You’re smitten. Enchanted. Utterly charmed. Now what?
When you have a serious crush, it’s a feeling like no other. You catch yourself smiling for no reason and your world feels lighter, somehow sparkly. Thinking about your crush, you’re elated. Like a person with a magical secret. You could fly around your kitchen! It’s wonderful… and nerve wracking. Falling for someone new is often a time of extreme energy and wonder mixed with goodly portions of self-doubt and anxiety.
I remember feeling this way when I met the man who is now my husband -- so obviously -- I was on to something good. But I was also in such a state. I felt exhilarated and tongue-tied and somewhat awkward… and the more I liked him, the more I second-guessed myself!
As professional matchmakers, we see quite a bit of this fancy and antsy stage each time we successfully match two people. The early stages of attraction that sometimes lead us to fall in love invite a potent bio-cocktail of hormones into our systems, knocking us “off our feet” almost literally. Here’s what’s going on inside of it all:
Initial Attraction: This stage is driven by sex hormones -- specifically oestrogen and testosterone -- in both women and men. Call it the Lust Phase, if you will… and it’s definitely what’s going on for people who claim they found “love” at first sight. Not saying it can’t turn into an extended attraction, or even mature, actual love at some point… but here’s how it all starts. Oestrogen and testosterone.
Continued Attraction: Think Dates 1, 2, 3, etc. This is when you become formally besotted, and can think of little else than your new love interest. “Crazy in Love” may literally apply here, given the rapid fire onslaught to your brain of adrenaline, dopamine and serotonin (that last one being, literally, an anti-depressant.)
But here’s where the fancy/antsy mixed up elated/freaked out part comes in: Adrenaline. Falling for someone special, at least in the beginning, activates your stress response which increases your both levels of adrenalin and cortisol in your system. Hence, the heart racing, sweaty palms and mouth bone-dry symptoms of new love.
Thank the heavens for the simultaneous dopamine chaser, which triggers an intense pleasure rush which -- to your brain at least -- feels a lot like a cocaine high. Dr. Helen Fisher, renowned anthropologist and love expert, attributes the “increased energy, less need for sleep or food, focused attention and exquisite delight in smallest details of this novel relationship,” for new lovers to surging dopamine. It may not sound romantic, but understanding the biological basis for why you’re feeling like you do -- (which doesn’t diminish the reason for it or the exquisiteness of the person evoking it), can help you stay more grounded while you’re feeling swept away.
Because however exciting a new crush can be, making every effort to stay grounded is important too. In the early stages of a relationship, you can be at risk for “losing” yourself, and also for missing or dismissing cues (or warning signs) with implications to your potential long-term compatibility with this person.
During this fantastically magic time, try to keep the following in mind:
- Live in the now.
It’s nice to wonder about what the future might bring- but this practice can also spiral completely out of control. Sure- you have an uncle in the finance business, who your crush could partner with in Manhattan. Then, of course, the two of you would buy a flat together and invest in a summer home in the Hampton's where you’ll have two greyhounds and a canary named Penny. RELAX. This is called fantasizing and quite honestly, it’s extremely unhealthy. Take your relationship one step at a time, otherwise, you’ll be building a world (and a world of expectations) around a person who doesn’t exist anywhere but in your own mind. Discover your crush without expectations based on fantasy with the power to cloud your actual future. Don’t you want someone to fall in love with YOU, not their idea of you that “fits” with their fantasy world. Of course you do. And the person of your dreams may prefer retrievers and cockatoos.
- Hide and you will be found out.
Be yourself. It’s that simple. In Runaway Bride, Julia Roberts changes how she orders her eggs and coffee -- along with her style, hobbies, language, etc. -- according to each successive man she’s with. In real life, this starts with small things, then escalates until you’ve changed so much you barely recognize yourself. How does this happen? See #1 above. When people fall in love with a fantasy, and the person they’ve fallen in love with figures this out, they have two choices: Run away as fast as possible or become the fantasy. This is a catastrophe in the making for both lovers. Don’t do it. Listen, it’s wonderful to explore new and undeveloped parts of yourself through love relationships, and to learn through another’s interests and hobbies by being open and trying new things. But stay true to yourself. Do not abandon your own interests, hobbies, and passions in the process. Never lie - to your new love interest or to yourself. Lies are always revealed at some point -- but more importantly you’ll exhaust yourself trying to remember the various misrepresentations you’ve doled out here and there. Such behavior reveals not only moral flaws, but also great insecurity. If you find yourself unable to remain true to yourself and a partner in new relationships, this is worth investigating… and it may be critical to your future happiness. Would you respect someone who lied about themselves to please you?
- What will be, will be.
There is nothing to be afraid of. Take a deep breath, and again… refer to #1 above - Live in the Now. Fear does not do well in the face of love. If this crush has the oomph to lead to a serious relationship, then it will indeed happen… with time. Don’t push or force or connive to drive it forward, or you risk forcing a fit that’s, well… not a good fit. Let your love stories develop in their own way, on their own pace - let each be different and unfold themselves to the two of you. Be strong, as strong as you can - and be confident that if it’s a relationship worth keeping, that can stand the test of time, then it’s a relationship that can stand a slow and less stressful pace of development.
Above all, have fun! When you feel the elated/anxious rush, embrace the one-of-a-kind exhilaration a promising new romance can bring. This sensation is seriously one of the best parts of having a heart in the first place - so live it up. Feel everything and let the cards fall where they may.
Love Wisely, friends.