Is it love or lust? Should we refuse to settle until we’ve found “the one”? Judy Dutton, author of “Secrets From the Sex Lab,” talks to Twenty Something about love, lust, science, and everything in between.
Twenty Something: How important is chemistry in a relationship?
Judy Dutton: Chemistry is everything, in my opinion. You can love everything about someone on paper. But if the chemistry isn’t there, it’s just not going to work and you’ll be tempted to go elsewhere.
TS: Is there such thing as levels of chemistry? Or does it have to be all or nothing?
JD: Too many people confuse attraction with chemistry. There are things that we find attractive in a mate that isn’t chemistry. For example, people who have certain sounds in their names are more attractive– but that’s not chemistry. Chemistry is something that has to build over time. It doesn’t take months, but you shouldn’t judge it based off one date either.
TS: What happens to chemistry the longer a couple is together?
JD: The proverbial “7 year itch” is no longer true. That intense honeymoon period typically only lasts 3 years. After that, the chemicals that give us that “fist love rush” die down. But you can boost that chemistry again and bring back that love by doing new things. New activities stimulate the brain’s “rewards” system which is the same place where the brain knows if it’s in love. So you can fool yourself into being in love again.
TS: Are there any studies that suggest waiting for sex is better for the longevity of a relationship or vice versa?
JD: Sleeping with someone after the first date is not what scares people away. Studies suggest that waiting is best when you want to get married. The reason for it is clearly obvious. If you sleep with someone you just met, you have no idea who this person really is so there’s a good chance you might not be compatible. You have no idea who the person is when you sleep with them.
JD: A lot of people confuse love with lust. Even if you know you’re in love, wouldn’t you want to know if your partner is in love with you?
What they do is they put you in the MRI machine then they show you photos of someone you’re dating or of random attractive people. So if you’re looking at someone you truly love it will activate the right side of the brain. If you’re looking at someone you’re merely attracted to, it activates the left side of the brain.
TS: Why are some people great at every aspect of their lives, like their careers, but flop in their relationships?
JD: I think it’s because people assume their love lives should happen naturally so they just wing it. If you want to learn how to play tennis, you take lessons. It baffles me that something as important as your love life is left to chance. You have to work at relationships.
We run away. We nitpick. Definitely don’t run the instant you don’t like the way they eat their peas. And once the spark dies down a little bit, a lot of people think that’s a problem but it’s not. So don’t run the instant the chemistry fades. The chemistry has to fade. Or else you wouldn’t get anything done–you’d just be shacked up in bed.
TS: How realistic is it to hold out for “the one”?
JD: There is no science behind that. If we all waited for “the one” our species would not have survived. People were surprised by a study that shows to find your perfect partner you should sleep with or date at least12 people. It’s called the “twelve bonk” rule. This study was done by a mathematician. If you end up marrying the first person you sleep with you risk settling and end up having no points of comparison. So too many or too few is bad. If you’ve dated/ slept with less than that, keep looking. If you’ve gone over you should go through your Rolodex because your mate is somewhere in that list.
Judy Dutton is a writer and editor living in Brooklyn, N.Y. She’s contributed to Cosmopolitan, Maxim, Glamour, Redbook, Women’s Health, The Knot, The Nest, msn.com, Match.com, and other magazines. Dutton has covered a range of topics including dating, relationships, sex, health, personal finance, news, and entertainment. Dutton is the author of Secrets from the Sex Lab, an eye-opening look at the most groundbreaking scientific discoveries in the realm of sexual behavior. http://www.judy-dutton.com/