If you are reading this article, it’s likely that you recently experienced the allusive fog (Tatkin, 2016) of a new relationship. Or, perhaps you recognize a habitual pattern of unclear judgement in the early stages of a partnership.
In a related Center for Shared Insight blog post on the Honeymoon Phase of relationships, we discussed the challenges of what’s called limerence, or the early phase of love, driven primarily by novelty and chemistry. Neurochemically, surges of dopamine, adrenaline, and oxytocin are most responsible for the the “high” of new love (Brittle, 2015). To put the effects of infatuation in prospective, studies show that the release of these chemicals mimics the effects of the brain on cocaine (Springer, 2012).
During this time, one exaggerates the positive qualities in another and dismisses the negative. Falling in “love” doesn’t feel like a choice. There is a consistent “warm and fuzzy” feeling when you are in contact with your new love interest and daydreaming of them is continuous. During this phase, you think of your love interest constantly, go out of your way to spend time with them, and re-prioritize life to make the relationship work (Drew, 2004).
Unfortunately, this idealized phase does not last forever. Sometime in the first six months, it will most likely dissipate and reality begins to set in. Sometimes the relationship can fall apart as the fog lifts.
Below you’ll find 5 strategies to help retain clarity during the inevitable infatuation phase of a new relationship.
Keep healthy boundaries
Boundaries are essential to the health and well-being of any long-term relationship. The risk of having poor boundaries up front in a new relationship is that it is difficult to reinstitute healthier ones long-term. For instance, if you have sacrificed your Sunday morning run for brunch with you new love interest, he/she might sincerely enjoy the brunch ritual and take it personally when you want to resume physical self-care early on Sundays. Therefore, it’s essential to notice where you are sacrificing time and activities that are core to your health and happiness, and construct boundaries to help honor your own needs.
Stay connected to friends
It’s very easy to become ungrounded in a new relationship. Friends remind us who we really are, what we want, and how we might have rushed into things in the past. Having a support system to hold you accountable to diving in too deep, too fast is helpful. It’s not unusual to lose touch with friends during a new relationship because so much of your attention is focused on your new love interest. Commit to staying connected to the people who will be there in your life no matter the outcome of your latest relationship.
Avoid giving up the activities you love
Oftentimes, we believe that our new partner will like us even more if we take to the activities he/she also enjoys. If you prefer spending your weekends biking and your potential partner prefers art and music, there is plenty of space for compromise. However, giving up your joys completely will often result in resentment and negatively impact your happiness long-term. Keeping a sense of self within your relationship is essential to a high-quality connection.
Be 100% present when you are with your beloved but don’t give them 100% of your attention around the clock
When a new love comes into your life, it’s easy to become distracted from work, family, friends, activities, etc. As a practice in presence, know that you can give 100% of your attention to this person when you are with them, yet staying aware of the importance of balance is essential to the health of the long-term relationship. If staying present to other commitments while juggling the feeling of new love is a challenge, here are two strategies from the renowned Eckhart Tolle to practice presence.
Unless a commitment is made, continue to date
We often don’t know what we don’t know. Sometimes, it takes contrast and comparison to understand the true value of the relationship before us. It’s generally better to wait at least a couple months before making a commitment to someone and, although it might feel difficult to do so, you may want to continue to date and spend time with other potential love interests during these early months. If nothing else, it will reaffirm your feelings about your new primary relationship interest.
On the other hand, if you find yourself stringing others along while you feel strongly about one particular person, do the right thing and let the others know where you stand. Being honest even when it’s tough is a great relationship skill. Plus, good dating kharma can go a long way.
If your potential mate wants a commitment early on, it might be a red flag that they do not have a healthy sense of boundaries or regard for your needs. Furthermore, moving too quickly can signal a need to control or merge with you, and may reveal co-dependent, love-addicted, or controlling traits.
The unfolding of new love is one of the best feelings on this planet. And while we as humans might even crave and seek the euphoric feeling of new love, being aware of the potential challenges that also arise in the early phases of a relationship can position the partnership to thrive.
If you’d like to learn more about your tendency to dive too deeply into new love, or if you recognize patterns of infatuation in your life, contact Dr. Hick to schedule a consultation and learn more about how therapy can help you overcome these potentially destructive tendencies.
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Brittle, Z. 5 20. (2015). Keeping Your Relationship Strong After the Honeymoon Period Ends. Retrived from http://verilymag.com/2015/05/the-honeymoon-phase-first-year-of-marriage-chemistry
Drew, M. 11 8. (2004). Love vs. Infatuation retrieved from http://psychcentral.com/library/love_infatuation.html
Springer, S. 8 4. (2012). Falling in Love is Like Smoking Crack Cocaine retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-joint-adventures-well-educated-couples/201208/falling-in-love-is-smoking-crack-cocaine
Tatkin, S, (2016). Wired for dating: How understanding neurobiology and attachment style can help you find your ideal mate. Oakland: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.