Infidelity Triggers Chemical Changes in The Brain


Why do jilted lovers stalk and sometimes kill after being cheated on?

Women who have been left for another woman describe the experience in extreme terms: Stella, sixty-two, whose husband left her for someone else after thirty-three years of marriage was typical: “ I cried every day for two months. I still cry two years later. And railed and screamed in the car and burned his suit in effigy in the backyard, every witchy, crazy, demented thing you can think of. How to Manage Red Brain Anger

I drove by their house and hid in the bushes. I could be at work, get overwhelmed and go into the mini gym and cry and walk on the treadmill as fast as I could until it passed. I lost thirty pounds but gained ten back. Jangled nerves, twitching eyes, hyper alert. So sad like you wouldn’t believe. This is the guy I’d been with since age twenty-three, the only guy for more than half my life and all my adult life. It was depressing that he was pulling away into alcoholism anyway but this was the coup de gras.”

Carol Taylor, fifty-two, who unknowingly moved her whole family to a different state because her husband had a girlfriend there, says, “I was blindsided, every emotion you can imagine. Furious, sad, terrified, overwhelmed, guilty because I hadn’t been able to protect my children. To Tell or Not To Tell About his Affair

I don’t know why I didn’t see the warning signs, he moved because his girlfriend was in Florida. The move really hurt the kids. I cried for two years every day so loud you could hear me in the neighborhood. I found Al-Anon, they got me through. It’s a godsend and it’s free—you can go fifty times a week if you need to." Eight Signs He is Cheating

Romantic rejection actually triggers changes in our brains according to anthropologist Helen Fisher, who has studied the chemistry of romantic love. Her research was an eye opener for me. It answered many questions about my own reactions to being cheated on, rejected, and will probably shine some light on yours.

In Cut Loose she describes how brain scans of rejected people suggest that they secrete excess dopamine and cortisol during the initial phase of being rejected. That’s why rejected lovers get frantic and tend to relentlessly pursue the beloved. They may also take humiliating measures to reconnect with him, anything from writing letters to storming into the other woman’s home to begging him to change his mind.

Paradoxically, along with the stress and the impulse to protest, abandoned lovers also feel renewed passion. This has a biological basis. Dopamine is the chemical in the brain that produces romantic love. But when love is thwarted, dopamine-producing neurons in the brain’s reward system prolong their activities. As the beloved slips away, the very chemical that contributes to feelings of romantic love becomes even more potent, creating protest and romantic passion, which impels the abandoned wife to go to extremes to get him back. When an Ex Won't Let Go

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