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THE PSYCHOLOGY OF RELATIONSHIPS

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“What people call love is just a chemical reaction that compels animals to breed. It hits hard and then slowly fades leaving you stranded in a failing marriage. I did it, your parents are going to do it. Break the cycle.

Rise above. Focus on Science,” said Rick Sanchez. That is quite a bleak take on love and relationships eh, Rick. I’m not challenging your statement; I’m just acknowledging that it’s on the unsavoury side. People will not like it. People will not like you. He’d probably respond, “…think for yourself. Don’t be sheep!” And that is why he’s the coolest granddad in the multiverse.


A human being is a highly sociable animal. At his core, man craves connection with others. Man seeks to belong to something. That explains every social group that has ever existed. Church congregations, drug cartels and gangs, sports fans, book clubs, romantic relationships, you name it, are all but evidence of the innate human disposition to organise and cooperate. The rewards of a romantic relationship do not differ in any material respect to those of other group configurations. It’s all about that word isn’t it, ‘family’.


A person’s need for a family is a result of millions of years of evolution. Belonging to a group was a security measure for human ancestors. That’s how they preserved their interests of staying alive. Today we have tall electrified fences and guns for that; why do we still care about a family? For what purpose do we need partners?


Romantic partnerships are a fascination of mine and a good case study since they assume the form of the simplest type of group - involving just two people… well, at least in theory.

The biological basis for romantic partnerships is clear – humans sexually reproduce to ensure the continuity of their species, generation after generation. Your central nervous system and pituitary gland reward you for having sex with a gush of endorphins so you keep coming back to sex until you’ve produced enough offspring to carry your genetic code forward. Endorphins are essentially drugs that your body uses to trick and manipulate you to have sex.


Let me give you the best financial advice you’ll ever hear, do not have children! If you heed my advice, congratulations, you just gave yourself E2 000 000. You could buy a second house in the suburbs and live like a rock star. Bonus points: a house will not scream in your ear at ungodly hours for three years; a house will not give you pink eye it contracted from playing with children of questionable hygiene at school; a house will not break curfew and get pregnant at 15.

You don’t want these problems. But if you already have children, don’t let this negativity get to you. A child is a gift that keeps on giving. I don’t personally believe that but, you know… let’s not make this awkward.


The psychology of the romantic relationship is more interesting. ‘Falling in love’, as they say, is this strong feeling of interdependence and attachment to another human being. It has been associated with increased energy and a narrowing of mental focus. That is one hell of a cocktail. You are energised but wanting in discretion? That sounds like the minimum requirements for an episode of self-sabotaging behaviour.


A person newly in love sees the world through the lens of love and almost everything is tolerable and everything their partner does is delightful. It’s like being high on a controlled substance... (not that Mangaliso would know from experience).

Infatuation fades as Rick has already warned in the first paragraph, and the data is consistent with this ‘supposition’. Adults are romantically involved with several partners over their lifetimes. Love comes and goes. If you’re in love for the first time in your life, I hope you’re looking forward to your next (jokes).

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