I have “no-fail” chemistry. (If ) A guy turns me on, he’s the wrong one for me.
~ LINDA BARNES, Snapshot, 1993
Why are you dating wrong kind of person again, and again? Why are you staying in a relationship that is not going anywhere?
Well-known behavioral economist Richard Thaler in his latest book “Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness” provides an answer. Thaler distinguishes between two aspects: Mindless choosing and Temptation.
In one experiment, people kept eating the soup in front of them without even noticing that the soup was contained in self-refilling bowls. Most of the time, we eat mindlessly. We are on the auto-pilot mode and just carry on the task at hand. We are not “conscious” at the present moment and not conscious about the long term consequence of the choices we are making.
Temptation is hard to resist, especially when a mega-dose of hormone is running through your body. Some people dub it “love” and have insisted that “true love” happens without reason and is beyond rational analyzing. I tend to agree with Dr. Tennov who coined the term limerance for the “in-love” experience to distinguish it from what she considers true love. In other words, infatuation does not necessary lead to true love. While chemistry is important for a sustainable relationship, you can still learn to balance your heart with your head.
“I can’t eat, I can’t sleep. I can’t stop thinking of him/her.” You said, “I am so happy whenever I am around him/her. How can this not be love?” This euphoric high in the early stage of love owes everything to chemicals, or phenylethylamine, to be exact. You need to test it against a clearly-defined list of requirements. Before you are sure of this person would be a strong candidate, establish boundaries around physical intimacy. Otherwise the chemicals (this time oxytocin) will, after sex, mislead you into thinking that you are a “couple”. It will certainly cloud your judgment.
New York City is the best place in the planet to observe dating behaviors. Many singles use the plots from “Sex and the City” as their road map cruising through the meat market. There is more than plenty of good-looking aspirant actors, models, artists, writers, investment bankers, and entertainment moguls for you to get lost. Sharon, in her late thirties, has had a lot of fun in her prime and now has turned sour, feeling exhausted. She has recently came to my coaching practice for a reality check. We have discovered that deep down she still wants to have a traditional family. I asked her if, now that she is clear what she wants in life, she would stop seeing those wrong “kind of guys” She said, “I will soon. But those guys I have been seeing are so much more fun, and, um, dangerous.”
Why would you assume that people who are “wrong” for you would be more fun? Why would a nice guy have to be boring? I believe that we are the creators of our own lives and we can attract the kind of person we want from our inner selves. The law of attraction tells us that what is inside shows outside. If you are insecure about yourself, you will end up being with someone equally insecure. If you are a boring person, you would attract a tedious fellow. You can not expect the other person to make you complete or happy. You have to do the self-work first. Be the person you would want to fall in love with.
If you don’t know where to start establishing your requirements, begin with examining your past relationships. What are the deal breakers? Sharon used to have her first requirement as “He has to be RICH.” But when I asked her what exactly had led to her break-ups, she raised various issues surrounding fidelity, integrity, availability, and communication. Now she realized that there are more important items for her to consider besides the “rich” factor.
Next time when you lose your appetite or sleep over somebody again, consider that it might not be love. At least not yet.
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