Life’s Greatest Prize ~ published in Lakeside Sun eMagazine 2017
According to Helen Fisher PhD, “Life’s greatest prize is an appropriate mating partner.” She’s a Biological Anthropologist who focuses on the evolution of human sex, love, marriage, gender differences in the brain, and how your personality style shapes who you are and who you love. Her research results are nothing less than brilliant. Of all of the facts it has brought to light, my favorite finding is that love is deeply embedded in the human brain.
But, one of the most important things that her research reveals is that as SSRI antidepressants increase serotonin and reduce the neurotransmitter dopamine. Which is unfortunate because dopamine is responsible for the feelings of elation and ecstasy that accompany falling in love. SSRIs can be valuable initially in psychotherapy if patients are weaned off of them as they improve over the course of their treatment, according to retired British psychologist Michael James Cook, PhD. However, too many take them for far too long.
The Mayo Clinic reports that SSRIs, or Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, side effects include sexual problems such as reduced sexual desire, difficulty reaching orgasm, and inability to maintain an erection. Other undesirable side effects include drowsiness, nausea, dry mouth, insomnia, diarrhea, nervousness, agitation, restlessness, dizziness, headache, and blurred vision. What is most distressing about Dr. Fisher’s findings is that 76% of people taking SSRIs don’t need them—and that they are widely over prescribed.
Those using SSRIs may lose their ability to achieve orgasm, and could result in long-term relationship issues. Orgasms trigger the release of the hormone oxytocin, which has been linked to pair bonding. Those who fail to orgasm due to SSRIs can be at a disadvantage when it comes to mating and bonding.
I hear some of you out there saying that you are too old to be concerned with sexual fulfillment, so why bother?
I thought that was the case for me after my husband of 33 years past away. The stress and isolation of caring for him for 10 years had taken their toll on my body, mind, emotions, and spirit. But, when I learned from the research literature that oxytocin had huge healing benefits I made it a point to give myself one or two ogasms each day. When I experienced good healing benefits and my self view improved, I knew I would be much happier and healthier with a long term intimate mate.
Longevity and well-being benefits attributed to deep connections with others are at least partly due to higher levels of the love hormone oxytocin. When you have an orgasm you are flooded with oxytocin which helps you to handle stress better, reduce cravings for drugs, alcohol, and sweets, protect your heart from stress, allow your heart to respond better to higher demands, and heal by reducing inflammation and cell death. Finding a good mate was the final piece of the puzzle that ended my Fibromyalgia pain—and made me feel whole, healthy, and happy again.
“How you do orgasm is how you do everything. It is a window into the struggles you have in the rest of your life.” ~Dr. Sara Gottfried, board Certified Gynecologist educated at Harvard Medical School
Having an appropriate mating partner to share your life with is a worthy goal. Yes, it can take what you may consider to be too long to find. However, if it didn’t would it really be Life’s Greatest Prize? Our species is meant to connect, we are designed to mate… even if we can no longer produce offspring. Which begs the question is having sex as a senior even worth the effort, uncertainty, and possibility of failing? Well I can only vouch for me when I say in a loud, clear voice, “Yes!” In fact I am here to verify that it can even be better at age 66 than at age 26.
How is that even possible, you want to know. Well, in my wise sixties I made it a point to focus on making the most of the last third of my life and what that enjoyment is. I learned through the research literature that the our skin is touch needy, making Tactile Stimulation essential to our health and well-being. Yes, that’s right we are touchy-feely beings, and a lot of us leading solitary lives don’t get enough tactile stimulation to satisfy this need. If you think that this doesn’t apply to you, look down at your arm and consider that in just one square inch of your skin you have:
4 yards of nerve fibers
600 pain sensors
1300 nerve cells
9000 nerve endings
36 heat sensors
75 pressure sensors
We are predominantly feeling organisms that depend on Physical and Emotional Stimulation to thrive. The simple act of hugging increases levels of our feel-good hormone oxytocin which promotes both physical and emotional health. These stimulations are precious commodities in a world that has become overwhelmed by news filled with fear and uncertainty. We need intimate connection, perhaps now more than ever.
Having an appropriate mate can’t change the news, only the way we perceive it. I found that having someone to love and appreciate works both ways, and brings comfort to my inner child that no matter what, I don’t have to face it by myself... and that my efforts are worthy. One of my favorite quotes is from the Richard Gere movie “Shall We Dance.” Susan Sarandon speaks of why she thinks people get married:
“Because we need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet... I mean, what does one life really mean? But in a marriage you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things. All of it, all the time, everyday. You’re saying your life will not go unnoticed, because I will notice it. Your life will not go unwitnessed, because I will be your witness.”
In my humble opinion, this is the biggest reason why, Life’s greatest prize is an appropriate mating partner… no marriage required.