Mating Rituals – Hormonal Beer Goggles or True Love?
Do you believe in Love At First Sight?
Can you know within a few minutes or a few months if this “IS THE ONE?”
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 the person we desire, we get another boost of this euphoria drug naturally.
Enjoy the high because this portion can’t last forever (we would die of exhaustion!). After about two years, our bodies no longer produce this burst of the love drug. Looking back over your past relationships you might now be wondering if thats why many didn’t last longer than 18-24 months. Dopamine withdrawal or reality orientation?
Why does this happen?
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 disharmonious personality traits. When we add in some yummy sex (in particular, orgasms) to the mix, our oxytocin levels increase even more, creating a chemical bonding between us. And if we take it a step further into “fluid bonding” (I’ll discuss that more later), these “love hormones” can also be viewed as “hormonal beer goggles.”
They can make us see what isn’t really there, or not see what is! I’ve heard many women and men make these comments while under the influence: “He has such potential”, “She is PERFECT”, or the worse one is “He Is The ONE”! (Insert Face Palm emoji here).
We’ve all done this. It’s human nature to want to bond and connect. But in our highly mobile world where total strangers are called, “friends”, and people have access to our personal information make us feel more familiar than we actually can safely be, we are at risk for making huge leaps during this hormonally drunk phase.
What is going on beneath the skin?
During this googly-eyed honeymoon phase, 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 thing for us both. 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 us drawn to each other.
Then it happens. The 6 to 18-month wake up. As the hormone haze slowly subsides, we might not be as joyful, in fact, we may even be a little crabby. (Can you say “Withdrawal”?) As the fog clears, if we find ourselves in a mismatched relationship, we start to pick on and criticize each others 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 that 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. You hear yourself saying to your friends “He/She has really changed”. 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.
How to make this work.
The first principle is regarding education about the natural laws of hormones and attraction. Anyone entering the age of sexual relationships needs a crash course in how we are initially driven by hormones and not intellect or the cosmos. 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 that we are compatible for a long term relationship. 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!
Important note: If you get to this point and you are feeling uncertain, unloved, in conflict, more upset than happy and you hear yourself saying things like, “I’ve invested so much time”, or “He/she has such potential”, or “If he/she would only change x, y or z”, cut each other loose. You will only end up wasting more time and resent each other for that wasted time. You can’t make someone be who you want them to be. The idea of “potential in another person” is really just your projection of who you desire them to be, and has nothing to do with who they are or who they are destined to become.
We should all expect to spend at least two years getting to know someone before making a long term, legal, geographical or financial commitment.
The third principle, if things are still going well, and you are finding more and more reasons to spend time with each other, then read on.
In regards 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!
If you are looking for love and are in a hurry, York psychologist, Professor Arthur 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.
Intimately Yours, Dr. Nancy
Dr. Nancy Sutton Pierce RN,DHS , International Speaker, Health & Intimacy Expert, and the Founding director of Conscious Living Yoga & Conscious Living Sexuality. You can also find her every Tuesday 9a PST, 12noon EST; Hosting The Conscious Living Radio Talk Show with her husband, Dr. Mark Pierce. You can reach Dr. Nancy at DrNancy@DrNSP.com with your comment or questions.
Dr. Nancy Sutton Pierce is proudly in partnership with Sybian, helping both men and women restore their intimate connections and add more spice to their sexual life!