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What You Need To Know

Everyone has an internal love map—a model of what we believe love should look and feel like. Our love maps are laid down in our mind and body by our earliest relationships with our mothers or caregivers and are probably first mapped out by the hormone of attachment, oxytocin.1

A child’s—and, later, an adult’s—inner love map is determined by a wide variety of factors: her genetic inheritance, how she is nurtured at a critical stage of development, other early childhood experiences, her physical and cultural environment, her hormone levels, and also by the mystery of soul qualities.

Her love map may portray what she wants in an ideal partner. It may incline her to grow up heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual. It may be programmed toward wanting a lot of sex, a moderate amount, or very little, or it may incline her to atypical sexual behavior. The environment can both trigger and reinforce a child’s inner map, weaving the senses of smell, taste, hearing, sight, and touch powerfully into her later sexual responses.

Though many experts feel that once in place, love maps can’t be changed or altered unless your brain changes physically, I’ve seen enough brain changes in myself and others to know that we probably have a broader range of love maps within us than we may think…

What Is a Normal Love and Sex Map?

What is "normal" is, for better or for worse, defined by the dominant culture, medical authorities, and increasingly, the creators of mass media that beam millions of sexual messages into our homes every day. For some, normal sex means that a man and a woman have vaginal intercourse in their own bed on Saturday night. "Normal," however, doesn’t necessarily describe the range of sexual experiences a human can enjoy. The ideologic norm is frequently imposed by those in power, be it a parent, a peer, clergy, or the police.2

If a woman has experienced childhood sexual abuse, or some other major trauma, her love map may become distorted. She may fall in love with someone who has features of her perpetrator or she may have trouble with intimacy and sexual activity with anyone.

Learn More | Recommended Reading or Resources
  • Mother-Daughter Wisdom, by Christiane Northrup, M.D. See Chapter 10: "Love Maps: How We Encode Mood, Sex, and Relationships."

  1. Insel, T. R. (1992). Oxytocin—a neuropeptide for affiliation: evidence from behavioral, receptor autoradiographic, and comparative studies. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 17 (1), 3–35.

  2. Money, J., and G. F. Pranzarone. (1993). Precursors and paraphilia in childhood and adolescence. The Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America: Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders, 2 (3).

Last updated: November 14, 2006