As You Desire: Mating Rituals – Hormonal Beer Goggles or True Love?

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The early days of a relationship are a time of high energy, creativity and endless nights.  The pheromones (a powerful sex attractant), or perhaps eHarmony, have drawn us together.  We are on our best behavior … we primp, we fuss, we consider every little detail.  Our seduction dance has begun.  Like peacocks fanning our feathers, we parade around each other, bobbing our heads and making those cooing (or squawking) noises to attract our potential mate.  It’s a beautiful time in our lives.  We feel alive and vibrant.  It’s easy to go the extra mile for each other because our levels of dopamine are as high as if we were taking cocaine!  Every time we see our love, we get another boost of this euphoria drug naturally.  It’s addictive.  This doesn’t last forever;  after about two years our bodies no longer produce this burst of the love drug.  Huh, I wonder if that is why many relationships don’t seem to last longer than 18-24 months?  Dopamine withdrawal or reality shock?

This early phase of a relationship is a time of discovery.  While the hormones put the spin of charm on our little quirks, they can also mask unharmonious personality traits.  When we add sex (in particular, orgasm) to the mix, our oxytocin levels increase even more, creating a chemical bonding between us.  These “love hormones” can also be viewed as “beer goggles.”  They can make us see what isn’t really there, or not see what is!  I’ve heard many women make this comment while under the influence: “he has such potential.”  Ouch. 

During this honeymoon period we are learning more about each other.  We do things that are endearing; we leave love notes, write poetry, sing, bring flowers, give massages, have lots of wild monkey sex, and are willing to be adventurous in bed, or in public.  Endorphins are at an all-time high, making us feel happy and joyful.  It is thought that vasopressin, another hormone released into the brain during sexual activity, makes men more likely to be bonded and therefore monogamous, and oxytocin (the cuddle hormone released by both men and women during orgasm) is doing the same.  This is the time we declare our feelings and desire for exclusivity.  These nesting feelings lead us to believe this is it; the real love deal.  We might consider a long term commitment such as marriage or living together.  We believe our energy to swoon and woo is endless.  We establish habits and patterns to please the other person and these delights keep them attracted to us. 

Then it happens.  The 18-month mark.  The hormone haze subsides.  We might not be as joyful, in fact, we may even be a little crabby.  (Withdrawal?)  As the fog clears, if we find ourselves in a mismatched relationship, we start to pick on and criticize each other’s quirks (you know those ones we thought were so cute in the beginning).  Oxytocin and dopamine levels are dropping like a rock.  We might not feel so cuddly and attentive.  Leaving that little love note just doesn’t seem so important or stopping by to pick up a bouquet of flowers is now out of the way. When you arrive without the sparkling hunger in your eyes for your date, you are greeted by confusion and frustration.  The sex?  Your lover might not feel so sexy now because the fawning attention you once gave has lessened.  And so the story goes … if the relationship does not have a solid foundation.

Any of this sound familiar?  So how do we get through those early months and truly enjoy the magical time it is without setting ourselves up to fail once the hormone high has worn off?  That is why I’m here.  I have some ideas.

The first principle is regarding education about the natural laws of hormones.  Anyone entering the age of sexual relationships needs a crash course in how we are initially driven by hormones and not intellect.  There is nothing intellectual about early attraction (infatuation) and sexuality.  Once we understand how these hormones are guiding us we are better equipped to make healthier choices.  Just because we are sexually drawn to someone initially doesn’t mean they are the love of our lives or are all that compatible.  This is good information to have.

The second principle is what I call the two complete sets of season change rule.  For years I have advised couples not to make any long term commitments (such as a baby) until after they have gone through two sets of seasons (2 years) together.  It takes that long for the hormone high to calm down and see who you are left with.  In addition to the hormones, it gives you time to see how each of you deal with real life stuff: stress, illness, finances, family, work, etc.  Take this opportunity to notice how each of you treat people in service jobs.  Are we respectful and gracious, or demanding and condescending?  It is under these conditions we reveal our true nature.  At the end of the two-year mark when you are thinking a little more clearly (beer goggles off) you can then see the quality of the relationship you have created.  Now the richness of love can begin to blossom.   If you are patient and get through this initial phase and still enjoy each other, hang on tight because it only gets better from here!

The third principle is in regard to creating habits of seduction you know you can continue.  If you are the note writer, flower giver and massage therapist every day, make sure that is something you can see yourself doing often and for the rest of your life.  Once your euphoria hormones start to wane, those sweet little seduction gestures will be the glue that keeps you giving and receiving that lovin’ feeling.  This goes for sex, too.  If you are not the sexually charged type, meaning you are not filled with those raging urges yourself, and you are just going through the motions because you know your new love really wants that, you are being misleading.  There, I said it.  And that is a form of dishonesty.  If this is the case, I guarantee that when your oxytocin levels plummet you won’t be so willing to “do the deed” because your partner wants you to.  This is how the mismatched sexual partnerships happen.  We can fall in love for many reasons, but if we are dishonest about our personal sexual appetite early on, we can end up being forever mismatched sexually.  Sometimes that can work, but honestly, the only time sex is not a problem in a relationship is when both people are getting their needs met.

The fourth and final principle: It takes maturity to build and sustain a fulfilling intimate relationship. If we know ourselves well enough to confidently ask for what we need straight away, the more likely we are to be able to enjoy that initial infatuation phase without panicking or sabotaging.  This critical two-year time frame is invaluable for getting to know each other well enough to decide if this is something worth pursuing or not.  You are never wasting your time; you are always learning, growing and preparing for the rest of your life.  Every relationship you enter into will teach you many important life lessons.  The addition of sex can enhance and complicate a relationship.  It often makes those beer goggles even more opaque to the truth.  Go into relationships with your eyes wide open as to the natural evolution of love and hormones; be patient, take your time, be curious and all the while enjoy that delightful peacock parade.

Intimately Yours,

Nancy  

Just in time for Valentines Day!  (tongue in cheek):

If you are looking for love and are in a hurry, York psychologist, Professor Authur Arun, has been studying why people fall in love.  He asked his subjects to carry out the following three steps and found that many of his couples felt deeply attracted about the 34 minute experiment.  Two of his subjects later got married.  Go figure!

Here’s the How To Fall In Love experiment: 

  • Find a complete stranger.
  • Reveal to each other intimate details about your lives for half an hour.
  • Then, stare deeply into each other’s eyes without talking for four minutes.
  • Nancy Sutton Pierce RN, Health Educator is the Founding director of Nancy Sutton’s House of Yoga and Radio Talk Show Host on The Conscious Living Show LIVE every Saturday 11a-12noon on KCNR 1460am You can reach Nancy at asyoudesire@ymail.com with your comment or questions.

    As You Desire is proudly sponsored by Body Logic MD; helping both men and women restore their libido and vitality through hormone therapy, fitness and nutrition counseling. www.bodylogicmd.com

    A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Greenberg, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment. Views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of anewscafe.com.

    Dr. Nancy Sutton Pierce
    Dr. Nancy Sutton Pierce’s eclectic background places her expertise in a league of its own. The compilation of her career as an RN, health educator, intimacy author, radio talk show host, and yoga therapist all fuel her passion as an International speaker and clinical sexologist. Earning her Doctorate degree in human sexuality has broadened her reach around the globe teaching Conscious Living Sexuality™. When not traveling the globe inspiring others, Dr. Nancy enjoys her home life with the love of her life for more than 30 years. They’ve raised three children and now bask in what she refers to as “the dessert of parenting” -- being grandparents. Website. Contact Dr. Nancy
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    37 Responses

    1. Avatar adrienne jacoby says:

      O.K., so I'm in my 70's . . . . where was that info when I needed it at 20??!!?? Such a good piece of information. This is why we have so many single mothers. Beer goggles (love that term) + hormones of youth + impetuosity of youth = single mothers. . . but even at 50, it was easy to succumb to the blush of new love.

      thanks for the warning!!! LOL!!!

      • Nancy Sutton Pierce Nancy Sutton Pierce says:

        Dear Adrienne,

        Yes these hormones have no age discrimination! Too often we misread the hormone high for something sustainable instead of just enjoying the rush (and not feeling "rushed").

        I do hope you will pass this info along to those who are in the beginning of a relationship; rather than wait until after the fact to explain all that angst.

        Thank you for reading… and for taking the time to comment. I love knowing what you all are thinking!

        Stay curious!

        Nancy

    2. Avatar Linda says:

      Awesome article Nancy! Going to forward it to my son, he could use this information. Miss you! See you in May! <3

      • Nancy Sutton Pierce Nancy Sutton Pierce says:

        Thank you so much Linda! I do hope you'll share this with everyone. It's something that affects us all at some point in time.

        Miss you too and MAY here we come!!!

        😉

        Stay Sexxxy!

        Nancy

    3. Avatar Barbara Stone says:

      Again, another good article with great tips! It explains so much about my earlier relationships and why they didn't last~ thank God! I came "down" from the initial high long enough to realize this wouldn't work long term. Thanks for putting this complicated process into words.

      • Nancy Sutton Pierce Nancy Sutton Pierce says:

        Dear Barbara,

        I am tickled you found this helpful! Sometimes the "coming down" from the hormone high can be a crash landing with many casualties… but we survive and hopefully learn some important lessons.

        Stay smart and sexy!

        Nancy

    4. Avatar Dana says:

      Nice article. I found some good ideas to ponder.

      (As in maybe I do too much squawking and not enough cooing …?)

      I've seen a lot of emphasis on the hormonal attraction angle lately, but I don't like to make it the central emphasis. I think there's lots of evidence out there that points to the fact that our thoughts and emotional responses will trigger a cascade of hormonal releases as well as a change in brain function or what is termed – neuroplasticity. (Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to change its function such that we either have a greater or lessor predisposition to various emotional/mental responses when we are caught in repetitive patterns.) Both of those changes tend to strengthen our attraction (or dis-attraction) response as you pointed out.

      You think that the typical 'let-off' in attraction after one year together is mostly hormonal?? I wonder. I think there is a lot of pure thinking and perception that gets twisted around at that one year mark. I've always thought that we have a lot of ingrained 'internal enemies of love' that we never take the time to shine a light on and carefully root out. Some of it comes down to the dumb messages we learned from family and friends while growing, but the biggest is surely our ego. (That part of our mind that gives all the dumb messages like – "it's always their fault.." or when things look good it says "you could do better", or giving the twisted motivation to your partner's behavior without even checking it out.) It seems to me that all those barriers finally come to play at the one year mark because that's when the relationship really starts to get serious. That's when all your reasons 'why not' are finally up against the wall. I suspect the thinking and emotional response changes first and then the hormonal response follows.

      I guess I always favored the cognitive approach….

      • Nancy Sutton Pierce Nancy Sutton Pierce says:

        Dear Dana,

        Thank you for the wonderful insights you shared. Hormones are a powerful and functional part of being human; as are thoughts and beliefs. They play off of one another that is for certain. We do know that those, sometimes pesky, lil hormones do direct most of our behaviors especially during the times they are surging. If we make it past about 6 months with someone, It is after that initial 18-24 month surge we regain consciousness and see things more clearly. This is a critical time when our ego, confidence, self talk, etc comes in to help us make choices. How many times do we look back and say "I saw all those red flags, but choose to ignore them"?

        We all want to believe we are more in control of our lives than we actually are… (laughing) and yet it's very difficult to argue with a hormonal avalanche headed our way.

        Stay curious and keep sending me your thoughts! I love it.

        Nancy

    5. Avatar gamerjohn says:

      Thinking back to my dating days in the 70's and 80's (I still date my wife to keep things fresh, but we are exclusive) I remember chasing after all sorts of girls for all sorts of reasons. Usually a nice body. I dated a lot of nursing students since I thought they were the smartest of the traditional women's careers. My room mate was dating their room mate so they fixed us up so I could be kind of lazy in the chase.

      I soon discovered that dating girls in my classes sucked after we broke up. This was doubly bad if we took the class together only because we were dating and then couldn't change classes. I even bought the text book together to study together, so I had to buy that book twice.

      I remember being told why girls liked me for all sorts of reasons. Tall, curly hair, my eyes, my car, being in law school made the sorority girls' eyes spin like a slot machine. Once in a psych class a girl noticed I was writing a poem and decided to like me. I told her early on that I was just trying to remember a poem I had memorized in high school, but it still impressed her. Guess she didn't know many English majors.

      The first time I met the woman who would eventually agree to marry me, my sister introduced us at church. My eyes were swollen shut with hay fever and she was engaged to a guy getting his phD. Neither of us remembered it, but my sister did. The next Christmas I visited my sisters again and we all went out to dinner. Later I visited for one sister's wedding and the woman hung around me.

      Later I decided to move to California and the next thing I knew I was married with 4 kids and living in Redding, of all places.

      • Nancy Sutton Pierce Nancy Sutton Pierce says:

        Dearest GJ,

        I love that teacher!!! Brilliant to say the least. Like outward bound for couples. Now THAT is a great idea for a reality show!

        Thanks for being a faithful reader…. you are deeply appreciated.

        Stay sweet and sexy!

        Nancy

        • Nancy Sutton Pierce Nancy Sutton Pierce says:

          I am sorry I posted this to the wrong note…. meant for Dugan.

          GJ,

          You and your wife were obviously meant to be. I love the stories where people didn't really like each other in the beginning or they just kept running into each other – fate. When it's right and meant to happen you can run but you can't hide!

          Congrats on finding each other…. over and over again!

          You are one of a kind, that's for sure!

          Fondly,

          Nancy

    6. Avatar Detrick says:

      Nancy , Nancy, Nancy ,let me just say i have so much more to side with you on ,on this topic but for now forget being a peacock , rightnow I just wanna be a crow and pick at your brain some more lol but this is simply amazing , Thank you for the Lantern in the terrible but ever so soothing storm of love!!!

      • Nancy Sutton Pierce Nancy Sutton Pierce says:

        Detrick, Detrick, Detrick… Pick away! I am thrilled you read the column and found it a lantern in the storm of love… You have a beautiful way with words.

        Soon we will have our brainstorming session… I can't wait!

        Thanks for writing D….

        Stay Sexxxy!

        Nancy

    7. Dugan Barr Dugan Barr says:

      I had a teacher in High School who told the boys that if they really thought they wanted to marry a girl, they should go on a camping trip for a week. Not one of these drive your car to a KOA with showers and stuff. A real camping trip where you hiked into someplace not available by vehicle, carried everything on your back, did not have a shower and only the most primitive toilet facilities and where you cooked all your food over a fire and washed your stuff with either cold water or water you heated over that same fire.

      He claimed that if, at the end of that week, you still each thought the other was wonderful to be around and to look upon, maybe you had something that would last. Maybe.

      • Nancy Sutton Pierce Nancy Sutton Pierce says:

        Dear Dugan,

        I love that teacher!!! Brilliant to say the least. Like outward bound for couples. Now THAT is a great idea for a reality show!

        Thanks for being a faithful reader…. you are deeply appreciated.

        Stay sweet and sexy!

        Nancy

    8. Avatar Julie says:

      You are so right on about the hormones. Read a great book called Why We Love.

      Just a thought… how many of us would be here if our grandparents and great-grandparents had been "really smart about relationships"?????

      • Nancy Sutton Pierce Nancy Sutton Pierce says:

        Dear Julie,

        LOL… the short answer is "Not Many". Take it further, the divorce and population problem would be MUCH LESS too!

        We are becoming a more conscious society because we see the problems mounting from living unconsciously (no pun intended). As we awaken we make healthier choices… from food to love.

        Thank you for reading and taking the time to write. I love this column being interactive!

        Stay sweet and sexxy!

        Nancy

        • Avatar Julie says:

          You are exactly right about divorce and population. And in fact, that is exactly what happens. If you are interested in populations and demographics, which I find fascinating, you see the relationship between education and reproduction. To VERY briefly summarize, with education the reproductive rate drops. In other words, educated species are slowly dying out.

    9. Avatar Linda K says:

      Oh Nancy,

      Don't we all love being in love AND being in love with being in-love? Is it an addiction??? How scientific. It still moves me when my man giggles under his breath. One minute I want to kill him and the other I'm gushing over his sexiness.. Then I ask myself….am I crazy or just hormonal.. Today I 'm really in love that is until I'm pissed off again. Its all great.

      Oxytocin, endorphins, life, struggles, breath, feelings ,being alive and passion .

      Well I surely don't want it an other way.. I am learning about myself every day and how to be patient. Trying very hard not to be so damned demanding. Your articles are a great inspiration to help me to look at it all without the (BEER GOGGLES)!

      • Nancy Sutton Pierce Nancy Sutton Pierce says:

        Oh Linda,

        YES YES YES we are in love with love!!! Movies, songs, poems, etc all feed into our love affair with being in love! Then we awaken to the mess we find ourselves in ; young, small children, poor, alone, frustrated… and we wonder, "how the hell did we get here?". Now we know. Once we know, we can make more conscious choices and realize the movies and songs have romanticized love into expectations that don't always pan out.

        True love is commitment, honesty, compassion, humility, gratitude, caring, forgiveness, respect, kindness, freedom, tenderness, patience, etc. It is something that builds over time and cannot be rushed. Hormones feel like butterflies in the belly… that is not love…. that is a hormonal surge. It feels good… we should enjoy it… yet the truth is, it has very little to do with love.

        Can we have both? Certainly! That is THE BEST! Now go attack your man… in the most loving way! 😉

        Stay curious.. sexxxy… and goggle free!

        Nancy

    10. Nancy I love all ur advises and I will continue to learn from you – I'm sure I'll succeed if I follow ur path!!! 😉

      With Love!!!

      Natasha

      • Nancy Sutton Pierce Nancy Sutton Pierce says:

        Oh Natasha! Thank you so much for reading and commenting! You mean the world to me and your opinion matters!

        I do hope whatever insights I share will help illuminate the path for you and others. That is my reason for doing this.

        With much love and respect,

        Nancy

    11. Nancy, thanks for the delightfully informative column, as always.

      I must say, I am nearly as impressed by the caliber of comments your column attracts as I am your articles. The comments (generally speaking) are so sharp and insightful and honest and witty. What other site besides anewscafe.com could successfully manage a sex column where the author and readers exchange in adult, meaningful conversations that don't end up in the gutter? Pretty cool, I think.

      • Nancy Sutton Pierce Nancy Sutton Pierce says:

        Dear Doni, Our Fearless Leader!

        Thank you for the opportunity to share with and learn from a very smart readership. Clearly A News Cafe attracts people who are genuinely interested in raising their consciousness and having intelligent discussions.

        I am thrilled with the exchange of ideas and views people are willing to share now… It just keeps getting better and certainly a lot of fun for me!

        My ideas are flowing…. can't wait to see where this all goes!

        You are amazing… I bow to you Doni!

        With admiration and love,

        Nancy

      • Avatar Ed says:

        Thank you, Doni, for giving Nancy this platform to share some good knowledge and insight.

        Ed

    12. Avatar Kelly Featherstone says:

      Nancy,

      Thank you for passing this on! You have no idea how many women I will forward this to =)

      You have put so many truths into words! With two people committed to these ideas, the possibilities and levels of happiness are endless!!

      Have a beautiful day!

      xoxo

      Kelly

      • Nancy Sutton Pierce Nancy Sutton Pierce says:

        Dear Sweet Kelly,

        I am thrilled you find this column helpful and are willing to share it. It is certainly something I wish I had known early in my life… oh the trouble i would have been spared!

        You are right on about having TWO people committed to these ideas… it takes two to make or break a relationship… you can't rely on the other to create your life.

        Stay sweet and sexxxy Kelly… you have the world by the tail! 😉

        XXOO

        Nancy

    13. Avatar Eilyne Davis says:

      Really loved this article, Nancy! I'm going to save it for the future…when my children (deep breath) start seriously dating someone. Such a great way to explain "taking it slow" and learning the difference between chemistry and compatibility.

      Keep rockin' on, Nancy.

      • Nancy Sutton Pierce Nancy Sutton Pierce says:

        Dearest Eilyne,

        Thank you so much for the loving support! I also received your email…. thank you and I agree!

        Maybe by the time your children are dating (omg) I will have a book out to help them avoid some of the mistakes their parents, grandparents, etc have lived through.

        I'm tickled that you are reading…. even if, on occasion, a tad bit uncomfortable 😉

        With much love, Namaste

        Nancy

    14. Avatar Ed says:

      Oh how I wish I had read this 30 years ago, framed it, and hung it on the wall to be seen every day.

      Nature has concocted these drugs to do one thing; get us to mate and reproduce. Though we can not fight their affect, we should understand them. You have done a fine job of making this drug addiction understandable.

      Monogamy is a tough row to hoe and is not what nature had in mind with the advent of these chemicals. Understanding what is happening in the body helps put the mating ritual into perspective so we may learn the causes and effects of these silly, distracting chemicals.

      This is an item I will copy and save for my young'ans and then try to help them decipher it as their experiences accumulate.

      Ed

      • Nancy Sutton Pierce Nancy Sutton Pierce says:

        Dearest Ed,

        I am delighted you have found this column helpful and will be proactive with your young-ans! I am on a mission to open up communication so we might all have a deeper understanding of human nature and be more tolerant of (and patient with) those natural drives and hormonal directives. We are destined to survive… and we know how that happens!

        I think there are many of us who wish someone would have been talking to us the way I am talking to you now! Oh the trouble it could have saved ME! 😉

        Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. I really appreciate you.

        Stay curious!

        Nancy

    15. Avatar Joanne Lobeski Snyde says:

      I love the articles you write for A News Cafe. I've been mulling over the last article and sending the link to other people including a counselor at the high school where I work.

      I wanted to share with you some of the misconceptions about love and relationships I've had, and discarded on my own during my life. I mention these because an article like your last one would have saved me a lot of cogitation time!

      1. There's one true love for each person.

      2. You know it's love by the way you feel around someone. (And if you feel that overwhelming sensation, then it MUST be love. The subject of your ardor must be your one true love despite those niggling doubts that you have every once in awhile!)

      3. When the intensity of that feeling wanes, it means that the love is gone.

      These sound like silly concepts, but if we don't talk about and share information love and sex and biology and hormones, I expect that there are many people, old and young, who are making life decisions based on fictional ideas of life.

    16. Avatar Russell K. Hunt says:

      Excellent. The key to sucessful romantic love is always making an effort to make the other person happy.

    17. Avatar Kim says:

      Great column Nancy…. Hope the twenty-something's read!

    18. Avatar Chandler says:

      Hi Nancy it's Chandler. I just read the article and I found it very interesting and informative. I would recommend this article to any single person. Even people who are in a relationship. I have been single for a while now and before I do get in a relationship, I will really take this into consideration. Thank you for writing this article. I'm sure I will see you at the station soon.

      Thank You.