Sunday, August 9, 2009
The euphoric phase of a relationship does not last the entirety of a marriage, and if you are lucky, not through the courtship phase either. It is a state of being that evokes butterflies, adrenalin, and an altered state of logic. You know the couples you can identify who are in this stage. It is often depicted best with young lovers. They rarely take their eyes off of one another, they often hold hands for a time that makes others in the room uncomfortable, and most of their waking moments are dedicated to finding a way to be together.
A study highlighted in a Monitor on Psychology article written by Sadie Dingfelder found that romantic love was better explained as a human drive than an emotion. Helen Fisher, PhD, an anthropology professor at Rutgers, explains “All of the basic drives are associated with the dopamine system, and so is romantic love.”
The article goes on to say that the rush of dopamine often associated with romantic love can explain why couples stay up all night talking and why many people who are experiencing overwhelming romantic love have trouble focusing on anything except the object of their affection.
Dingfelder writes that the studies create “a picture of love acting in a manner not unlike cocaine, which also works through the dopamine system and causes intense craving, says Fisher. ‘Addictions are very powerful, and all of the addictions are associated with dopamine in one way or another,’ Fisher notes.”
There is no set rule that people cannot make reasonable decisions about marriage when hyped up on dopamine, but my inclination is that your chances of getting through the realities of marriage increases if the decision is made in a sober state. Couples who experience a level of dopamine that inspires them to a lifelong commitment, will be disappointed when the person with whom the “high” is associated turns out to be nothing more than another flawed person. No wonder so many movies and reality shows stop at the union. It is too disappointing to watch people come down from the high. The tension and longing for the affection of another is more entertaining than what happens after the romantic peak.
It is biologically important that the initial attraction that puts someone “into” a state of love happens regularly. It is important for the survival of the human species that people find a mate, commit to being with that mate and agree to have little ones together. I’ll go over later the benefits of such a union, and why it is so advantageous to be in a monogamous marriage for life, but for now this blissful state of being “in love” does its job to bring us together.
The problem with the physiological changes that we experience while we are “in love” is that we often make decisions and choices that are not what will be best for the long haul. If we rely just on the emotions that being in love evokes, we are setting ourselves up to be disappointed with the inevitable “down” that happens with every relationship. It is of course possible to find the “high” in a new relationship, but for those interested in finding and keeping a lifelong, monogamous relationship, being in love cannot be the only part of a decision to marry.
After the high wears off, love will continue to be paramount to the success of a marriage, and it is important to investigate the dynamics of love with whom you choose. Love is the key, but a life full of romantic love is an impossibility. At least with the women I polled, and in my own experience, romantic love cannot be sustained for the span of a marriage. Instead, there needs to be a reservoir of platonic, familial, and even self-love that can propel the relationship.
This is an excerpt from a book in process Choosing to Grow: Through Marriage. All rights are reserved.