He is hot. His jokes make you laugh and his boyish grin makes you melt. So you hook up. And so the casual, hangout-make out, fling begins.
But, while it starts off fun, light and casual, soon you find yourself feeling anxious when he doesn’t respond to your texts right away. You try to play it cool when he has plans that don’t involve you and settle for him coming over at 3AM slightly inebriated (okay maybe a lot inebriated) for some good ol’ sloppy drunk sex. Surely he’s dating other people, but as long as you don’t ask, you won’t have to know.
So what if he’s still virtually gallivanting on multiple dating sites, and is nowhere near wanting a committed relationship? You’re an ambitious, independent woman who has needs and right now he’s meeting those needs! And even though your friends are not so silently judging and disapproving of your latest love interest, your heart just can’t help but keep whatever it is, going.
Whoa whoa whoa. Let’s stop right there. Newsflash – it’s not your heart talking to you. It’s your increased levels of oxytocin – that sneaky, feel-good, bonding hormone that is released when you have sex. And the more you sleep with him, the more oxytocin is released, causing you to attach to him more, to the point where you are physically addicted to him. Men also secrete oxytocin during sex, however, the levels are not as high as women. Plus, the emotional bonding effects are more prevalent and potent in women than it is in masculine energy men.
Too often, people find themselves in situations where they are with the wrong fit, and even though they know the dynamic is unhealthy and they are not getting what they want and need, they just can’t seem to stop the attachment and addiction to the person. Unfortunately, once you become physically intimate, it becomes harder and harder to detach.
Lynn Toler, the judge on the series “Divorce Court”, shares that in her eight years of watching where couples fail, is that they do not understand the chemical reactions that occur that can trick you into thinking you’ve found “the one”. She advises, “You have to ride that out and really let it pass… I think women do this a lot: Well, he doesn’t want to have kids and he isn’t interested in the same things I am, but I am really in love. It will work out once we get married … and it doesn’t.”
If a committed relationship is what you want, I encourage you to access the compatibility of your next prospect before your chemicals take over your mind and body. Chemistry does not guarantee compatibility. Remember that chemistry/attraction is just one element of what makes the foundation of a healthy relationship that has long term potential. The other elements of compatibility which are equally (if not more important) are: timing, shared values and a shared life vision. Here is an exercise that will help you evaluate your next love interest:
Create a list of key values
These are the values/attributes that are important for your next partner. These are needs, not just wants. For example, loyalty and honesty may be key values for you. If you know you want children, perhaps “openness to have a family” is one of the things you put on this list. Perhaps this is what the 4% of people who get married from meeting on values/interests-based matchmaking sites such as eHarmony know better than the rest: they look for an alignment of key values as a primary filter on selecting a mate.
Create a list of ‘bonuses’
This is a list of bonuses – but if your potential mate doesn’t have this, it’s not a deal breaker. These are wants, not needs. For example, physical attributes, loves yoga and romantic may be on this list – they are nice to have, but don’t make or break the right partner for you. Whatever your list is, it will be specific to you.
Identify your non-negotiables
These are the things that cross your personal boundaries. These are the deal breakers. For example, drug use may be on that list.
Note, this is not a list to be unrealistically picky. There’s a significant difference between being picky over superficial things versus having standards for yourself. This exercise will help you create clarity in what you need and want. The next time you meet someone who you’re romantically interested in, see how he/she measures up in regards to this list. If the person scores more points on the “non-negotiables” area than on the compatibility of key values, you may want to think twice before hooking up. Or else, before you know it, you’ll be overdosing on an oxytocin high. And, as I’m sure you’ve already experienced in your past, that chemistry-fuelled kryptonite is hard to kick.
In conclusion, compatibility, timing and similar values are important in a healthy relationship, chemistry is also a key factor. However, don’t be blind sighted and miss out on an opportunity with someone who could be a great potential fit because you didn’t feel earth shattering fireworks right from the beginning. It’s definitely possible for chemistry to grow in time, but this isn’t necessarily the case for compatibly.