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After The Honeymoon

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R Perkins
When The Honeymoon's Over

Some scientists believe that after a certain period, from 18 months to 4 years, one's body gets used to these love stimulants. After building up a tolerance to uppers like PEA, passionate romances can cool into what Helen Fisher, author of "Anatomy of Love" calls "attachment."

In this phase of the relationship, your brain produces endorphins, brain opiates more like morphine than speed. "Unlike PEA," says Fisher, "they calm the mind, kill pain, and reduce anxiety." So what some people call "separation anxiety" might actually be a form of drug withdrawal.

The idea that the "honeymoon period" of a relationship is fueled by different brain chemistry than what is present during the mellower years that come later might explain why some people can't seem to hold long-term relationships: they prefer the revving-up affects of brain amphetamines to the pain-killing effects of endorphins.

"Divorce rates peak around the fourth year of marriage," says Charles Panati in his book "Sexy Origins and Intimate Things." "The initial 'highs' of love have lost their chemical underpinnings Marilyn Monroe's classic film "The Seven Year Itch" should be retitled 'The Four Year Itch."

Lynn Harris, co-creator of wonders if it's the other way around. "Relationships take work. They just do. And people get lazy after a while," she says. "So do they get lazy because they're getting immune to the chemicals, or do they get lazy because they just do...which triggers a decline in the chemicals?"

In the end, even hard-core scientists agree that chemistry isn't everything. Culture, circumstances, personality, and scores of other variables help decide who turns your head and who leaves you cold. So don't try to reproduce that lovin' feeling in a basement chemistry lab--but do try your best to enjoy the natural highs that life gives you.

R Perkins

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