Every ounce of concentration focused on gracefully swinging her leg over the back of the bike, she hopes she looks good. She's never been on one before, a motorcycle. Her Mom would clutch her pearls at the sight. Becoming sturdy in her seat, she flips her long blond hair over her shoulder and slides the helmet into place, as if she's done this very thing a million times before. If only her insides were as composed as the her poker face. She's practically nauseous from the excitement and nerves. He's got blue eyes to die for and a mischievous grin that makes her wonder what he's thinking. The relationship lasts about as long as the ride...
Her name is Morgan, but it's also Allison and Emma and Kimberly and Taylor. She's pretty much you and me when we admit we can be suckers for those guys! Mr. Off-limits, he can turn your world upside down. How many of us have dated tall, dark, and "do what I wanna do"? He's so cute, we should be lucky he called us, right? But who's commiserated over pizza box platters, wineglass in hand, with a friend who's heart was decimated after a breakup? Maybe we know somebody now who's coupled up with bad news in the present?
Why do we do it? Why do we date (and marry) guys who are about as interested in our hearts as kids are in eating spinach with dinner? Why is love so irritatingly, sometimes dangerously, blind? I believe some answers can be found in the very way our God created us...for better or worse. Come with me, it's time for a geeky, science chat!
Though He personally pieced together every beautiful detail of our bodies, unfortunately our fabulous brains can't tell the difference between stress and "butterflies". The same hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) that are responsible for anxiety also contribute to the feeling of "being in love".
Adrenaline: A substance that is released in the body of a person who is feeling a strong emotion...and that causes the heart to beat faster and gives the person more energy.*
Cortisol: "The stress hormone". It provides the body a quick burst of energy, heightened memory functions, increased immunity, and lower sensitivity to pain.*
Is anybody walking on air at the memory? Love can make us feel indestructible. It can feel like nobody's love has ever been as pure and as strong as ours. There's less need for food or rest and everything becomes about the other person in the beginning. The initial thrill of love is an amazing gift given to us by our God who loves healthy relationships.
I want to speak to all of us who've been really hurt at some point. Burned. "How could I not see?", we've asked ourselves. Let's consider that cortisol lowers our sensitivity to pain. The ability to push through pain is so important when we're stressed. It keeps us placing one foot in front of the other without hitting the wall. I wonder though, how high are our pain thresholds right now? How high octane are we sprinting through our lives and relationships? Are there warning signs present that we're confusing with "butterflies"?
If you're not sure about the answers to these questions, let's look at it from another angle. When safe love matures, dopamine and oxytocin kicks in. Dopamine is the "feel good" hormone and oxytocin makes us feel close and comfortable with one another. They're released when we experience positive things, like feeding our babies and cuddling. Our relationships should veer toward attachment and contentment as we grow together. Towards peace and trust. It's the way God planned it. Here's a way to remember them:
Adrenaline and cortisol are like a hot pair of high heels, dopamine and oxytocin are the stretchy yoga pants.
I'm curious, are our relationships becoming closer, more joyful, and safer over time? Are we accepted by "him" in our yoga pants? Or are we feeling like we're trudging exhausted, overwhelmed by uncertainty, and not sure if our partners are "for" us? Bad boys can be so fun, but they also result in a slow death by selfishness and inconsistency. They always want something from us, they devour. They provide a false sense of security because they're strong and wild, attractive. They make us feel like they'd fight for us. Truth be told, those very things we "fall in love" with become their achilles heel when the feelings wear off.
Ladies, I am so for you and most importantly, God is for you! He wants us to experience the most intimate, wonderful, and fulfilling relationships possible in this life. Can we stick together to walk observantly and sensitive to His leading, not setting ourselves up to "fall out of love" later? We can do this only through His help, because God is love.
"Love will stand in line and wait its turn. Love looks for the good in others. Love doesn't want what others have, and it doesn't brag about what it does have. Love is polite, even when the other person is rude...Love is happy with the truth...Love never gives up." (Adventure Bible for kids, 1 Cor. 13:4-)
"What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" Romans 8:31
Sincerely, a former bad boy connoisseur in yoga pants,
Ways we can understand our amazing bodies instead of working against them:
1. Date at length, not at high capacity.
2. Trust your friends and family, people whose opinions you respect. Trust the small voice of God over time.
3. Observe what a person does, not how they make you feel. Journal about it so you can go back and reference your observations with a clear mind.
4. Don't be fooled--moving in with a man doesn't show you much more about how he's going to be over the long-haul. Hormones blur our vision and by the time the shades come off, we're in too deep to back out!
Photo Credits: Abhijeet Somvanshi, Juan Di Nella
M.S. in Marriage and Family Therapy. Earns Crossfit participation trophies. Disaster cook. Enthusiastic wife. #Boymom. Clutches her faith, not her pearls.