Life with Gracie: Trumped by testosterone? A biologist looks at love (and lust)

OK, so we’ve been hearing a lot lately about Donald Trump’s magnetism, that star power that he says grants him permission to do just about anything to us women.

Trump has called his bragging “locker room” banter, and a fair number of men have since come forward to say, well, yes and no. Some of them agree men talk like that. Most of them say no, we don’t.

Dawn Maslar, considered an expert on all things love, says research shows that, yes, high-powered men like the Republican presidential nominee have higher testosterone, and that sexual aggression and sexual infidelity tend to go hand in hand.

It all figures into why real love can seem so elusive, especially for women, and quite frankly might explain all those ex-wives in Trump’s life.

“The biggest problem for women is that often when a man comes on strong, it can sometimes feel like certainty,” Maslar said. “The man acts like he knows what he wants and goes after it. These often powerful men can be propelled by testosterone, not necessarily the desire for long-term love. In fact, testosterone can block oxytocin, a neurotransmitter needed for long-term love.”

The stronger and more assertive the man comes on in the beginning, Maslar said, may indicate that he’s more interested in sex than finding love. If a woman misinterprets this, she could end up getting hurt by falling in love with a man who never falls in love with her.

Maslar, you should know, has written an entire book on this subject titled “Men Chase, Women Choose: The Neuroscience of Meeting, Dating, Losing Your Mind and Finding True Love.”

But this isn’t just conjecture drawn from Maslar’s own love life, like so many other books on the topic.

No, what I like about “Men Chase and Women Choose” is Maslar, an adjunct biology professor for online Kaplan University, applies science-based research to help us not only discover love but sustain it.

For the past decade, the “love biologist” has been using her research to describe how the brain works when two people first meet, start to date, fall in love, and then move on to a more passionate, lifelong love.

Even simpler, she breaks down her love science into four precisely timed phases: Attraction. Dating. Falling in love. And real love.

Full disclosure: What got me thinking about all this is the continuing news coverage of and beauty shop conversations around Trump’s remarks.

I was struck by the number of women who say there is a kernel of truth to Trump’s star power remark, that women do tend to be more open to men’s flirtatious ways if they have a certain amount of celebrity status.

“We give our power away,” one of them said.

For those who don’t, true love often remains elusive for them and their friends.

Maslar contends that too often when a person says they can’t find that one true love, they are often looking for instant certainty. They want to meet someone and know right away that he or she is “the one.”

“Love doesn’t work that way,” Maslar said. “Love is risky.”

The first step to finding love is being open to it, she said. The process of falling in love is the process of building trust, particularly for a woman. Oxytocin the bonding hormone is also the trust hormone. It’s needed for a woman to fall in and stay in love. It slowly builds as she’s getting to know a man.

She says, in fact, that the neural deactivations that occur when we fall in love are nature’s way of temporarily lowering our defenses long enough to get to know someone. For example, your ventromedial prefrontal cortex, the part of our brain that judges the other person, grows dim. That’s one of the reasons they say “love is blind.” You have difficulty seeing the other person’s faults.

“As you can imagine, this makes falling in love with the wrong people dangerous. Therefore, in the beginning, you often feel anxious. At this point, the part of your brain that judges is on high alert. That’s why it’s important to take your time to date. It’s also why dating can be so nerve-wracking.”

But it isn’t love that’s hard to find, she contends, it’s just that the process takes time. And once you understand the science behind it, finding and maintaining love gets a whole lot easier.

Bottom line is men chase but women get to choose.

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