The Early Stages of Falling in Love
How to stay centered while falling in love, despite the inner chaos you feel.
Posted March 20, 2012 | Reviewed by Lybi Ma
- The early stages of falling in love can be summarized into three feelings: euphoria, personal endangerment, and exhaustion due to the first two.
- The euphoric feeling of falling in love is biological and hormone-based.
- Falling in love creates vulnerability and disrupts routine, which can makes one feel personally endangered.
- One should not rush to seal the relationship just to ease the anxiety of falling in love. Instead, it's best to accept the feeling.
There's nothing quite as exhilarating as the early stages of a romantic relationship. Just the thought that you may have found your one-and-only can be so thrilling. But, the early stages of falling in love can be as frustrating as they are wonderful. Your new love life may consume your energy, focus, and time to the point where everything else going on in your life may feel like a rude intrusion. You can't stop thinking about your lover. You get up and go to sleep obsessing about the relationship and what your future will look like together.
To some of you, this reaction to love may seem overboard. But many of you know firsthand how falling in love can turn you into an obsessed, needy, and insecure person for a time. You don't have to have emotional issues from the past to feel this way—although if you do, this stage will be particularly difficult.
Remember, the saying is not staying balanced in love, it is falling in love. If you are in the early stages of falling in love right now, and you feel a little crazy, don't worry: You kind of are. You are under the influence of hormones that are making you feel, all at once, euphoric, endangered, and exhausted. Let's call these the Three Es of falling in love.
Researcher Donatella Marazziti of the University of Pisa, Italy helps us to understand the euphoria we feel in the early stages of romantic love. She says it is more than two hearts igniting when people fall in love; their hormones ignite as well. The nerve transmitters adrenaline and phenylethylamine, or PEA (also present in chocolate) increase when two people are attracted to each other and put them in emotional overdrive. Additionally, the relaxation, feel-good hormone serotonin lowers, causing you to obsess about your lover and consistently reflect back on the romantic times spent with him or her.
Falling in love produces a biological state that is a similar high to being on cocaine. More interestingly, Marazziti discovered that falling in love also alters testosterone levels in men and women. This is the male sex hormone that makes men hunters and gatherers and more able than women to be sexual without an emotional commitment. Increased testosterone levels in women during the early stages of romantic love make them more sexual and aggressive. Decreased testosterone levels in men make them more emotional and receptive at this time.
This finding makes me smile. I have heard more than one man say through the years, "What happened to her sex drive? When we first went out, she was sexually wild. I couldn't keep up with her. She tricked me." If you have felt this way about a female lover, now you know that it was her hormones that made her into a girl gone wild.
Why can love's early stages make you feel personally endangered as well? First, the euphoria you feel can disorganize you. You are adding a dating relationship to your normal, busy routine. Your normal responsibilities at work and home may fall to the wayside as you put more energy into solidifying your love relationship. This can make you more anxious.
Also, loving asks you to lower your defenses and loosen up your personal boundaries so that you can merge your needs and desires with those of your lover. This process can be threatening and make you feel unsafe.
Nonetheless, this is the making of a strong, healthy relationship attachment. It takes time to trust each other and to know that this attachment will not hurt you. No wonder we can feel anxious and unsafe when we first fall in love. There's much to gain, and to lose. The fear you feel is palpable. You may unconsciously create emotional issues and dramas to give voice, and make tangible, the endangerment you feel.
With all of the hormone changes and fears going on inside of you, it is no wonder you may feel exhausted in the early stages of falling in love. I've heard several people say that they can't wait until the honeymoon period is over so that they can get some rest. It's no wonder that some people may rush to seal the relationship deal, just to put an end to these uncomfortable feelings.
Knowledge Is Power
Hardy individuals arm themselves with knowledge. They approach new experiences as a chance to learn something new about themselves (the hardy attitude of challenge), and learn what they can to cope effectively with stressful situations (the hardy attitude of control).
Indeed, the early stages of falling in love are stressful. The following recommendations can help you to navigate the falling in love stage more smoothly, so that you can treasure this very special time in your life.
- Enjoy the high, but don't lose yourself in it.
- Keep your schedule, no matter how much you want to throw it over.
- Acknowledge you are under the influence of some powerful hormones.
- Get the nutrition, rest, and relaxation that you need to stay physically, emotionally, and mentally sound.
- When concerns and fears come into your mind about your lover, ask yourself if you are just trying to discharge the anxiety that you feel about the unknown, so that you can stop a personal drama in its track.
- Don't rush to seal the relationship just because you can't stand the anxiety of having to go through the stages of falling in love. Accept your anxiety and learn to work with it.
- Research shows that falling in love also makes you more creative. So work out that anxiety and fear through some creative activities.
- Don't lower your defenses, personal boundaries, and expectations to the extent that you are denying what you really desire and need. This never works out well. You want to build an authentic relationship attachment, rather than one based on fantasy alone.