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