Tag Archives: love

Love bites

A favorite pastime of us humans is to see ourselves in the non-human world around us. Sometimes, the similarities between animal behavior and human behavior can provide insights into the biology of behavior. Examples abound, from similar neural circuits that drive addiction to others that drive aggression. For biologists, such insights are endlessly intriguing, but

How to end a bad relationship for good

Sometimes we find ourselves in relationships that make us miserable more than they make us happy, relationships that we know in our hearts are not right, yet still have a hold on us. If this sounds like you, or someone you care about, here are some research-based strategies you may not have considered before for ending it for good and getting on with your life.

1. Don’t mistake addiction for love. This is tricky because, neurochemically speaking, the two are very similar–studies have shown that when romantic partners who are intensely in love are exposed to photographs of their beloved, the brain regions that become activated are the same regions that are activated in cocaine addicts when they are craving cocaine. But even if love has some addiction-like qualities, healthy love is likely to involve other qualities as well, such as respect, trust, and commitment, qualities that keep a relationship strong even on those days when excitement and passion are not at the forefront. Addictive love, by contrast, tends to be more singularly focused on attaining those “highs,” whatever the cost. Partners whose behavior is unpredictable (e.g., they don’t call when they say they will), are, unfortunately, especially likely to keep you hooked, since their inconsistent affection keeps you on your toes and wanting more. If you are trying to break free from a relationship that feels more like an addiction than a loving bond,  one strategy is to reframe your thoughts and emotions about that person as if they are cold, clinical biological processes in order to gain a healthy distance from them. For example, after a week of not calling Mr. or Ms. Wrong, you feel a wave of longing in your chest and think, “But I really do love him/her… I should call him/her right now…” Instead, you could notice that sensation and tell yourself, “Interesting, there goes my caudate nucleus releasing dopamine and producing a sensation of longing. Okay, back to work.”