Do Accountants Make Better Lovers?

An article in the Life section of the Globe and Mail caught my eye this week: “When love hurts you know it’s good – It should be a raging inferno, not a firelight glow . . . if it doesn’t cause you pain . . . it’s not worth it.” The paper was quoting Cristina Nehring’s book, A Vindication of Love.

OK – if I were to write a book, I know that the title “Fatal Attraction” would sell way more copies than “Wedded Bliss”, but if you ask men and women who have actually lived through a fatal attraction, I’m willing to bet that most of them would have gladly traded for wedded bliss.

Reading the article made me think of Jim and Joanne (not their real names). Jim is a retired senior partner in an international accounting firm. He also volunteered in the community and played a leadership role in the finances of his church. He and Joanne have been married close to fifty years. I’m sure that those years were filled with the ups and downs of any marriage, but when I see the two of them working in their garden or walking around the neighbourhood, I can’t think of a happier couple. Their children are both happily married as well. I think Jim and Joanne found something special, which was NOT a raging inferno.

It is no accident that raging infernos tend to burn themselves out rather than gently fading into wedded bliss. There is solid research on brain chemistry that backs it up. Cupid’s Poisoned Arrow by author Marnia Robinson shows the link between intense love making and addiction, based on the body’s built in reward system. In a nutshell, an intense love (i.e. raging inferno) can create an intense internal contradiction. The lover desires their mate, but at the same time, their brain chemistry leads them to feel satiated. Instead of progressing to more intense feelings, it often leads the person to push their lover away. If both partners are feeling this kind of on-again, off-again pressure, then the relationship turns stormy.

In a nutshell, humans are actually wired for two very different types of love: the love between two mates and the love between a parent and child. The first kind of love manifests through the neurotransmitter dopamine (which is also present in other infernos, such as drug addiction). Parental love is expressed by the neurotransmitter oxytocin, the “cuddle hormone”. If a relationship is to last a long time, the gentle intimacy of an oxytocin based relationship is a better base than the stormy dopamine high.

So, if you were to give me the choice between the Elizabeth Taylor/Richard Burton or Jim/Joanne kind of loves, I’d have to opt for the accountant.

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