Before I start this post, I’d love for you to visit my campaign to get my book Getting Naked Later: A Guide For The Fully Clothed out. Good news! I lowered the pre-order of my book to $20! That is the same that it would be on Amazon when it gets out with shipping. If you were planning on getting my book at some point, it would be great for you to do it now so I can actually publish it! Click here to see the campaign, pre order the book, and also to hear my first official reading of one of the chapters.
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On to my post!
The first piece of advice given to me by my married friends was also the most often given: realize how weighty the decision to get married is.
Deciding who you marry is probably the most important decision of your life. It will affect everything. Both married and divorced people that I interviewed stressed this point again and again, especially if they made hasty decisions that they regretted later.
Turns out, most people don’t have the best judgement when first in love. There is a good reason for this: most of them are basically like drug addicts. Seriously. According to the National Public Radio Show Radio Lab in an episode called “This Is Your Brain On Love, “ scientists have looked at the brains of people who are newly in love and compared them to the brains of cocaine addicts. They looked very similar.
According to this source, there are many naturally occurring chemicals we become addicted to when we fall in love. The most prominent one is dopamine. This is a chemical that makes a person feel happy and passionate. When first attracted to someone, a person has huge surges of dopamine running through his or her body
If dopamine were a woman at a party she would be the one who is a really good kisser and who looks amazing in her skin-tight outfit but who really doesn’t want anything long-term. She comes on strong and it feels really good to be around her, but her commitment quickly fades. Her love is not the kind of love that is sustainable.
Thankfully, after six months or so of being in a relationship with someone, a hormone called oxytocin comes into the mix that starts displacing the dopamine. This chemical is marked with a sense of calm and stability rather than with unsustainable highs. It lasts much longer than dopamine, even if it doesn’t make a person as “happy.” It helps one person attach to another, and it promotes contentment in that relationship.
Oxytocin is comparable to that really nice girl next door with a southern accent. The one who is not as flashy but who has a good heart and who would probably make a really good wife some day.
Our Hollywood-saturated society often gives us the idea that love is simply having the feeling that dopamine running through our system gives us. But chemicals that make us happy and uncontrollably passionate are not what makes love last. They may help draw us to someone, but they don’t foster long-term commitment. Once we are committed to each other, dopamine will help bring a little romance, but it is not the glue that holds a marriage together. It is sobering to see how many divorces and affairs have happened because people have mistaken this chemically-induced feeling for love and have abandoned their partner when the “love” wears off.
Keep this in mind as you date someone. Remember that your brain is a bowl of hormonal soup right now. And bowls of hormonal soup do not often make good decisions.
Let yourself be in love. Be aware and appreciative of this special season where it feels so good to be in someone’s presence. Let dopamine do its job; let it attract you to someone who could be a good partner. But do not let dopamine be in the driver’s seat and propel you to make big decisions unwisely.
Give yourself a lot of time to get good information before making decisions. Let some of the chemicals wear off so you can be sober in your decision making. Remember that romance and the feeling of being high on love won’t make a marriage. However, someone you are close friends with, someone who is kind, and someone who you love being around will.
Ask yourself: “Does this person have a good track record with the way they have treated me, or do I keep telling myself that they have ‘good potential,’ that they will get better with time?” Getting married to someone with a good track record is a pretty safe choice. Marrying someone who just has potential is not very safe. And track records take time.
There is great wisdom in looking for the fruit of something even when it is still a seed. Yes, you are in love now, but what will it be like to have children with this person? What will it be like to grow old with him or her? Maybe his obsession with Super Mario Bros. is cute now, but will it be cute in ten years if he is lazy and doesn’t want to work? Maybe you are able to excuse her road rage now, but will she get angry like that with you or your children in the future? These are all questions you should consider.
Does anyone have anonymous stories about jumping into love too fast or thoughts on Hollywood’s idea of love?