Every falling-in-love inevitably leads to falling out.
And even so, I’ve been compelled to get drunk on love, to chase its all-is-right-with-the-world high and act as if this time it will last.
It has taken eight committed monogamous relationships, including one marriage, to finally accept that the fleeting giddy intoxication of romance is a drug. In the psychopharmacology of romantic love, dopamine is the excitement chemical of new coupledom, one that researchers have actually measured in the brains of love-struck individuals. It binds you to your lover and blinds you to any signs (however glaring) of incompatibility.
Forget the girlfriends who dared to ask me questions like: “Are you sure he’s not too old, too young, too control-freaking, too fat or too crazy for you?”
By then, I’m too far gone in the substance abuse department, gorging on dopamine and riding the rush of new love with my true love. Never mind that I’ve read psychology books galore telling me that this temporary flush of romantic delusion is only one of four-to-seven stages leading to mature love and that to have a fighting chance of reaching late-stage love it helps to start out with a somewhat compatible partner.
In the worst case, I’m so intoxicated by the in-love hormone, I willingly overlook huge red flags—like the time my lover suffered an attachment disorder (perpetually breaking up and making up) and was also a pathological liar. It took catching him in a straight-out deception involving a stripper for me to finally quit the relationship, even though I’d been on an emotional on-off roller coaster for months.
Now, wiser and more realistic, I am loving without being madly in-love.
In fact, I’m with a man who was a friend a whole year before we dated, enough time for me to see clearly what I liked and did not like about him. A year to pay attention to relationship bonding factors like shared values, interests and IQs, not to mention financial means and travel compatibility.
The money bit might sound shallow but I love to travel and the time I fell in love with a relative boy (my one cougar episode), I also became the sugar-mama of hotel and airfares. Or when his two weeks vacation time was used up, I traveled alone.
I know this new sober realism about love says something about me. In quitting my in-love addiction, I have come to a place of acceptance in myself, of who I am and what I want, that frees me to love more honestly and sustainably than the dopamine-driven veneer. After all these gut-wrenching in-and-out-of-love years with men who were completely not-my-type, I now know myself well enough to admit what I truly want.
So for the record, here are my top-eight wants (and what I have in my current relationship).
1. I want a lover who is smart. (It’s okay to be an intelligent woman).
2. I want a fellow who exercises. (So we live healthy, maybe long, lives together).
3. I want a partner who is honest. (Because trust is built on truthfulness).
4. I want a man who is kind. (I’m not getting caught in his karma wake).
5. I want a person who knows himself. (So I don’t have to be his therapist).
6. I want a man who laughs at himself. (So I can take us both less seriously).
7. I want a guy who loves to dance. (Because it takes two to tango).
8. I want a soul curious about their divine nature. (Let’s discover the numinous together).
If I’d ever taken the time to acknowledge these true desires then I might not have fallen in-bed and in-love with dramatically ill-suited suitors. I might have instead loved myself enough to choose wisely.
Yes, I’ve given up the high of falling-in love.
Now, just maybe, I can rise in love.
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Editor: Kate Bartolotta