YOU DID WHAT?!
YOUR CRAZY BREAKUP BEHAVIOUR EXPLAINED
THE BREAKUP Without the doctor, there was no relationship, and ‘any barrier to the relationship stimulates the dopamine system more,’ says Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist at Rutgers University in the US. ‘So you’re more in love and trying to win back your former partner.’ prior. ‘He came over to my house that night and didn’t leave until 4am,’ she says. ‘From then on, it was constant calling, texting, and seeing each other.’
All that time together lit up Elena’s brain with a raft of chemical activity biologically designed to bond the new couple, says neuroscientist Larry Young, author of
The Chemistry Between Us (R318, Penguin Putnam). Each interaction released oxytocin in her brain, the neurohormone of sex and social connection, and dopamine, associated with rewards. ‘These spurts of oxytocin and dopamine form connections between the face and smell of your partner and the brain’s reward system,’ says Larry – meaning no matter your gender, the brain sees your partner, and the attention you’re receiving from them, as a drug. Five dates turned into 15, and Elena was hooked. For a year, her brain hummed along happily in a cycle of anticipation and reward – until the doctor abruptly disappeared. he had been sitting in the basketball arena for an hour when Elena, a 30-year-old pharmaceutical rep, tried her boyfriend’s cell for the 12th time. They hadn’t spoken in days, but his job as a doctor kept him busy. She dialled again and got a recorded voice: ‘You have reached a number that has been disconnected.’
Elena stormed out of the arena and careened down the road to his house, where she leaned on the horn. ‘I was working off emotion,’ she says. ‘I was thinking, I’m not gonna be ignored! After all we’ve been through together, how dare you! I just felt so powerless.’ His lights were on. She pounded on the front door, to no avail.
Her car was bumper-to-bumper with his in the driveway. She slammed on the accelerator, pushing his car into a tree. Soon a police car pulled up behind her. Elena tried to explain nights a week. They’d been together for a year. The police knocked on his door and spent a few minutes inside. ‘I don’t know what he said, but they didn’t arrest me,’ says Elena.
This outburst might seem like the clichéd beginnings of ex-girlfriend legend; the classic trope of a woman scorned. But, in fact, neurochemistry can explain Elena’s actions. all take lost love a little less personally.
You think you’ve got life handled until you hear those two special words – ‘It’s over’ – and you become a disconsolate rage machine. What’s going on? Turns out, it’s really not just you. It’s your brain chemistry