For a long time, I had a type: tall, charming, and just a bit detached. It was the kind of man who would love you on a Friday and put his guard up on Saturday. The kind of man for whom I like you was something said instead of something shown. They don’t want you, but they don’t want to let you go. The type of relationship that makes you sugarcoat, rationalize and, yes, sometimes fictionalize to believe that enough time invested will shift the pendulum and result in happily-ever-after. Ring a bell?

The ups and downs of an unpredictable relationship—and, more so, an unpredictable partner—can be infuriating, irritating, and it plagues levelheaded males and females of all races and economic backgrounds. We like to think that we’re fairly rational and sensible when choosing a partner; that consistency, companionship and commitment are leading our decision-making. But during the dance of dating and attraction, our brain doesn’t always follow suit, and smart neurons don’t always make smart choices.

The discrepancy between what we say we want and what we actually do is a mystery not just to us but to psychologists and researchers alike. Ask a psychoanalyst why you keep falling for the Wrong One, and he will draw it back to an unconscious desire for suffering—something that stems from childhood and harboring painful experiences. But ask a neuroscientist, and he will offer considerable evidence that nature is the dubious culprit; that the constant attraction to inconstant love is rooted deep in the brain—more specifically, the reward circuitry of the brain.


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