The difference between drug users and people in love is drug users know they’re high.
That’s the funny thing about being in love, most of us are convinced we’re sane. We actually perceive ourselves as having more clarity, more access to truth and more self-awareness. The love we are now experiencing often feels like a re-claiming of a lost part of ourselves, so how could we not feel more whole and complete?
Love literally gets us high.
Studies have shown that the same part of your brain that activates when you’re addicted to cocaine activates when you’re in love.1 Now add to that the fact that your dealer is your romantic partner and they are on cocaine too.
The whole thing can be crazy-making.
There’s even a term for this in the world of polyamory, it’s called “New Relationship Energy” or NRE. It allows us to enjoy the experience of falling in love while knowing in the back of our minds that we are high, and shouldn’t take our thoughts and feelings too seriously.
But this isn’t just advice that people in open relationships need. When we become more conscious of our altered state, we make choices that help us have healthier relationships, instead of short-lived bursts of pleasure.
Just like the come-down from a drug can be painful, the come-down from falling in love can be just as devastating. A relationship that could have grown together is now under stress or may end prematurely because of the expectation that this romantic love was going to last, and it doesn’t.
Here are a few things we can keep in mind during the falling in love phase that will help when the drugs wear off.
Don’t Stop Doing Things That Make You Happy
Jane loves yoga. For her, practicing yoga every day is essential to her happiness and well being.
Bill loves writing. He notices that when he sits down to write every day that he feels more fulfilled.
Bill and Jane meet and fall in love. They are so filled up by the experience of being together that in the mornings when Jane used to do yoga and Bill used to write they snuggle in bed instead.
After a while they notice something seems off.
Bill wonders why he can’t find the time to write and Jane notices that her body misses doing yoga.
At best, they both get back on the wagon but at worst they can blame each other. After all, before they met they were both doing yoga and writing every day… then look what happened. Bill might feel trapped by Jane or Jane may sacrifice herself for the relationship and end up resenting Bill.
Every couple goes through this cycle of reclaiming themselves, but the happiest couples bring an awareness and understanding that helps them move through this phase with more ease and grace.
Diversify Your Needs Portfolio
Most people live with the assumption that their romantic partner should take care of all their needs. We secretly (or sometimes not so secretly) expect our partner to be the best qualities of every human being all wrapped into one, and available whenever we need them.
This of course is fine for the first phase of relationship, because we’re so full of love drugs that we will gladly sacrifice ourselves for our partner’s needs, and they will do the same for us.
What happens though during this first phase is we often disconnect from our other relationships, the ones that were meeting our needs and providing stability and support when we were single.
A year into our love relationship we look around and find that we’re mostly alone, thanks to the fact that we’ve put all our eggs in one basket, and our partner is now the sole provider of every need we have.
Attachment, neediness and repulsion ensue.
What we can do instead is remember how valuable our friendships really are, even if when we’re in love they seem inconsequential. We can also encourage our partner to pursue their own friendships outside the relationship, and remind ourselves that sometimes it’s nice to miss each other.
I love love. There is truly nothing more exciting, more energizing and more mystical than the process of falling in love with another human.
It’s because I love love that I think about the drug trips associated with it. The hopeless romantic in me wants to believe that “love is enough” and it isn’t. It’s actually my unquestioned beliefs about love that take me away from the experience of it.
I’m not saying you should be afraid when we fall in love, but I am saying it may be worth pausing in between all the cuddling, hot sex and future-planning to consider that you aren’t sober, and you shouldn’t get behind the wheel of a car. Let someone else drive.
Go make-out in the back seat.
Come find out at IntimacyFest, happening June 15-18