It started nicely, the first couple of dates leading into daily text messages, banter and thoughts of the other person. Then you got connected intimately and things went wild. Dating became an obsession. You felt like you couldn’t live without each other.
Wanting to spend every minute knowing about the other person. She was amazing. It was almost like she had a magical glow of a princess from fairy tales.
You told your friends and family about your new romantic encounter and they can tell that something special was happening based on your facial expression and voice. Three months into it, however, things are changing.
These little imperfections became a deal breaker. You think about it constantly. You don’t want to share what they are, but it plays with your head. You speak with your friends about it. You are building a list of reasons why this is not the person you want to be with. Finding more and more issues until you finally mentally check out.
She understood that something is happening because you had changed. It kept both of you guessing. The interaction no longer has its initial flavour, you get more irritated, primarily with your self but it comes across as no matter what she does it can’t make you happy.
You start finding excuses not to spend time together while trying to figure out how it came to this point. Where did the magic go?
Biology Tricks That Get You High
The truth is that this was no magic but your biology playing tricks on you. Shortly after meeting an attractive person, the brain machinery floods you with feel-good hormones primarily serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. The chemical charm covers your eyes with a pair of rose glasses.
This can last anywhere from a month to two years. And the reason is simple. Life wants to procreate. Life wants you to create more of yourself.
Unfortunately, no switch can flip this back into a new exciting relationship. You can try to break away from each other and reignite the feeling. Your chances of succeeding in making this a long-term relationship are about 50% but most walk away without giving it a second chance.
The initial high is not love that will last forever. It has many names like passion, infatuation or lust. If you listen to the names and lyrics of the songs it sounds like a substance addiction. “I can’t leave without you”, “Love is a drug”, “You make me high”.
In the middle ages, people thought of it as an illness and called it lovesickness. Instead of finding a partner based on this feeling, they coupled up for socio-economic reasons. They understood that passion will eventually evaporate but a relationship built on a strong foundation has longevity. Royal families for instance used marriages to strengthen alliances and gain power.
So What Is The Solution?
I’m looking at my parents who have been together for about 50 years. They did not come from a monarch family or lived in harsh conditions that required a marriage. Their initial connection was built on mutual attraction that later transpired into a genuine relationship.
Marathon-lasting couples can give you an insight into what longevity in a good marriage looks like. They most certainly have compatible personalities. There is always give and take. Little disagreements happen, but it doesn’t affect the relationship.
Biologically, the longer-term attachment forms after the three feel-good amigos hormone levels return to the baseline.
There are many theories about why some couples stay together and some fall apart, but there are main principles that need to be in place to build a strong foundation. Just like monarchs, we are looking for ways to build our mini-kingdoms based on common goals.
Those goals are based on shared values. We often hear the stories of couples that did not work out because of irreconcilable differences in family plans, career goals or relationship types.
Common interests do help, but they don’t define a successful relationship. Using my parents as an example, other than working together they were into different things. Dad was building radios and Mum liked gardening.
The idea then is to use the initial passion as a motivation to learn more about your romantic interest. Use this time to find out if you share the same values and goals in life before your brain gets high-jacked by the happy chemicals.
Firstly before your brain gets hijacked by the evolutionary mechanism pushing you towards procreation, try to find out as much as possible about the other person. Do you want the same future, are there any deal breakers that will affect your long-term horizon?
Secondly, accept the fact that at some point the rose glasses will fall off. There is no special person that will make you feel this way until happily ever after. Denying this will send you on marry go round cycles of relationships and an empty feeling after.
And Thirdly, long-lasting relationships have a fundamentally different feel to them. Successful couples still have arguments and challenges in the relationship but they do it in a way that does not affect the longevity.