Our Sexual Brain and the Lies It Tells Us
At the base of the relationships between men and women, is the animal nature. The physiology and biology that propelled us out of the caves and into the stars is still really about hormones, chemicals in the brain, and our unquenchable desire to further our genetic lines. Even as evolved as we think we are, chemicals like testosterone and dopamine really more of our energy and motivation than we’d like to think.
I’ve been exploring my own fixation on youth and fitness and how that is largely driven by these same procreative, base needs. And how as a somewhat evolved male homosapien, I have some control over the more ape-like ancestral rushes that occasionally course through me. And today I hit on an example that might clarify a bit more of my own self-examination around these urges vs. what I really want.
Today I was playing tennis with my 11 yo daughter. I have been teaching her how to play. And today on the court I was sitting back and watching her practice serves. On the court next to us was an older woman who, though sightly more robust than my partnering preference, was doing a fine job of beating the pants off her male partner. At this same time, just outside the fence behind my daughter, a young coed, walking her dog, strolled by looking quite fit, but perhaps a bit young to be of interest other than an observation of her beauty.
Seeing these three women at the same time, I got it in a flash. My animal brain and body was attracted to the coed. My love and parenting body was happily enjoying my daughter’s physical practice. And my mind, unencumbered by sexual fantasy, was also fascinated and interest in the woman playing tennis.
The sirens of sex.
I don’t have to give in to the sexual chemistry. And one thing I know about myself, when I’m getting some of my sexual needs met, my sublimated sexual energy is much less powerful. And I’ve been trying to understand some of this dynamic in myself as I’m trying to imagine and conjure up my next relationship.
Before I was paired up, as a boyfriend or a married man, I was a bit more like a wild animal. Every flash of cleavage, every picture on the web, all the titillation around me would give stir to my ape-chemistry and I would derive a little motivational boost. It wasn’t that I wanted to mate with each of the objects of desire, but there was some shortage in my life, some lack. Perhaps my ape-brain was looking for a mate. My evolved-brain was a bit more capable of parsing out the desire part from the sex part, and I was usually able to leave the potential mate unmolested.
But something cool happened when I got matted up. (And I am certain this is different for each man and woman — as we all have different histories and hoped-for futures.) When I was IN relationship, I no longer scanned the savannah for sex. While I could see an attractive young athlete and say, “Wow.” I no longer had any desire to pursue sex or children or even gawking at her.
That’s how I knew, in my evolved self, the GF#1 was not the IT girl for me. Even as I was in relationship with her, and committed to her, my ape-related drive was not satisfied. Even though I had a relationship with an attractive woman, my chemistry was not settled. I did not feel completed.
I know that’s a bad metaphor. But something in my DNA likes to be mated. And when it is complete, or solid, I no longer cruise the herd looking for something fresh, new, and young. When I was married, even as things were going south, there was never a moment when I considered pursuing sex with another woman. I simply did not want anything, sexually, other than what I had. So, like an animal, when the sex when south too, I began to express my rage and sadness and loss.
It’s interesting to note, as a creature of chemistry and instinct, we are also driven by motivation, safely, and happiness. But, I am certain that part of my happiness was related to the sex and the chemicals it produced, the safety and trust it expressed, that when lost, I began to wonder for the first time about the viability of my relationship.
I never looked outside the marriage for that connection. And even after divorced I maintained a fairly celibate life as I knew my sexual-brain could get me into a lot of trouble when it was flooded with so much sadness, anger, and appetite.
I had never been adored like I was adored by GF#1. She was fearless, close, and spoke “touch” as her love language as well. I tried to get a clue about my sexual ennui over the three months of our relationship, and in the end agreed to release her back to the wild so she could find the roar for her that was as strong as her roar for me.
Today I connected a tiny bit more of my history and chemistry. And I identified the Sexual Sirens that are all around me, and saw for the first time how different they were to me, depending on my relationship status. If I was mated and getting regular sex. I could care less for their siren song. If I was alone, like a lone lion, I was eager to catch thrill and quick to give chase.
I knew when I was married that I was SET. I did not desire another woman, ever. I did not roam or roar for anyone else. But when the sexual connection was severed I roared like a wounded animal and fell into a long period of rebuilding.
Along those lines, then, my thinking is, when I’m sorting out and evaluating my next relationship, I will listen to the clues in my body and my brain that are either satisfied or hungry to guide a part of my understanding of the animal fit. There’s a lot more to a RELATIONSHIP than fit or chemistry, but boy, when those things go off there’s a lot of roaring to do.
The Off Parent
< back to On Dating Again index
- Casual Sex. What? I Have No Experience with This…
- Vengeance Dating Syndrome (a Post-divorce Pattern)
- The Honey Trap: How Beauty Can Lead Us Astray
- Burn the Maps!
- The Divorce Library (reading list)
- Songs of Divorce (free listening library – youtube sourced songs)
- Laugh It Off (building a resource library of funny videos and other diversions)
- Facebook (follow us on Facebook and keep up with all the conversations)
- The 5 Love Languages (a book on love styles by Gary Chapman)
image: thigh high, lucy naughton, creative commons usage