Dating Trap #5- Falling in Lust
I was out yesterday evening with my friends and the topic of conversation, as it often and eventually does, turned to the question: “How was your date this week?”
The response I most often hear is that their date was a nice enough person, but that the “chemistry” wasn’t there. I’m often curious about what people actually mean when they talk about “chemistry” and when I probe them a bit more about what it means for them, they are often not really able to explain what it is, except to say it’s a certain ‘feeling’.
If you had to explain to someone who has never come across the concept of “chemistry”, how would you explain to them what it is for you?
I looked up the question: “What is Chemistry” and one of the answers that I found in Wiki Answers was:
“Mutual attraction or sympathy; rapport:The chemistry was good between the partners.”
This definitions seems to run in tandem with what Anthropologist, Helen Fisher, describes, as stages 1 and 2 of love, in her book “The Nature and Chemistry and Romance of Love” (2004).
In her book, she describes 3 stages:
1. Lust (mating response) – driven by testosterone and oestrogen
2. Attraction –(feeling love struck) regulated by neurotransmitters called monoamines
- Norepinephrine (adrenaline)
- Serotonin (feel good)
3. Attachment – hormones and oxytocin
So, maybe what we take for ‘falling in love’ when we meet someone and which we define as “having chemistry” isn’t love. Maybe it’s nothing more than the driving force of our hormones – or lust. But before you think I’m a spoil sport and am going to argue against “chemistry” or “lust,” let’s Get Real – great chemistry feels absolutely wonderful, doesn’t it!!
You can’t wait to see your lover again and get your hands on them – anytime, anywhere. . . You both are on a high with excitement, tension and passion and you can’t seem to get enough of each other or this wonderful feeling.
In a BBC series a few years ago, Dr. John Marsten, Senior Lecturer in Addictive Behaviour at the London Institute of Psychiatry said “Love is so addictive, it’s akin to cocaine and speed.” (4 Dec 2002) This certainly goes a long way to explain why people move from one relationship to another, after the initial ‘high’ wears off.
“Chemistry” is wonderful, but it’s important that you understand, that it isn’t necessarily love. You can be in love and have great “chemistry” but equally you can have “great chemistry – but not necessarily be in love. So what’s the difference between lust and love? How do you tell the difference?
Is It Lust or Love? How Do You Tell The Difference?
To keep this simple, let’s look at two indicators that will help you know the difference between lust and love.
Firstly, if we go back to Fisher’s three stages of love, you’ll notice that the stages move from lust, attraction and to what she refers to as “attachment.”
Interestingly enough, one definition Wiki offers to the question, “What is Love?” is this:
“An intense emotional attachment”
“Attachment” as psychologists describe it, refers to a strong bond an individual has with another person. What is peculiar to this is that the bond is emotional and affective. Psychologists go on to describe various ‘attachment patterns’ that run from childhood all the way into adulthood and go a long way to explain why people get into the same kinds of relationship patterns. More of that another time . . .
If we go back to Fisher’s three stages, you’ll notice that the focus becomes moves from a physical connection on to an emotional connection – which she labels “attachment.”
I found the following 5 minute video, in which the physiological responses of a couple who are kissing (it’s a long one!) is measured. In the discussion with the psychologists, one of the researchers notes that when a couple experience more bonding and emotional connection, it releases the hormone oxytocin – just as Fisher mentions in stage 3.
The psychologist goes on to describe the positive impact this has on an individual’s overall health and happiness. You can see it here:http://www.5min.com/Video/Kiss-Cam-114223265
Secondly, if you notice, Fisher’s three stages implicate a process over time. Moving from pure “chemistry” to emotional “attachment” is a process over time. As you move from lust and attraction to ‘attachment,’ things like trust, fidelity, respect and other values you have about relationships come into play.
So, to know if you are ‘in love’ or ‘in lust’ requires a passing of time. That’s what dating is about – taking time to get to know someone and finding out whether your compatibility is on an emotional, psychological and intellectual level as well as a physical level.
Those of us who have been in bad relationships where the chemistry was initially fantastic, but where the relationship ended up in a disaster, have come to realise something really important. I liked the way Rene Eve from Brisbane, with whom I was twittering with about this topic put it:
“The trouble is people often mistake lust for love.
To really trust someone them takes time. Hormones don’t know about time”
The biggest danger of not recognising this is when you make major decisions while in this state. While in this euphoric state, you may make the decision to move in together, start a relationship or get married even. George Bernard Shaw adds an interesting perspective to this scenario when he says that:
Marriage brings people together “under the influence of the most violent, most insane,
most delusive and most transient of passion.
They are required to swear that they will remain in that excited,
abnormal and exhausted condition until death do them part.”
At the end of the day, there are different kinds of relationships – they aren’t right or wrong – it just all depends on what you are looking for at that time in your life.
If you are looking for love – just be aware that while “chemistry” may be important to you, it isn’t the full picture. On it’s own it can be a bit like a firework display. There is the anticipation and excitement as the firework shoots up into the sky. There is the awe, wonder,sheer enjoyment and pleasure, in that moment that the whole sky lights up. And then . . . there is the darkness of the sky as the firwork fizzles out and all you hear is the zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz as the firework makes it’s way down.
If you are looking for love, give yourself time when deciding whether this new romance is indeed love and know what your goals and values are and what kind of relationship you are looking for.