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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.
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:
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 email@example.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
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