is Love on Green Ink Radio answered the question, “What is Love?” with, “It’s like the same way I love chocolate. I eat so much chocolate and it makes me happy. But that’s limited to as much as you can eat. But I can always think of my girlfriend…it’s constant.” Robby feels that love is better than chocolate. I do agree, but hell, chocolate is a close second and doesn’t watch football at ear-splitting decibels!

Apparently, eating chocolate releases several neurotransmitters, one of which is called phenyl ethylamine. Phenyl ethylamine discharges certain endorphins (dopamine, serotonin, and adrenaline) in the brain, which decrease stress and pain. These endorphins create a feel-good wash that mimics how we feel when we’re in love. It also creates excitement, well-being, focus and clarity, feelings of happiness, and a quickened pulse rate. Woohoo! All that for the price of a candy bar!

Chocolate has been around and wedded (I know, I know. I’ve been on a pun roll lately and can’t stop myself) to romance since ancient times. The history of chocolate starts with the name: Theobroma cacao, literally “food of the gods.” It has also been known and utilized as an aphrodisiac. Hellloooo Zeus!download (1)

Chocolate is believed to have been indigenous to the ancient Maya culture, where the royals drank it at ceremonies, particularly at weddings where cacao seeds symbolized the marital union. Nowadays, it’s equated with Valentine’s Day and love in general. Life imitates food instead of art…

Chocolate kisses

Romantic love appears to be somewhat of a choice based on culture. In freedom-focused western cultures, it is the dominant love style. It’s no wonder that we give it positive valence in societies where we prioritize the autonomy of choice…and equality! Who can love something that one feels is inherently inferior? Feminism supports romantic love by elevating the status of both sexes within a union.

While bonding is an evolutionary imperative, passionate love (eros) versus companionate, pragmatic love seems to be culturally influenced. Chocolate, on the other hand, appears to be a universal. We all love chocolate with a passion, regardless of our heritage. Here’s to you, kid. Wishing you chocolate kisses.

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Resources

De Munck, V., Korotayev, A., McGreevey, J. (2016 October-December). Romantic love and family organization: A case for romantic love as a biosocial universal. Evolutionary Psychology, 1-13.

Fisher, H. (2004).  Why we love. New York, N: Henry Holt and Company, LLC.

Jenkins, C.S. I. (2016).  Knowing our own hearts: Self-reporting and the science of love. Philosophical Issues. Knowledge and Mind, 26, 226-242.

Jensen, J. F., & Rauer, A. J. (2014). Turning inward versus outward: Relationship work in young adults and romantic functioning. Personal Relationships, 21, 451-467.

Ogletree, S.M (August 5, 2010). With this ring I thee wed: Relating gender roles and love styles to attitudes towards engagement rings and weddings. Gender Issues, 66-77

Phiilips, L.A (2017, February). Getting close. Psychology Today, 47-52, 80.

 

What Will 2018 Bring?

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It’s the big question of the New Year—what’s to come?? Love and romance? Big adventure? More money? Better health? A new home? Great happiness? An appealing exercise regimen?? The possibilities dazzle our imagination, inspiring many of us to set intentions that we solemnly resolve to fulfill with fresh zeal and vigor starting January 1st and continuing throughout the year without fail.

How’s that working out for you?

Setting an intention to achieve a goal has been proven to work remarkably well. When we back a desire with our will and step into the feeling of what we want, we can change our lives. So why can’t we stick to our New Year’s resolutions?? Why does our zeal and vigor fizzle out before February even hits?

Some researchers say that we set big, game-changing resolutions at the new year and, indoing so, set ourselves up fpexels-photo-110473.jpegor failure. Sticking to large-scale goals demands a great deal of commitment and discipline. It’s pretty unrealistic to expect ourselves to suddenly turn on a dime and make all the big changes that we hadn’t been able to manage making any headway on all year. Other reasons why New Year’s resolutions fail are: impatience; not believing in ourselves; little to no social support; time management issues; financial difficulties; not having a plan; or focusing on the negative.

Now what??

First of all, the “new year” is only a new year because we’re told that it is. Western culture has created a division in time called a “year” and January 1 was chosen as its starting point. This is said to have started in 45 BCE with Julius Caesar, who changed the caesars-palace-las-vegas-hotel-casino-40655.jpegcalendar from lunar to solar and set January as the start of the year. The symbolism worked—Janus was the god of gates and had one face looking forward and one face looking back—but the reasoning was weak. January 1st was merely the day that the newly-elected consuls started their year-long term. After Rome fell, some countries set the new year on Spring Equinox; some set it on Christmas day; some set it on Easter. Pope Gregory put an end to the free-for-all by designing a new calendar (the Gregorian calendar, natch), and most of Western culture got on board eventually.

But what are the ramifications of setting the beginning of a new year based on political expedient rather than the wheel of the year? In the northern hemisphere, January is a terrible time for rebirth and renewal! The natural world is largely cold, bleak, and dead.Even in warmer areas, the days are shorter, the sun is weaker, and new growth falters.In the southern hemisphere, January is full blazing summer at its peak. The days are long, the sun is strong, new growth is all around, but it’s not the beginning of anything. It’s the climax before the denouement.

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Is the season the real reason?

Many cultures begin their new year in March or April, a time of year that seems, in the northern hemisphere, far more appropriate to new beginnings. In the southern hemisphere, however, March and April herald autumn and hint at the winter ahead. The new year there would more appropriately start in September or October. But no!! We can’t have half the world on a different year!! That wouldn’t do at all.

What’s a determined intention-setter to do?

The best way to set an intention and have it come to fruition is to follow your own calendar. Know your numerological influences and your astrological chart. Familiarize yourself with the general numerology and astrology of the day, week, month, and year. Set yourself up for success by working with the energy of the natural world and your sacred contracts rather than against them or in complete ignorance of them.

Get started with Mystic Kat’s podcast The Year to Come 2018 for a full year tarot card reading at greeninkradio.com. And maybe make yourself your own calendar à la Julius Caesar. What gives him the right to legislate your renewal? Take ownership of your transformation process and start the year on your own terms!

 

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