According to a study in the recent issue of The Journal of Sexual Medicine, people who “fall in love at first sight” do so in a fifth of a second.
Sandeep Ravindran’s essay “Euphoria of romance can blunt intense pain, researchers find”starts with, “‘One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life. That word is love.’ It’s been more than 2,500 years since the Greek playwright Sophocles wrote those words, but scientists have now proved that being in love can actually reduce pain. And they’ve also shown why.”
A recent study at Stanford University and the State University of New York at Stony Brook suggests that love taps into the oldest brain circuits overriding them with euphoric feelings that drown out pain. Researchers found that students in love felt less pain while staring at a picture of their significant others. In addition, love acted through the same brain pathway as several strong painkillers and addictive drugs such as heroin and cocaine.
These researchers are treading on slippery ground for love is as slippery as it gets. First there is what is called romance but is that the same as true love? We have definitions to navigate through and the similarities between love, sex and intimacy, which can all be defined differently. When it comes to romance we can fall out of love as quickly as we fall into it but is this real love?
Research has also shown that frequent sexual activity—having an orgasm at least twice a week—can keep you from getting sick this winter. Individuals who engage in regular sexual activity have been shown to produce higher levels of immunoglobulin (IGA), an anti-body that can prevent susceptibility to catching minor colds and flu.
In a study conducted by Wilkes-Barre University in Pennsylvania, IGA levels were revealed to be significantly higher—at least 33 percent higher—in people that had regular sex with a partner than those who had less frequent sexual encounters. Regardless of length or the emotional health of the relationships, the benefits as a result of sexual activity were the same in the study participants. Not that we’re advocating doing it with just anyone!
Love and lovemaking are powerful forms of social support. Many studies show that social support revs up the immune system and helps prevent colds. At the University of Pittsburgh, psychologist Sheldon Cohen, Ph.D., studied 276 healthy volunteers who completed a survey of their social ties—to lovers, friends, family, and organizations—and then had live cold virus squirted up their noses. Those with the most social support were least likely to catch the cold.
Which brings us back to the Wilkes-Barre study showing a significant cold-preventive effect for sex once or twice a week in a satisfying, long-term relationship. People often say, “Not tonight, dear, I feel a cold coming on.” It’s time to update that sentiment: “I feel a cold coming on. Let’s do it.”
Preparing for Life’s Challenges
There is no way that world events and life itself is not going to hurt and hurt a lot in the months and years ahead. Life is going to be like nothing we ever imagined as all our human failures catch up with us both collectively and individually as beings. In a grand showing of natural and human events many of us are simply going to be blown away by life, blown out of the box whether that’s from dramatic climate events, hunger and starvation, financial collapse with resultant freeze-up of the system and everything in it, to wars, riots and rebellion. Many of us will be surprised even as our own governments rise up against us in their own vain attempt to survive.
I have always said love will cope but governments will not and my mentor Dr. Christopher Hills said 30 years ago that love is no longer an option for us humans. If we do not learn it we will perish and obviously we have not learned this as a race, but that does not stop us from learning it as individuals, couples and in small groups.
Understanding Love, Sex and Intimacy
Intimacy, touch, sex, and love are crucial to our happiness. Life lived without these essentials is more difficult to endure. So it behooves us to understand more about love and also about the health benefits of sex, intimacy, communication and listening because with increases in all of these experiences of being come increasing strength to meet life’s challenges as well as increasing immunological resistance. There actually is no reason we should feel so dependent on noxious vaccines every year to guard against the flu for there are actually many natural processes and substances that will do much more than toxic vaccines that have doubtful and even harmful effects.
Communication is love. Listening is love.
These two most practical definitions of love combine to form a context in which love can be understood, measured, learned and practiced. Love is more than acts, deeds, words or feelings. To love someone is to give part of our heart to them. And how do we do this? It is through our willingness and openness to communicate and listen to someone that we most readily can demonstrate the truth of our love. It is impossible to have much love, compassion and understanding for another unless we are in touch with their world. The more we love another person the more we share in each other’s worlds through strong and open bonds of communication. True listening is love in action for it demonstrates our willingness to pay attention to, respond in accordance with, and change ourselves in response to the inner worlds and needs of others.
In today’s world the word intimacy has taken on sexual connotations. But it is much more than that. It includes all the different dimensions of our lives, the physical, social, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects. Intimacy really means total life-sharing. Though many often confuse sex, love and intimacy with each other, and consider them to be one and the same thing, it is important to look at their differences. If we take a close look at the dictionary’s definition of love, sex and intimacy we will see differences as well as marked similarities.
- Marked by close acquaintance, association, or familiarity.
- Relating to or indicative of one’s deepest nature.
- Essential; innermost.
- Marked by informality and privacy.
- Very personal; private.
- Of or involved in a sexual relationship.
Intimacy draws the perfect picture of what most people look for in meaningful deep relationships with others, with or without sex. One of the great sadnesses of life here on earth is that real intimacy between beings is rare. Sex, on the other hand, is much more common.
- Concern with or interest in sexual activity.
- Coitus between human beings.
- Arousing or tending to arouse sexual desire or interest.
- Highly appealing or interesting; attractive.
- Implying or symbolizing erotic desires.
- Strongly attracted or disposed to love, especially sexual love.
- Indicative of love or sexual desire.
- Of or associated with love.
Some people think sex means just enjoying the senses of the temporary material body, but this is a most narrow definition. Even the Pope John Paul managed to embrace a broader definition when he said: “being the greatest gift of the sincere self.” If a man of such high esteem has said this, there must be more to sex than is indicated by the above dictionary definitions. Above we see that the first five definitions of intimacy indicate profound connections between human souls independent of sexual contact. Only the sixth through eighth definitions of sex mention the concept of love. Looking at the definition of love we see:
- A deep, tender, ineffable feeling of affection and solicitude toward a person, such as that arising from kinship, recognition of attractive qualities, or a sense of underlying oneness.
- A feeling of intense desire and attraction toward a person with whom one is disposed to make a pair; the emotion of sex and romance.
- a. Sexual passion. b. Sexual intercourse. c. A love affair.
- An intense emotional attachment, as for a pet or treasured object.
- A person who is the object of deep or intense affection or attraction; beloved. Often used as a term of endearment.
- An expression of one’s affection.
- a. A strong predilection or enthusiasm. b. The object of such an enthusiasm.
- To thrive on; need.
Concepts of love combine sex and intimacy. Yet we see that the definitions of love vary tremendously in respect to the quality of love. Love can be something universal or it can be selfish and egotistical as when a man says “I love you” means, “I wants to have sex,” or when a person gets obsessively attached, controlling and jealous and calls this love. Sexuality is a metaphor for many things in life. The language, attitudes and openness that we share in our sexual encounters have a long reach into the depth and closeness of our day-to-day relationships.
Many of the things that people think are love are not really love. Women who love too much when their men are physically or emotionally abusive are not being truly loving because they do not love themselves. First you must love yourself to be able to truly love another. When we control, manipulate, or depend too deeply on another we begin to leave the green fields of true love behind and enter something else.
Out of the three definitions above, intimacy provides us with the clearest and most beautiful vision. Intimacy requires and is a beautiful space. Sex and love can both contain highly negative qualities in normal human expression, but intimacy is something that happens between souls when we reach out to others with trust; it’s a space we enter when we dare to open our hearts and just be. It happens when we put away all the fancy airs and just be who we really are without fear of judgment. Though sexuality and love can be selfish, intimacy seems to represent a pure space between beings. Intimacy is very much connected to vulnerability for it is the sharing of vulnerabilities between beings that creates intimacy.
The most important key to finding love is found in our willingness and ability to be vulnerable. To treasure vulnerable love is the first law of a pure heart.The purpose of our life here on earth is to contact our being, expand and grow our being by coming into a direct relationship with the essence of our heart’s true nature.And what is this true nature? The Heart is the Vulnerability of Being. – HeartHealth
Time to Love
The question being asked with increasing frequency by many these past decades is, can a man and a woman really love each other for the rest of their lives? In today’s world this is an appropriate question and there are increasing doubts about the possibility of such love. Today many people doubt love in all its forms but there never was a better time to love and learn more about loving ways than today. And there was never a better time to reaffirm the love we have for others and to deepen that love as much as we can through learning to really appreciate what we have.
Our lives are much more complicated the further we progress in them as we age. Add into the mix children, aging parents, job changes and losses, menopause, weight gain, other health issues, and you tend to wonder how we can get along at all as we get older and these things crop up. Many older people have allowed their relationships to aimlessly drift apart, even though they had terrific chemistry and three wonderful kids.
All too often we don’t put in the effort to keep things vibrant in our relationships as we allow certain conflicts to simmer. Too many of us have become stuck in cyclical patterns where one of us has hurt feelings and retreats from the relationship with various excuses such as being tired, having work to do, or other equally lame and childish efforts to avoid what is really on our minds.
More sex is certainly an answer in our age of increasing stress. Sex is a mental health tonic and some argue that it is 10 times as effective as Valium due to the surge during sex in key hormones, including oxytocin. Sex is potentially the most effective stress reliever offering instant mood improvement and a general sense of relaxed wellbeing. In the afterglow of good sex we are better able to let go of distracting thoughts that interrupt sleep, thereby overcoming insomnia in many cases. The Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality has found that people with fulfilling sex lives are in fact less anxious, violent and hostile.
Preventive gerontologist Dr. Michael Roizen estimates that we can add nearly two years to our life simply by having good sex twice a week. “Having more sex for men, a higher quality of sex for women correlates with being younger.” As scientists learn more about links between good sex, our brains, emotions and body functions, they are confirming the linkage between good sex and longevity. “A good sexual relationship is essential to good health,” says Dr. Barbara Bartlick, psychiatry professor who founded the Human Sexuality Program at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York.
I highly recommend Diana Richardson’s book The Love Keys for a beautiful view of lovemaking with consciousness and love. The time we invest into our sexualities can bring substantial rewards in terms of health and happiness. It is also a time to express the deepest and most vulnerable parts of our hearts. Loving sex helps us grow and strengthen our sense of love. In sexual union we get to enjoy being loved as well as some direct experience/opportunity to love another with our full self.
Parents need to rejuvenate themselves through their sexualities. Family harmony is strongly facilitated when the parents are enjoying and playing in the fires of sexuality. The more positive we are with sexuality the more impassioned we will be for everything else we have to confront in life. Sex is not just for making babies. It is a matter of life, health and emotional satisfaction. Thus we have to admit that sex is a potent medicine that can be prescribed by physicians instead of pharmaceuticals. Chinese medicine has recognized this for thousands of years and so have certain yogic paths from ancient India.
Dr. Mark Sircus
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