Nothing compares to the feeling of falling in love. You feel like you’re floating on cloud nine, life is seen through rose-tainted glasses and you’re absolutely certain you’ve found the one. Everything feels right and you wish that feeling could stay forever.
But for some couples, the honeymoon stage is short-lived. And once the butterflies subside, the relationship doesn’t feel as ‘perfect’ as it did at the start. This week’s reader, Alex, shares that she loves the falling in love stage, but can’t seem to commit after that.
“Why do I fall in love with love?” she asks. “I get so into a man at the beginning and suck them in. Then on to the next. I am so obsessed with the beginning, butterflies, talking, being verbally intimate (sometimes sexually), and then I’m done.”
What would you say to this reader?
Sure we all love the butterfly feeling, but how can Alex stay with a partner past this? Counselling Directory member Laura Colquhoun believes that we have an unrealistic and unsustainable view of relationships due to the romantic images and stories we see in the media.
“[This] can make them hard to develop into something solid beyond the beginning, ” she says. “This can often be the case if the relationship begins online, for instance.”
Why do some people obsess over the beginning parts of a relationship?
What Alex is describing is the euphoric and exhilarating feelings you can get at the beginning of a relationship. “These feelings flood your body with adrenaline and phenylethylamine (PEA) which is also in chocolate, and dopamine,” Colquhoun says.
“All of this is a heady, hormonal chemical mix which can cause the butterflies, it is possible to be addicted to these feel-good chemicals and enjoy the highs and lows that a new relationship can bring.”
If you relate to this, Colquhoun recommends looking at how you react when you receive a message.
“How does that make you feel?,” she asks. “If you feel like you are on an emotional rollercoaster and are enjoying this ‘ride’ more than the actual person, you might want to consider which part of this process is really what is ‘obsessing’ you and whether you are addicted to the relationship/person or to these chemicals, which have been compared to the feeling you get when high on cocaine.”
How can this reader allow herself to stay in a relationship past the butterfly stage?
Colquhoun explains that some women identify as as being ‘love and fantasy’ addicts and it might be something Alex might find interesting to look at. “Ask yourself, what is it you are looking for in a relationship?” she asks.
“Are you engaging in talking to men because you feel you should, because society suggests you should be in relationship or because you really want to be with someone?”
“Also ask yourself; ‘are my expectations realistic or am I looking for something that doesn’t exist?’ Perhaps you never get beyond the beginning of a relationship because you are looking for a fantasy, fantasies aren’t real and perhaps once you realise this you disengage.”
Alex could also have a fear of intimacy, which Colquhoun thinks would be worth exploring. “Consider whether this behaviour is also about keeping someone at arm’s length, if what you are interested is ‘sucking someone in’ and then being ‘done with them’, I would ask whether you have been hurt previously and perhaps this is how you get ‘all the fun of the fair without falling off the ride’.”
She continues: “Keeping someone at bay, not actually being intimate with them, keeps you safe. My question would be to you, ’what stops you not wanting to go past the initial stage and why don’t you ever get to know someone properly?’”
Colquhoun believes Alex should look at her intimate relationships/friendships and ask herself whether these are healthy and why she’s formed them.
“Also look at the relationships around you and consider whether you have had healthy role models,” she says. “Our primary care givers can have a huge influence on our attachment style, and this can then influence our romantic relationships.”
Love Stuck is for those who’ve hit a romantic wall, whether you’re single or have been coupled up for decades. With the help of trained sex and relationship therapists, HuffPost UK will help answer your dilemmas. Submit a question here.