Last week I wrote about the illusionary phase of romantic love that I called the “bliss bubble”. Mentioned in my blog were the scientific explanations of how natural hormones and chemicals flood the bodies of two attracted mates to create a sense of wellbeing and compatibility. Today’s topic deals with how the bliss bubble can be prolonged or heightened when the lovers add sex into the mix.
A strong argument could be made that love at first sight is nothing more than lust. This well-known human Achilles’ heel lies hidden within the confines of the bliss bubble. It can blind us from the reality of our partners because it preoccupies us with the desire of getting them to bed (or anywhere else, for that matter) to unravel in the ecstasy of intercourse. It is no secret that after breaking through the sexual barrier, most new lovers develop a sweet tooth that can only be satisfied with ample repetition.
According to another set of scientific researchers, an additional set of biological reactions are set off when a man and a woman have sex. The hormones oxytocin and vasopressin are released during orgasm and both have been shown to help bond the relationship. By releasing these hormones, both partners create an emotional tie with the other. The more sex between the two, the greater the connection. With each additional orgasm, the couple taking part stakes a claim for each other. Each subsequent orgasm continues to push your logic aside, at least for a while.
I am not condemning these biological functions of the human body. They contain our basic human call to propagate the species, and we should be grateful for without them there would be no—borrowing the names from the Beatles’ famous song—Vera, Chuck, and Dave. These hormone secretions evolved in humans over millennia to assist in the survival of the genus, for it allowed humans to unite as couples to hunt, forage, and raise their young.
But we are long past needing to propagate the species. Today, sex with a partner is just as important to strengthening intimacy as it is to propagating the species. The good news is that our brains (can’t be one hundred percent sure when it comes to men) have evolved beyond that of our paleontological ancestors. We have the ability to acknowledge the emotional and physical effects on our bodies but still maintain an objective perspective on our partners. After all, we are an advanced species and should know there is more to finding a partner than the ability to gather food and help raise children.
Although we can conclude having sex with someone does not guarantee he or she is a suitable partner, the problem for most of us is that we are unconscious of our biological facts and get confused by the false euphoria of the bliss bubble. When you add intercourse to this mix before you discover the good and bad of your partner, you could be left literally and figuratively f***ed.
I believe in the great opportunity loving relationships offer humans to evolve into our most authentic selves. We enhance this opportunity by becoming conscious of our efforts to find a partner and not be caught up in the lure of sex and the bliss bubble. This takes discipline, but I don’t consider it impossible to achieve.
So here is what I recommend to improve your chances of establishing a committed relationship.
1. Easy does it. Enjoy each step along the way, but be in no rush to commit. It would be foolish for you not to enjoy the wonderful first stages of romance, but understand you have to get past that period of magic before you can objectively evaluate the whole picture your partner presents. I recommend that you give the relationship a minimum of a year before you consider more permanent conditions, like moving in together.
2. Make a conscious decision about having sex. I am not an advocate of the old Catholic teachings of saving yourself for marriage. This is unrealistic; besides, when you are dating anew in the later stages of life—like me—the virginity train left the station decades before. However, remember that two people can’t help but feel connected after intercourse so choose wisely and deliberately about having sex with a new partner. Although it is tempting, don’t jump into bed just because you can. An obvious marker before you start is to make sure the relationship is exclusive. By the way, I know that the notion of casual sex with multiple partners is appealing, but I think it is a myth. Biological reactions apply to all humans; the only way you can deal with multiple partners is by having the ability to shut off all those emotions. In other words, can you be like a Cassette Player and erase your emotional tapes after a sexual encounter? You may be one that can, but I found I could not.
3. You are allowed to leave a relationship at any time and for any reason. It is easy to get distracted when you are living in the bliss bubble. But what do you do when you discover that Mr. or Ms. Right was really only Mr. and Ms. Right Now? The best place to begin is to accept that you may exit any relationship regardless of the cause. This may seem harsh or cruel, but it is not. It is much kinder to end a relationship when you know it is not going anywhere. You are both winners when you end a painful union, for you both become free to find an even greater love. Maya Angelou was right when she said, “When people show you who they are, believe them.” When your partner shows you behavior and actions you cannot live with, it is best to let them go. Remember, you are not shackled by the fact you were initially attracted to them and dated them for a while. The succeeding consensual sexual relations are not a set of handcuffs either.
Remain confident that true and abiding love is possible, but you can only find it after you remove the rose colored glasses your biology provided.
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