When we know we can totally trust our partners, we feel at ease. It does not only make us feel good about our partner; it also builds our internal security so that we feel better about life in general. Having someone we can trust and rely on at all times aids us in taking those risks that help us grow and develop.
Suitable partners can be like buses, you spend a lifetime waiting for one and a few turn up at once and just like buses, each potential partner can take your life on a different route. With options, comes questions, what kind of journey do you want? Where do you want to end up? Sometimes hesitations arise and in other cases, having other options can clarify the qualities that you are looking for. There has been much research on our abilities to make decisions as humans and the impact the decision-making process has on our happiness and although many of the studies have focused on economic gains or losses, some of the cognition behind the processes could be applied to the dating world.
As discussed in the article Tough Choices: How Making Decisions Tires Your Brainby On Amir“The human mind is a remarkable device” however it has its limitations. Our executive function is not a limitless entity and “unrelated activities that tax the executive function have important lingering effects and may disrupt your ability to make such an important decision.” We can therefore limit our brains ability to make clear decisions if we increase how many choices we have to make because we strain our minds. Despite the fact that it has always been suggested that multi-tasking is beneficial to us, studies, including this article in Psychology Todaywritten by Bryan Robinson, now propose that it actually “inhibits your ability to focus and produce. It fatigues your brain and eclipses your ability to interact with others and enjoy the present moment.” This is referred to as ‘decision fatigue’ which can alter the decisions you would make if you had less options to choose between. This concept could therefore be applied to the context of dating.
However, in order to make a decision we must first gather the relevant information. In the case of dating options, you need to gain a level of understanding about who that person is and whether you match against values, characteristics and lifestyle. Once you have ascertained those things about someone, you can then assess the alternatives and draw a conclusion, before reviewing your choice. As clinical as it may sound, we are continually evaluating the choices we make in life, whether it be what we had for lunch, to what relationship we are in and because of our ever-globalised world, our choices are multiplying and with it the decision-making process becomes harder. Research conducted by Schwartz (2004) aptly named The Paradox of Choice, found that having too many options negatively impacted the individual making the decision and “argues that the cumulative effect of choice that is causing our society substantial distress”. You could therefore presume that an increase in suitable partners would draw the same negative impact.
There is also an aspect of what you are like as a person. This is demonstrated in the research and states that there are two key aspects; a maximizer or a satisfier. Being a maximizer suggests that “you seek and only accept the best. You exhaust all other alternatives to make sure that you know that what you’re buying is the absolute best (quality, price, etc...). You aspire to achieve a given goal and are less likely to get satisfaction out of the choices you make compared to the satisfier.” Whereas a satisfier refers that “you settle with something that is good enough and you don’t worry about the possibility that there might be something better out there.” As a result, there may be a combination of, number of choices and temperate, that effect how happy we are with the decisions we make. For example, you could have fewer options as maximizer but still feel less satisfied than a satisfier who had more choices, as it is in the nature of a maximizer to question more intensely the options they have.
This may perhaps be further explained by the term ‘Overchoice’, which was coined by Toffler (1971). It refers to several ‘equivalent choices’ available to a person, which results in them becoming overwhelmed due to the number of potential outcomes and the fear of making the wrong choice. It therefore highlights that more may be less. However, the research also showed that it is dissatisfying if a person has no choice at all and thus a small but not limited choice set, leads to increased satisfaction and reduced regret. Consequently, it is better to have fewer, more apposite suitors than it is to have hordes of candidates.
This can be directly linked to the dating world and the current increase in the access to thousands of potential partners we now have. With the rise of apps etc we have a flood of potentials right there on our phones but as is mentioned in the blog ‘Here’s Why Too Much Choice Is Ruining Dating’by Erica Gordon“You could get overwhelmed by the ‘options’ and suddenly feel paralyzed, not acting on any of them. Even worse, you could end up alone because the deceptive perception of something better always being around the corner can cause you to never just choose someone and stop looking.” This is where the benefit of focusing on one potential partner at a time comes into play. This is because you get to know that individual at a deeper level, which may consequently prevent you from jumping straight to another person when something may not go your way.
This is also where matchmaking can be of assistance, instead of decreasing your satisfaction by swiping your way through countless people, take a focused approach. Matchmaking can help you whittle down the options to maximise time and effort on relationships that have a chance of going the distance. Of course, as we’ve seen, it is beneficial to have a few options, but it is still important to remember that a successful relationship will only flourish if you focus on each potential relationship at one time. Knowing that you have gathered all the relevant information and had the freedom of feeling like you really want to be with that person will speak volumes and in turn gives a loving relationship a chance to grow. Focus drives clarity and with clarity you can have peace of mind that the decisions that you are making are coming from a place of clearness and true feelings.
Another issue that can arise if we do not focus on a particular potential partner at a time, is that rather than concentrating on what that person can bring to the table, we start to pick and choose attributes from multiple people on what we are looking for. As discussed in my previous blog‘The art of self-sabotage, too scared to find what you are looking for?’though it is great that we can build an understanding of what we are looking for, it can also limit us because “when we do come across a potential partner, they are held to these unrealistic criteria. In doing this, we are essentially sabotaging any chance of a healthy, balanced, successful relationship. We may tell ourselves that we will only be content if we have A, B and C fulfilled and as a result refuse to see the persons endearing and positive qualities.” It is therefore important to consider that if you have multiple potentials in mind, you may be muddying the waters, making your perfect person less and less clear by posing such strict preferences on your goals.
So, to answer the question, are having dating options; a help or a hinderance? We can express that there needs to be an element of balance. Too many and you become confused and unsatisfied, constantly thinking is the grass greener and too little you wind up thinking whether you have settled and are discontented. Focus on each person individually and learning to understand everything about them and you will find that you are closer to finding a long lasting and successful relationship.
Schwartz, B. (2004). The paradox of choice: Why less is more. New York: Ecco.
Toffler, A. (1971). Future shock. Bantam.
You are in love. You don’t eat, you don’t sleep, you can’t do anything but think of the person. Are you addicted to love?
Ever since the beginning of time love has been described as an excruciating passion. We see it everywhere; in movies, in books, in songs. Almost two thousand years ago, Ovidsaid: “I can’t live with or without you” (Amores III, xi, 39) – a sentence that was made famous by Irish band U2 song. Other musicians sang about this too; legendary Led Zeppelinin their “I can’t Quit You Baby” as well as Ke$ha in her catchy song"Your Love Is My Drug." Similar feeling is expressed in the famous movie Brokeback Mountain by the character Jack Twist who said: “I wish I knew how to quit you.”
It is far from true that only artists and poets feel this way as our everyday speech is full of such expressions. We often hear those in love saying: “I need you” and “I am addicted to you”. It seems like when we are in love, we experience a tremendous attraction towards another person and that attraction is persistent and often times impossible to ignore.
Love is often thrilling but it can sometimes be dangerous. If our feelings are returned, we are in a state of euphoria. However, other times we might follow love’s pull to the point of suffering. It is hard to disagree with the fact that lovers sometimes become confused, unreasonable, unpredictable or even self-destructive. When relationships end in an undesirable way, lovers feel pain, grief and loss.
These patterns of alternating euphoria and despair, frantic longing and harmful thoughts and behaviours that might occur after a relationship ends are strikingly similar to phenomena we see within ‘typical’ addictions to drugs, alcohol, nicotine or gambling. For example, a gambler might feel euphoric during the initial rush and excitement that comes along placing a bet and winning. When an unwanted loss occurs, the gambler feels desperate and often behaves in a destructive way – for example they may increase the bet with money that he or she is not in the position to spend. Nevertheless, while we often borrow phrases from the language of addiction when referring to love, there is at least one distinction between love and conventional addiction; while nobody desires to become addicted to alcohol, nearly everyone yearns to be in love. Is it therefore absurd to claim that there is a true resemblance between love and addiction?
Perhaps not. First, there is a resemblance between love and drugs even before an addiction develops. For instance, scientists suggestthat on a physiological level, falling in love and smoking crack cocaine are incredibly similar processes! This not to be confused with that slightly buzzed sensation you might feel after a glass or two of wine; it is rather the overwhelmingly euphoric and exciting feeling that follows the intake of crack cocaine that is similar to falling in love. So, if you are looking for a legal way to get high, perhaps consider falling in love.
What is really happening when we fall in love? We start by experiencing a rush of emotions. Some like to call it magic, others prefer the term ‘fate’, I like to say that I’m being love-struck. Whatever term we use, from a biological perspective, being in love causes a range of chemical reactions in your brain; neurotransmitters called oxytocin and dopamine get released. These chemical reactions affect your brain and produce the euphoric feeling that we experience during the initial stages of a relationship.
The chemistry behind falling in love has been extensively studied and written about. However, many of us are not too concerned about that – we simply like the way it feels. Also, even without reading articles, many of us know that this overwhelming rush of feelings will fade away at some point. There is nothing wrong with that. The initial first weeks or months should help us build a solid foundation with the person we are in love with and hopefully form a relationship that goes beyond just a chemical reaction. Nevertheless, for some people this chemical reaction, this euphoric state is what they become addictedto and keep looking for even when it is over. This is then another similarity between love and addiction; just like drug addicts desire to feel the high cocaine gives them and are unable to resist it, love addicts have a hard time letting go of that initial rush.
If at this point you feel like you are definitely a love addict, please bear in mind that almost everyone can relate to that initial rush experienced during the early stage of a relationship. We’ve all been there; the other person’s existence provides us with constant emotional excitement and distraction. However, most people acknowledge that healthy relationships will inevitably develop into something less exciting but more profound in the long run.
While the similarity between falling in love and taking a drug is there, being in love evolves into a healthy, happy relationship whereas compulsively taking a drug can develop into an addiction therefore it appears that there is a distinction between the two. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. In the same way that drug addicts cannot resist the urge to get the high, love addicts choose to rely on the neurochemical rush. When the rush fades away (whether induced by love or drug), the addict feels pain and disappointment and compulsively seeks the rush again.
But what is the rush in love addition? Unlike the typical addiction, we can’t point into something physical such as pills, cigarettes or slot machines. There are, however, clear symptomsthat manifest in a person’s behaviour and might signal love addiction.
One of the most common signs of love addiction is assigning too much importance to the new love. Of course, we all feel a little obsessed about the person we fell in love with but only love addicts would do whatever it takes in order to keep the high; they jeopardise work, friendships and even family and prioritise the new person in their life. Furthermore, they neglect responsibilities in their life in order to chase relationship dreams. Once the new person becomes the centre of their world, love addicts tend to believe that he or she can fix everything. As a result, instead of the relationship enhancing their life goals, their lives become all about the relationship. Ultimately, love addicts find themselves in relationships driven by feelings of incompleteness and insufficiency and find it difficult to feel ‘whole’ without their partner.
These feelings, however, vary from person to person. That said, even if you exhibit all of these behaviours you might not be an addict, as everyone is different what makes someone addicted might be perfectly fine for someone else, in the same way that drugs don’t make everyone addicted to the same degree. In any case, there is advice for everyone who experiences the love addiction signs. In his book ‘How to Break Your Addiction to a Person’, Howard Halpern describes techniquesthat might help in breaking or preventing the addiction to a person
1. Keep a Relationship Diary
Log the events and happening of your relationship in as much detail as possible. Most importantly, be honest, express your thoughts and feelings openly. Doing this may help you understand your feelings better and the way they relate to your actions. For instance, you might spot that every time you feel bad, you reach out for your phone and text your partner. When you are more aware of the situation, coming up with solutions becomes easier.
2. Connect with others
Try and reconnect with your friends and family. The value of this network can be precious and those addicted to love often neglect it. Although it might seem that only your partner can provide support and understanding, you will be surprised to see that sharing your thoughts and feelings with your friends or family can be equally comforting.
3. Become Aware of Your Body
Our minds are deeply connected to our bodies. The way we feel is related to our body functioning and it is therefore important to be aware of that relationship. Become aware of your body; it can be something as simple as focusing on your breathing. This will enhance the feeling that there is a central core within you and that you are actually the one who has control over it.
4. Allow Multiple Attachments
Just like we can connect with people, we can also connect to something more timeless. Go out in nature, read books, listen to music – the world is full of things to explore. In a way, whereas people come and go, these things will always be around. This is not to say that we should not connect with people because one day they might not be there, but rather that we should get the best out of everything that is out there be it people, places or things.
So, is it love or is it addiction? Probably it is a little bit of both. While some dose of addiction can be nice and poetic, in its essence, addiction is not about enjoying something but rather having a hard time staying away from something that gives you pleasure. Therefore, just like with everything in life, the best would be to find the balance between the two and enjoy a happy relationship.
Dr Kurt Smith. Yes, it is Possible to Be Addicted to Love. Retrieved from: https://www.beliefnet.com/wellness/yes-it-is-possible-to-be-addicted-to-love.aspx
Earp, B. D., Wudarczyk, O. A., Foddy, B., & Savulescu, J. (2017). Addicted to love: What is love addiction and when should it be treated?. Philosophy, psychiatry, & psychology: PPP, 24(1), 77.
Fisher, H., & Holt, H. (2004). The brain in love. SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN.
Halpern, H. M. (2003). How to break your addiction to a person. Bantam.
We, as a sophisticated social species have a strong desire for belonging to a bigger group than just ourselves, as it allows us to feel stronger, more powerful and interconnected than we would feel just as an individual. We are designed to be intertwined with others, usually through common ground or the communicating of our personal experiences. When we are in a relationship we are defined as a partnership, thus we belong to something bigger than just ourselves. The significant other alliance encapsulates all the ideals of belonging to a group as we engage in frequent social interactions, as well as the sharing our personal experiences too.
Most of the relationships we have involve some degree of intimacy, whether it be psychological, physical or emotional. However, the significant other relationship is formed when we become connected on all the levels of intimacy and most notably through proximal physical and emotional contact with one another. Whilst the love hormone oxytocin fuels romance and the powerful connection you feel toward your partner during physical intimate moments, it also results in the increased release of dopamine. Dopamine can be released when thinking and being around our significant other and provides us with a sense of contentment, allowing us to feel at our most powerful.
Power in relationships can be a double-edged sword. The best alliances are the ones where two people are not competing against one another but are rather interdependent on one another. Competing against your significant other creates friction and can restrict you both from connecting on other levels of intimacy. Constantly ‘one-upping’ your significant other and trying to be better than them will break down the strength you have together as a partnership, as you are grinding down one another’s ego and the ability to believe in yourself as well as each other. However, if you are to support your partner and the same is reciprocated, your connection will be further deepened. Being interdependent, does not stretch to mean dependent and relying on your significant other constantly, but rather elaborating on the give-and-take relationship allowing you both to communicate freely, no matter how difficult.
Whilst communication plays a vital role in a relationship and can be a difficult hurdle to jump, trust and commitment are also vital attributes to the significant other alliance. In fact, trust, commitment and communication act as a trio for creating powerful alliances between two people. Trust is built upon authenticates and accessing the vulnerabilities of one another. Commitment is of course the main ongoing and non-linear attribute to any partnership. Trust and commitment go hand in hand as when one increases so does the other. Furthermore, when we communicate our vulnerabilities and doubts in one’s trust and commitment to our significant other, it allows us to strengthen our partnership, as together you can assess the boundaries and decide what is beneficial and detrimental both individually and as a couple.
Your significant other is the person with whom you share a considerable amount with, from your time to your favourite food. They are the person you turn to in periods of uncertainty and you rely on them to tell you things are going to be okay and that ‘we’ will get through this, even when it is just an individual problem. When we join forces we are much stronger, we strike the balance between being supportive and being intuitive. We are aware of our partner and how things will make them feel and how we can sometimes be the influence on their decisions, but we ultimately help our partners to feel more powerful when we are in support of them.
Finding a companion you really care for and adore is truly one of life’s many joys. The time you spend together is cherished and can sustain your desire to see them until your next meeting, as well as the fluttering presence of butterfly like sensations when a phone call or when a text message from your companion appears. Hence demonstrating that your new-found love is seriously exciting and engaging. NBC news’ Nicole Spector presented a wonderful article explaining why falling in love gives you butterflies- Nicole’s article explores the physiological phenomenon of feeling butterflies in our stomachs. It is our body’s response to our mental state in that moment in time, whether we realise what our minds are thinking or not. However, there are a number of reasons as to why we feel those sensations; as such the activation of feeling nervous or excitement that stimulates the gut and our real and unconscious desires of sexual passion with the person we are thinking about.
Over the course of a few weeks or even months perhaps, we will have our intense passionate moments fulfilling needs like sex, intimacy and closeness, but with meaningful, passionate sex it almost always leads to the developing of meaningful emotions. The developing of our emotions and connecting on another level allows undiscovered feelings to emerge, and the love between you both to most definitely blossom. Clinical Psychologist, Robert Firestone, Ph.D discusses the negative responses we may all feel as a reaction to feeling and being loved. He mentions that there can be a paradoxical reaction of which being or feeling loved can make us exhibit negative feelings as such Robert Firestone, Ph.D says, “Although the experience of being chosen and especially valued is exciting and can bring happiness and fulfilment, at the same time it can be frightening and the fear often translates into anger and hostility.”
Of course, we all know the feeling of falling in love and opening up our hearts to let someone in can make us feel uncomfortable due to our vulnerabilities,expectations and to some extent, anxiety, in some circumstances. We must remember that we do not wish for this to ruin the magical and personalised experience of finding, being in and the feeling reciprocated love brings to us. Relationships have to follow a natural progression, which means we must pass through stages to become more comfortable in each other’s presence and understand one another more, throughout our time spent together.
The ‘I’ you once spoke of will become ‘we’ as you soon enter into the next step in your ever-flourishing romance. The mile stone will be to collate your lives — sharing friends, family and of course eventually a property, or a few. Now, before we rush ahead and think too far into the future, we all feel we must present new and exciting things (such as our beloved) to our family and our dearest of friends. Being introduced may seem, again like another anticipatory anxiety inducing stage in the relationship, but we must look at this in a different light such as, “my beloved is introducing me to their family”, “my beloved is showing me off to their family”, and reframing to focus on the positives and why your partner is doing this. They are doing this as they are proud to say, “I am happy with this person and I want you to meet them, so you can see why I feel the way I feel about this person.” We feel like we must present our new partners to our closes friends and families as they pose the most influence over us throughout our lifetime and across the phases in our life. In addition to this, Theresa E DiDonato Ph.D. says “Both men and women introduce their dating partners to parents when they are ready to gain their parent’s approval and want to signal to their partner that they are serious about the relationship (Fisher & Salmon, 2013)”. Thus, rest assured it is a positive sign if you are asked to meet the family.
However then comes the question, when the right time is to introduce your partner to the family? Rachel Shatto for Elite Dailyevaluates all aspects and has created the perfect guide to meeting the parents. Rachel explains picking the right time is essential, wanting to make sure your relationship is new as not to let anyone think that you don’t want anyone to meet your partner, but yet not too fresh for anyone to think your relationship has just been fueled by lust. Furthermore, Rachel also mentions that to relieve the anxiety, or awkward situations it is better to stay by your partners side in the first instance or first few questions, to get a feel for their family, but not to let them answer all questions for you, as after all, you are your own distinctperson.
When it comes to meeting our partners’ loved ones, many things can happen. In the best instance, your family love your partner and agree the two of you make the perfect match, but what if first impressions fall short and you find yourself in the scenario where your loved ones do not see the amazing person you see. Are you blinded by your loves or blinded by your love?
Your family and friends will always be your biggest critics and yet they only want what is best for you. They are there in your times of greatness, and your times of need. Although their judgement can have a powerful influence on you, they have always supported you down every avenue you have ventured. Bearing this in mind, the initial thing to do is to ask your loved ones to explain their reasons as to why they think your partner is not a good fit for you. Perhaps you are seeing your partner through ‘rose-tinted spectacles’, or it is a little aspect they noticed which may grind your gears later down the line. Nevertheless, whilst you might feel hurt your loved ones have questioned your judgement, try not disregard their views as this can be detrimental to your relationship with them. As Mieke Rivka Sidorsky, LCSW-C explains for Good Therapy“we can choose our partner, we cannot choose family”, thus with this in mind it can be difficult for a partner to build a rapport or any form of relationship with family and friends due to them being aware of your past and not wanting you to get hurt in any way.
The next best thing to do is to communicate with your partner, asking them how they think it went, as it is important to hear your partner’s perspective. You may find your love was acting out of sorts to try and present a better version of themselves and if this is the case, then your solution is simple - just set another date to meet the family and be reassured they are still the person you fell in love with. Communication in any relationship is necessary, as it allows for the exploration of thoughts and feeling to be expressed and acknowledged. Communicating also allows for you both to connect on an emotional level as opposed to just a physical connection. Marcelina Hardy, MSEd, BCC discusses “Why Communication Is Crucial in a Relationship”, mentioning there are two ways to communicate between you and a partner, verbal and non-verbal, she mentions how these will explain in one way or another how one is really feeling. Marcelina also mentions communication allows for growth in a relationship.
Failing that, there is always compromise. It is all very cliché, but every relationship has its ebbs and flows and of course ups and downs. There will be times in which compromises are needed on both sides. Just being open and honest will mean it will be reciprocated, and what is more, respected in every instance. Whilst it may feel discouraging and difficult to approach a fault in someone, especially someone you’re connected to emotionally and physically, do not feel too disheartened, as together there will be many opportunities to discuss problems and set other dates to be with family and friends in the future.
At the end of the day, there is always more than one perspective to every situation, so being openminded to others’ views will allow you to not be blindsided, and yet shows you respect your partner’s and your loved one’s opinions. After all, everyone may not see what you see, as they are not the one who is falling in love with them, you are. The important thing to remember is there is a reason you chose your partner to be “your person”. They are the one who can console your mind, your body and your soul
Mindfulness is a lifestyle, rather than a life choice, and where better to apply it than the most important aspect of your life - your relationships. Research has shown that more mindful individuals have higher relationship quality. Here are five tips and mindfulness techniques that will help enhance your connection with your partner and improve your love life:
Active listening is a mindfulness technique that is often misunderstood. It sounds fairly obvious, but when was the last time you stopped, took a pause and actually listened to what your partner was saying, instead of mentally formulating your next response? Listening actively means fully concentrating on what is being said, rather than just passively ‘hearing’ the message of the speaker. There is a big difference between hearing and listening that often goes overlooked in everyday conversation. Next time you’re talking to your partner make a conscious decision to listen to and understand the message they are trying to get across. It may surprise you.
Following on from this, active listening helps to make the user more presentin the conversation. Too often we get stuck thinking about what has happened and what will happen, as opposed to what is happening right now. Regular mindfulness practice changes the areas of the brain associated with directing attention and focus, which helps us get better at concentrating on the present moment. This is vital in appreciating what your partner is doing in the now, as opposed to colouring their behaviour with or comparing it to their historical actions or your expectations. Appreciating your partner goes a long way, as positive interactions are the basis upon which liking grows and love blossoms.
3. Verbal Communication
Communicating that appreciation is vital to a successful relationship. It is much easier to vocalise distaste than appreciation, and much harder to accurately express what was intended when clouded by anger or frustration. Communicating mindfully means being conscious of your words and their effect on your partner. Words spoken in a moment of anger can cause long term and deep hurt, even if they weren’t meant. Consider replacing accusations such as “you never” or “you always” with “I feel” and “I would like”. These phrases steer you away from the blame game and help to focus on your own feelings – whilst communicating to your partner that you’re willing to see both sides of the discussion. As well as communicating your feelings mindfully, putting yourself in their shoes and exhibiting understanding and empathy go a long way too.
4. Self awareness
Communicating your emotions accurately and mindfully also feeds into self awareness, and being aware of where your emotions are coming from. If you find yourself getting irritated with your partner after coming home from a busy, hassled day at work, you can perhaps ask yourself if your frustrations are indeed coming from them, or being influenced by outside forces. Perception is vital to human experience and one of the few things we can control. Clear your head and make sure you are being fair to your partner. They should be a supportive sounding board, not a verbal punch bag.
5. Stop and breathe
Finally, stop and breathe. There are a multitude of mindfulness techniques surrounding breathing and their importance cannot be understated. Taking a few long deep breaths and counting to 5 on each inhale and exhale can be enough to clear your head, displace anger to think clearly and totally change your perspective. Breathing reduces anxiety and stress, and calms the heart rate. For a process that is required for human survival, it is something many of us don’t pay enough active attention to.