The Inevitable Mistake.

They dream in courtship, but in wedlock wake.  ~Alexander Pope, The Wife of Bath, 1713

War of the Roses

Boston Family Therapist, Terrence Real, says “There comes a moment in all relationships when you lie in bed, roll over, look at the person next to you think it’s all a dreadful mistake.” He claims this can happen anywhere from a few months to a few years in. Real says when the initial attraction we once had for our partners has fizzled, it is actually the first day of our marriage. “It’s not a sign that you’ve chosen the wrong partner. It is the signal to grow as an individual.”

I met Mike when I was living in Breckenridge, Colorado. I was only twenty-four-years-old. Every time I return to Breckenridge, I get this feeling of excitement and vulnerability. My mind instantly takes me back and I’m taken over with emotions–a roller coaster of butterflies, angst and fear. It’s as though I were watching a movie that I loved, and hadn’t seen in a while.

The strangest thing is, while I’m still with Mike, I’ll never get to experience him in that way again. It’s all part of the beginning of a relationship: the high, the lust, the sex, the feeling of being the most important and the most insecure person at the same time.

When we meet someone we really like, the intense infatuation is sparked by our brain releasing the chemicals adrenaline, dopamine and serotonin. According to WebMD, The brain can release these love-related chemicals and hormones within one-fifth of a second of first sight.

Adrenaline is why my heart would pound so fast when I’d see it was Mike’s number calling. Or, why all of a sudden I felt like I could go for a six mile run just from making plans to meet up. Adrenaline is the worst if you ask me, it’s clearly obvious when my heart is pounding: my voice cracks, I start to pit out, and I have this lost, scared look on my face.

Dopamine is the reason why I was able to fill Mike in on every detail of my life ’til the sun came up then, without any sleep whatsoever, skip off to work with a permanent smile.  Sleeping next to each other these days, doesn’t have the same effect as it used to. (Now, we actually sleep. And the creepy smile has been replaced with a normal, more subtle one.) The reaction to dopamine on our brain is similar to a reaction to cocaine. I was literally high on love.

And finally, the decreased levels of serotonin explains why I couldn’t get him out of my mind. My brain was fixated and I had no control in the matter. An interesting fact: these levels actually match the same amount of levels in those diagnosed with OCD- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

According to Christine Meinecke, a clinical psychologist, it’s the building up of the other person that has an overwhelming effect. “It makes partners overestimate their similarities and idealize each other.” Eventually, the facade wears off and we are left with unexpected incompatibilities. This is when we wonder if we’ve chosen the wrong person. Before, we were so focused on what was “perfect” between us, and now we are focused on what isn’t.

The good news is this stage fades too. It takes work, but self-reflection and inner happiness are just a few ways to get through it faster.

While we’ve definitely had our shining moments. I haven’t had the full fledged “I think I chose the wrong person” experience yet, however, I’m not going to rule it out. I imagine it’s more likely to come when we have kids. (That’s when we will want to kill each other, exhausted and up to our ears in shit.)

If you want to read more: Psychology Today’s article, Are You With the Right Mate, by Rebecca Webber.

10 thoughts on “The Inevitable Mistake.

  1. Nice post. But expecting Love from outside your Self is the problem. Love comes from Within You and is reflected back AS your loved one. Another person can’t give Love or withhold Love because the only Love there IS is Within You, reflected back to you, “through” others. It’s confusing to express the concept, but that’s what I’ve found in 26 years of blissful marriage (to the same man). Love Susan

  2. Susan, you are absolutely right. And it is a difficult concept to grasp. I was just brushing the surface on this one because there’s so much more to delve into. I wasn’t even sure how to approach it. So I stuck with the “here’s why it happens when it happens” and discuss the initial attraction leading up to the “inevitable let down”. I would like to follow up with a “now, here’s how to handle it” type of blog. But as you say, it’s kind of tricky to explain to people that you aren’t happy because of yourself. I’m not sure how many people trust me enough to hear me say that to them…it starts to sound a little preachy. This is my challenge every time I sit down to write this blog.

  3. It seems to be part of a larger human pattern: We want something so badly we can’t stop thinking about it, but once we have the thing, it quickly loses its appeal. That one trait is probably at the heart of a great deal of unhappiness. I’m trying to stay focused on this paragraph:

    “The good news is this stage fades too. It takes work, but self-reflection and inner happiness are just a few ways to get through it faster.”

    • You are so right. It’s the bane of our existence, which is funny because it feels so good. Your reply reminded me of a quote: “An object in possession seldom retains the same charm that it had in pursuit.”  ~Pliny the Younger, Letters

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