So you think you’re in love? Falling in love? Definitely like someone? Great! Scary though, right? No one wants to get hurt, rejected, or feel like a fool, so, how do you move forward openly and keep your heart from being broken?
There are a few things you should know first of all, that create that wonderful “crush” feeling that provokes such hope for a happily ever after. Despite being very sophisticated and civilized, we humans are animals after all. That being said, there are a few things about animal instinct and the innate urge to mate that we seem to overlook when we meet someone special and start down that path of falling in love … or hoping to.
The reason we overlook certain things is built in and natural. It takes a bit of personal work to maintain an awareness when our hormones are surging around like crazy, because nature made us a little crazy when it comes to love – or more precisely the mating game. When we meet someone that strikes our fancy and ‘turns us on’, there is an actual chemical surge that happens, first in the brain, and then the rest of us follows. Nature did this instinctively so that we would mate and reproduce without thinking about all the pitfalls and issues that could arise, because if we think about it too much, we might miss the chance to make babies …
WHOA! Who said anything about making babies!! You’re just dating, getting to know someone, maybe falling in love, right? Right! That’s the more civilized brain surfacing to try and make sense out of the lovely feelings of attraction and desire those hormones are throwing around. So, you plunge in and hopefully use protection, but is that enough? Are you going to wind up getting hurt and broken hearted anyway?
There’s the conundrum. How do you follow your “heart” (hormones really) and still be smart? There is a way if you pay attention and use some self control… and I’m not talking abstinence here (although if that’s your thing, that’s ok too.)
It takes about 90 days for those initial wild hormones to settle down, so you have about three months of fairly unrealistic feelings to get through and here’s how you do it.
First, be aware that the feelings you are having in the first three months are mostly hormone induced chemical reactions that are urging you to have sex and reproduce. You’re more sophisticated than that, so just be aware that your own chemical responses are leading you astray and don’t mistake these feelings for real love or a soul mate connection. You’ve probably had this feeling before too, but, we forget when it wears off and we end the relationship for good realistic reasons, so it always feels new and different when it happens again. Being aware is always the first step.
Second, don’t jump off the cliff and dive in with “I love you”, or even think that this one is different than any other. Maybe he/she is, maybe not, but you’re not going to know for a while yet, so try to stay calm and attentive to what’s going on. Everyone puts their best foot forward in a new and blooming relationship. It feels natural and it’s easy to do because both of you want to please the other, so everything seems to be flowing smoothly. But … you don’t know each other yet – no matter how much you talk and share secrets you’ve never told anyone else! It takes time and many different shared experiences to know someone, so just hang on and enjoy this fun time of getting to know each other. More importantly, try to stay aware that that is what’s going on.
Third, it’s not time to make commitments yet. In these first 90 days, the biggest thing going on is the clouded attempt to make you like each other. So use this time to your advantage. Enjoy all the flowers and lovely dates and long talks. Spend time together doing as many different things as you can think of. Meet each other’s friends and try to pay attention to them, they will tell you a lot about your new love. Meet each other’s families if that’s on the agenda for you, and don’t sweat about it. They are just people too, and if you pay attention, they too will tell you about your sweetie… especially in their interactions with each other.
Fourth, go ahead and enjoy all the activities you want to do – even sex if that’s alright with you. Go on trips together and spend weekends together … even a week if it’s right and available for you. Whatever you want. But do not give your heart away! Think of different endearing ways to admire and appreciate each other, but don’t say I love you. Don’t move in together and don’t make any long term commitments. I mean, really, would you loan your car to someone to drive out of state, if you had only known them for 6 or 8 weeks? Your heart and your life are far more precious than a car.
The first three months are at your own risk. This is why many generations have advised not being sexual too quickly, or spending too much time together in the early days. Your hormones are in control and they have no agenda except to mate.
Fifth, about 82 days in, you will begin to notice a slow down in your need to see this person at every opportunity. You will begin to be more reasonable about spending time with your friends again, making plans that don’t include your sweetie, and so will they. You might even begin to notice that there are some little details about this person that you aren’t super thrilled by, like the way they dress, how much TV they watch, or that they fall asleep watching movies. Something. Stuff starts emerging as the hormones begin to subside, whether you’ve had sex or not. Pay attention to these things and start asking yourself, “if this never changes will I still want this person?”
As the 90 days comes to an end, you may find that you can’t figure out why you were so attracted to this person in the first place. If this happens, you’ll be very glad you read this and paid attention, it means you have been smart enough to keep your heart and your life safe. If you are still really excited and happy about them, great! Go for another 90 days and see where you’re at then, because now you’re really in authentic ‘getting-to-know-you time’. Now the real people begin to emerge. Forgetfulness happens, drinking habits and other personal quirks emerge, possessiveness and jealously rear their ugly heads. Or not.
Maybe you have found your special lover and it will last a lifetime. As we know, we usually fall in love several times before that happens, so it makes sense to have a plan of action ready so that you can keep yourself safe when you start falling again. It’s not so hard, really. It’s just 1,2,3…
- Be aware that what you’re feeling in the beginning is an instinctive, hormone imbalance meant to promote primitive reproduction.
- Don’t jump in and start saying “I love you” when in fact it’s really “I just want you!” Love takes time and knowledge, and there will be plenty of time if this is it.
- Use the time to get to know each other, your friends, families, interests, and activities (maybe even your sexual rhythms ‘cause you know a long relationship can’t last if both parties aren’t willing to sexually please the other.)
- Don’t move in or make other long-term commitments. Just have fun. Enjoy each other. Travel together, cook together, spend long weekends together but keep your own place and space. Keep your own heart and life separate.
- Notice when things start feeling more realistic and differences start rising. It’s ok. You’re just getting to know each other. Can you stand it if these things are unchanging?
- (yeah … one more) Keep track of all this on a calendar. Mark the 90 days off as they go by. It’s fun and you’ll be glad you did!!
- Uhmmmm … if you’re still in love at the end of 90 days and think that person is the best thing since cell phones? Try it for another 90 days. It won’t hurt anything to be smart and safe for the first six months! Maybe you will find yourself in a real relationship that can last and grow instead of saying good-bye in anger or hurt at the end of another long-term, short lived one.
Stanlee Panelle, M.A. is a former Psychotherapist that practices internationally as a Personal Life Coach successfully teaching people how to overcome depression and enrich their relationships for the past 10 years. Coach Stanlee also specializes in guiding Mid-Life Women through the transition into the best years of their life. For more information on how to overcome depression or for a free consultation contact Coach Stanlee.