Researchers recently released a study showing that the “in love experience” and the experience of being drunk are, well, pretty much the same thing. Apparently the chemical compounds oxytocin and alcohol have remarkably similar neurological effects, characterized by both; a nonsensical euphoria, and also a touch of boastful, envious behavior. In fact areas of the brain activated during the “in love experience” are the same as those activated when experiencing states of psychosis. So…here’s to Valentine’s Day!
Like many a night of drunken karaoke, the happy sense of invincibility and superstardom fades and gives way to the buzzkill of morning light. So when the excitement of the love psychosis turns into arthritis, fibrosis, and dare I say halitosis, what’s a girl to do? Hypnosis? I’m sorry, I’ll stop rhyming now.
Take two Advil, rehydrate with Gatorade, and read relationship advice columns. That’s what we do, right? The problem is that when your “happily ever after” doesn’t look anything like the pictures of love in your social media feed, that advice your reading voraciously on your smartphone can sound like complete, utter, unequivocal bull crap.
And that’s a good thing. Because if you had a lifetime of that “in love psychosis” you would be exhausted. And probably homeless because you would have to quit your job to obsess over your partner and constantly hang up Teen Beat posters of him on a full time basis.
I’ve been in a committed relationship for ten years with varying degrees of success (the truth is in the eye of the beholder after all). The following three relationship “tips,” in my experience, only caused me to have totally unrealistic expectations of love.
Never go to bed angry
Oh my good gravy, don’t even get me started on this one. If my spouse and I didn’t go to bed angry we would just follow each other from room to room all night yelling nonsense and escalating something as unimportant as why my method of folding socks is far superior (it is). I’m way too Irish for this rule, I don’t just get angry, I get murdery. So if someone doesn’t decide to walk away, there will be a body in the morning. I know this one is hard at first, and you’re gonna have a crappy night’s sleep, but I’m sorry, you don’t need to be “right” to fall asleep. Just lay the hell down and chill out. With time you will come to trust that no one is going anywhere. Anything can be figured out tomorrow. You’ll be less psycho in the morning after a cup of coffee anyway.
Your spouse should be your best friend
There is no greater burden you can force your partner to bear than to be your best friend. I really like hanging out with my husband, but my The Breakfast Club will never be his Star Wars, and that’s just the way it’s gonna be. Intimacy is not just sexual, it is a vital part of every one of our relationships: I have parental intimacy, I have friendship intimacy, I have familial intimacy. Intimacy is the very thing that infuses our relationships with excitement and fun! If you expect your partner to fill your need for every form of intimacy than I hope your partner is super into role playing…and not in the fun way.
Always be honest
This one is just mean. In no uncertain terms, should you tell your partner everything that you are honestly thinking. Every thought I have does not need to be shared. Often it could be unnecessarily hurtful and has no grounding in reality anyhow. Too often we define “honesty” as whatever is on our mind. I don’t know about you, but I think some pretty weird thoughts during the day. They are not reality, they are just thoughts or feelings. And yes, you should share your feelings, but be prepared! Because if your “feelings,” sound anything like “problems,” that conversation inevitably spirals into fixing. Men can especially be fixers. They want to tinker until they find the root source of the leak flowing out your eyeballs so they can tighten up that nut and move on with taking you to bed! Am I advocating for lying? Definitely, maybe. Why? Because my butt absolutely still looks awesome in those jeans I got on sale in 2010, just ask my husband.
So if I’m throwing all the rules out the window, is there any advice at all that is worth heeding? Just one: Don’t judge each other. There’s a reason non-judgment is at the heart of every spiritual tradition. And a good place to start is….drumroll please…with yourself.
Love yourself first. If you’re harsh and self-critical of yourself you are with others as well. That whole “treat others the way you want to be treated” gets widely interpreted to mean “treat others as good as you treat yourself.” But it’s actually a double entendré. The missed meaning is this: you are already treating others the way you treat yourself, whether you’re aware of it or not. If you’re a jerk to yourself and ignore your own needs, you’re probably abrasive, impatient, and well, a jerk to other people. Disagree? Ask them! Or are you scared to?
Start with this practice. When you wake up in the morning, before you start your daily beauty ritual (or lack thereof) stop in front of the mirror, look yourself right in the eyes and say “I love you.” The first time you do this is super weird. Do it anyways. Put a little note on your mirror to remind yourself. After a week, see if you notice a difference in the way you not only treat yourself but treat those you purport to claim you “love the most.”
If you don’t notice a difference…well, I don’t know, start hanging up heartthrob posters again, that should cheer you up. Jonathan Taylor Thomas anyone?