Here’s a situation I’ve definitely found myself in and I’m sure you can relate. You meet someone, something clicks, and suddenly a force takes you over.
After this encounter you can’t–for the life of you–get this guy out of your head. You try to think about other things, but nothing works. You ruminate over every detail of your interaction with him–what he said, what you said, what his body language said. You think about the things you wish you had said.
You check your phone constantly to see if he called or texted. If he does, your stomach drops, your heart races, you want to leap off your seat and scream for joy. And then of course you need to figure out the exact right thing to say back to him, the perfect quip to show him that you’re perfect for each other.
The high continues as you venture into a relationship and becomes even more intense. You never quite know where you stand with him. The uncertainty keeps you on your toes, constantly on alert for something that looks like a bad sign or an ominous foreshadow. This emotional rollercoaster is as exhausting as it is thrilling. You’re hooked. The worst possible thing that could happen is him leaving. It’s a fear you can’t quite shake no matter how promising the situation looks, a fear that drives everything you say and do.
Now another scenario.
You meet a guy, you think he’s nice and all, you have good conversation, he gets your number, and while you’re pleased, you don’t go into a tizzy over it. You may check his Facebook profile, but only for a few minutes. You are happy to hear from him if he calls or texts, but you don’t notice the hours that pass in between your interactions. You go out a few times, not expecting much, but soon enough your interest and attraction begins to grow. Things feel calm, there’s no drama, no heart palpitations….and it feels really nice.
Which relationship do you think has a stronger chance of survival?
Instinctively, you would say the second one. In real life, you would fall for the first. That’s because the first scenario illustrates everything we’ve ever been told about love.
In movies and romance novels, love is this grand, all-consuming force that takes you over in the most dramatic of ways. There are huge obstacles to overcome, but it’s okay because love conquers all! I mean, would any of us have cared for “The Notebook” if Ali and Noah were of the same social status, went on a few lukewarm dates, then got to know each other and developed a deepening connection over time? Don’t think so.
Unhealthy Relationships Start With a Pull
I hate to do this to you, but I’m gonna take the romance right out of those dramatic relationships where you get engulfed in your feelings for the other person. In most cases, the pull we feel to another person is guided by our unconscious desire to rectify some issue from our past.
For instance, if your parents always made you feel like you weren’t good enough, you may seek out guys who are full of themselves and treat you like you’re not worthy of their love in an attempt to rectify those feelings from your past.
If your father was very critical, you may find yourself drawn to a man who is very critical and try to win over his love and approval to heal from the hurt of your fathers rejection. These decisions aren’t conscious, they happen very deep beneath the surface in areas we can’t access. When we meet someone, we immediately assess everything about them (again, this happens unconsciously).
On a conscious level, you may assess the things he said, on an unconscious level, you’re looking at his body language, his tone, the way he phrases things, how much eye contact he makes, his demeanor. If your unconscious finds something familiar in that person, something that reminds you of an unresolved hurt from the past, it will light up and push you towards that person. (A great book to learn more on this concept is “Getting the Love You Want” by Harville Hendrix. I would even call it a must-read.)
You may also unconsciously seek out partners who have some quality that is under-developed in you. For example, if you’re a Type-A workaholic and always wished you could ease up, you may be drawn to a laid back partner who isn’t detail-oriented. These example might not describe your situation, but they illustrate a deeper point.
Unhealthy relationships almost always begin with the pull. The problem is, we don’t recognize them as unhealthy because we’re brought up to believe in things like love at first sight.
Moving away from the psychological factors at work here, infatuation in general can be a dangerous thing. It causes you to put him on a pedestal and overlook his flaws. Since he’s so “perfect” you become afraid to be yourself–I mean, how could your true self ever compete with perfection?
You don’t want to say the wrong thing and scare him off, so you aren’t genuine in your interactions. You rely on his approval so desperately that you also become a bit needy. You may not act needy, but it’s something that lurks beneath the surface and he will pick up on it… they always do.
Healthy Relationships Build Slowly
Healthy relationships, on the other hand, begin with mutual interest and attraction that grows over time. If you can internalize this, it will change the way you date forever.
The best way to have a healthy relationship is to go slow. This will create an environment for you to allow your level of interest and attraction to grow steadily over time, rather than flooding you all at once in a big emotional tsunami. It’s difficult to remain objective in relationships, especially for women since we are naturally more emotional.
If you spend all your time with him, you risk overlooking very critical information about who he really is and if this relationship is built to last. Just because people feel strongly for each other doesn’t always mean they can be together.
It is imperative to have a foundation of compatibility, shared goals and interests, and common values. Some things simply can’t be negotiated. Before you emotionally invest, it is very wise to determine if you are fundamentally compatible. And the best way to do this is go slow.
When you first meet someone, you want to spend every minute of every day with them. You talk for hours and hours on the phone, text all day, and you can’t get enough. The obvious reason this is problematic is because you may end up relying too heavily on the relationship for your happiness, but also, you don’t get a break from the emotional excitement and stimulation of it all. Then, if you realize this guy may not be right for you, you’ll be in too deep to get yourself out of the situation. You’ll instead rely on some cliche like “love conquers all” to justify staying with him.
I am not saying to stay away from guys you feel a strong immediate attraction to and only date guys who you’re only “meh” about. I think you should date both kinds of guy- the infatuation guy could turn out to be a loser and the “meh” guy could turn out to be the love of your life (I’ve seen it happen countless times!).
Either way you have to date smart. This will come more naturally with “meh” than it will with the object of your infatuation.
If you just met or just started seeing someone, I strongly advise that you try to go on one to two dates a week and that’s it. Also try to keep your phone conversations somewhat short, maybe an hour and a half max. This will give you the chance to get to know the other person while also giving you the space to decide if he is the right match for you.
So many girls make the mistake of getting caught up in how the guy feels about them rather than focusing on how they feel about him.
You can avoid falling into this trap by doing regular reality checks. Make sure you see him and the situation clearly. The best way to do this is to make sure you can recognize his flaws. The way you know you’re infatuated is if you see no flaws. Everyone has flaws.
When you get in over your head, you may convince yourself that something like him wanting to live in the country and you wanting to only live in a city is not such a big deal. Someone who maintains a more objective perspective will realize she would be miserable living in the country and since this guy wouldn’t live anywhere else, she would get out of the situation.
I’ve seen (and personally experienced) many situations where a couple breaks up after a long period of time because of some issue that was apparent right from the beginning- they’re different religions, want to live in different states, one person doesn’t want kids. In every one of these situations, the couple believed that things would magically just work out. Imagine how much time, effort, and heartbreak they would have saved had they been dating with their head instead of their heart from the beginning.
Again, the only way you’ll be able to see him clearly is if you can give yourself the space to clear through the clutter of emotions and keep a firm level of objectivity in the beginning.
Got a question or piece of advice? Tell us about it in comments!