Is Finding True Love All In Your Head/
An Interview with Dawn Maslar
By Howard Brody
Dawn Maslar, M.S., is an award-winning author based in South Florida who has worked as a biology professor at Broward College, Nova Southeastern University, and Kaplan University. She is the go-to authority on the science of love.
Voted one of the Top 20 Most Followed Dating Experts on Twitter and Best 28 Dating, Marriage and Relationship Blogs to follow in the United Kingdom, Maslar is also a contributing author at scienceofrelationships.com, comprised of writers who are leading experts in the field of scientific relationship research.
Maslar, whose first book “From Heartbreak to Heart’s Desire: Developing a Healthy GPS (Guy Picking System)” was
published in 2010, is a TEDx speaker on “How Your Brain Falls in Love.” She also worked with the TED Education division to create their Science of Attraction video.
For those who are unfamiliar with TED, it should be noted that it is a nonprofit organization devoted to spreading ideas in communities around the world, usually in the form of short, powerful speeches. TEDx events are independently run.
Maslar’s work has been featured on South Florida Today, the Pittsburgh Tribune and National Public Radio. Her online videos have had more than 2 million views.
In addition to her writing, Maslar has created The Great Love Experiment; a fun show she does at colleges, comedy clubs and singles events, where audience members learn about the science of love by participating on stage in research reenactments.
Striplv recently sat down with The Love Biologist to get the skinny on attraction, lust and finding true love.
STRIPLV: What prompted you to write a book like this? Did you write it because of a personal experience?
MASLAR: I was a biology professor attracted to the wrong men. I was chasing after a bad boy biker in a band. After I had my heart broken a few times, I realized I needed to change. That’s where my first book came from. After I wrote the first book, I started doing talks and workshops. In those, the same questions kept coming up. How does love work? How long should you wait to have sex? Can love last? Since I had access to all the research on the subject, I started looking. I spent five years piecing together the research in a comprehensive way. That’s what this book does.
STRIPLV: In your new book, you state that there are four phases of love. Can you explain that?
MASLAR: The four phases are based on the neurological changes that occur. The first phase is attraction, which doesn’t have much to do with love. The second phase is the dating phase, where you build the neurotransmitters up to falling in love. The third phase is falling in love, and the fourth is true love.
STRIPLV: Is there really such as thing as “true love”?
MASLAR: Well “true love” is kind of like a misnomer – like when people say true love is two people that are meant to be. And what I mean by “true love” is that you actually get your brain back, so you’re making a decision to be in a loving relationship. When you fall in love it’s like a “brain fog”... so on the fourth stage that’s where it’s really true love, where you’ve got all your faculties in, and you’re making a decision if you’re in this or not.
STRIPLV: So, now you’re thinking straight and saying to yourself, “Okay! This is something I really want to be in”?
STRIPLV: You mentioned that attraction is more subconscious. Can you explain that?
MASLAR: Attraction is based on your senses. Your eyes, ears, nose, taste buds and skin all make a judgment as to if you are attracted or not.
STRIPLV: How does your nose judge attraction?
MASLAR: Women sense for a protein molecule called Major Histocompatibility Complex. It’s part of your immune system. We are most attracted to people of an opposite immune system. Women are also attracted to a metabolite of testosterone. The greater his level, the greater the attraction tends to be. A man, on the other hand, is attracted to women that are producing copulins. This is a pheromone women produce when they ovulate.
STRIPLV: If this is the case, how does this apply to gay men and women? Are gay men attracted to testosterone while gay women are attracted to copulins? Or do the rules not apply here?
MASLAR: From what I understand gay men are attracted to testosterone, but I’m not exactly sure about the copulins in gay women. I don’t know if anybody has researched that.
STRIPLV: So there is a difference between what men find attractive and what women find attractive?
MASLAR: Men have 25% more neurons in his visual cortex, so he tends to place more emphasis on looks. When are also initially attracted to looks, but other factors quickly come into play.
STRIPLV: Such as?
MASLAR: Well, attraction is just the first part. It tells your body to pay attention. And then you start evaluating the person; that’s the dating phase. As you’re getting to learn to trust them, finding out about them, seeing if you have similarities, those types of things are coming into play. A person’s answer to those can either be to continue with the attraction and possibly fall in love or stop it. So if you find something during that phase that you don’t trust about the guy, it can be over really quick.
STRIPLV: Does that also refer to men with regards to women?
MASLAR: Yes, absolutely.
STRIPLV: So it’s not gender-specific?
MASLAR: A woman builds up oxytocin, that’s the trust hormone, but a man is actually looking for … well, there’s an underlying fear that is in every species of males, and that is the fear of cuckoldry, which is the cheating spouse and it’s often a subconscious fear. We know it exists in other species because they have this thing called mate guarding, which is a way of protecting against the unfaithful partner. We see it with humans too. Back in the day, they had things like chastity belts, high walls to keep the women in, and some even believe that marriage might be a form of mate guarding.
STRIPLV: You call falling in love ‘temporary insanity.’ Why?
MASLAR: Because when you fall in love, your neurotransmitters go haywire. Your hormone of happiness, serotonin drops. Your stress hormone cortisol skyrockets. And parts of your brain deactivate.
STRIPLV: Do you believe that some women fall in love because society has programmed them that they would be unfulfilled if they are not in love with someone?
MASLAR: Love is one of our strongest biological desires, so I doubt societal pressures have much effect.
STRIPLV: Have you ever found that people will force themselves to be in love?
MASLAR: At the last phase of true love, love becomes a conscious decision. So, yes, you can decide to practice love.
STRIPLV: Do you think there is any truth to the notion that women fall in love while men fall in lust? Do women fall in ‘lust’ too?
MASLAR: Both men and women can fall into lust. I call that love at first sight. The problem is once it becomes sexual, women can fall in love for real. Men, on the other hand, don’t tend to fall in love with sex.
STRIPLV: Why do you think divorces happen?
MASLAR: Divorces can happen when your brain comes back, and critical judgment returns, or, when two people grow apart.
STRIPLV: Why does the experience of ‘falling in love’ end?
MASLAR: Yes, but there is a longer lasting feeling of true love. It’s not as crazy.
STRIPLV: Is this the same thing as ‘falling out of love’?
MASLAR: It could be. It depends on how you respond to the change.
STRIPLV: Is it possible to love two people equally?
MASLAR: I don’t think so. The research shows that a man’s testosterone drops when he commits to one woman.
STRIPLV: So how do you explain men and women who are married but have extramarital affairs for multiple years or even multiple families? Is that just an anomaly?
MASLAR: The thing about it is that often the affair is not really love. What we see, when a man commits to a woman, one woman, his testosterone drops. And you asked me before about gays and lesbians, well, the same thing happens with lesbians. When she commits to a woman her testosterone drops. The weird part is when a man commits to a man it has no effect on his testosterone. I don’t know what the biological significance is, but that’s what we see. But it only happens with one woman and when it does his testosterone level blocks the effects of oxytocin, which is the bonding hormone. So when it drops, he’s more likely to bond.
STRIPLV: In your experience, do people confuse love and sex?
MASLAR: That initial attraction is lust. But, we call it love at first sight.
STRIPLV: Twice now you’ve referred to lust as “love at first sight.” Why do you say they are the same?
MASLAR: It’s not necessarily the same. Lust is lust, and it doesn’t necessarily lead to love at first sight. The problem is when you confuse love at first sight with lust. A lot of people think if I walk into a room and I see a guy or a girl, and my heart starts beating fast, and my pupils dilate, and I feel dizzy, it’s got to be love and they jump into this magical relationship, and unfortunately, it’s just love at first sight – it’s norepinephrine – a fight or flight response, which is meant to be temporary. For them to continue to feel those emotions they have to create drama. The classic example is Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee. They met and married within 96 hours. They had a truly rocky relationship, and it ended a few years later with Tommy Lee spending four months in jail for domestic violence.
STRIPLV: Why do you believe long-term love is based on what you learned when you fell in love?
MASLAR: When you fall in love, parts of your brain deactivate. Critical judgment and anxiety decrease. We look at the best in the other person. We stay in love if we continue to practice that.
STRIPLV: Do you follow the rules of your research. In other words, do you practice what you preach?
MASLAR: Of course! I practice being loving every day.