“In love” is shorthand for the chemical changes that happen in your brain and body that push you to be with someone. This is nature’s way of rewarding us for finding a suitable mate whose biochemistry is attractive to and compatible with our own. These are biological urgings, not romantic ones, so just what does that mean for you?
Well, it means you weren’t in love when you thought that you were in love, and that you never fell in love with the person for anything they did or for their personality or for their looks or for how they treated you. You fell in love because your brain decided that was the right person to love.
How you felt actually had NOTHING to do with the other person at all. Furthermore, it was never REALLY love at all, it was infatuation- an intense, short-lived and completely unreasoning effect created by your own brain. It was never your heart. Your brain made it FEEL like your heart was involved, but as much as it was being tugged on, your heart doesn’t get into the act until much later.
Let me tell you what happened. You were flooded with the opposite sex hormone (more testosterone if you’re into a woman, more estrogen if you’re into a man) along with healthy doses of adrenaline, serotonin and dopamine. That’s why you had the symptoms of racing heart and breathlessness and increase in temperature and sweating and you couldn’t stop thinking about him and you didn’t want to eat or sleep- it’s chemically pretty much like being on cocaine! You were very close to obsessed.
But you can’t live like that forever.
Your body won’t allow you to walk around impaired like that because you wouldn’t survive! You wouldn’t go to work or handle any responsibilities or even take care of yourself properly because you’re love high all the time.
Usually the feeling wears off on its own between 7-9 months. (Notice, you’re in this love haze about long enough to make a baby; Damn biology and It’s trickiness!)
Typically, the love high wears off for men before it wears off for women because this is the way we’ve been told love is supposed to feel, so we don’t question it. The men usually question the feeling because that feeling makes them put themselves on the back burner and that is a big change from their normal.
I compare it to waking up from sleep-walking in the middle of traffic. Things are coming at him fast and loud and he’s not exactly sure how he got here. He wakes up, and immediately pulls back from the relationship because he’s not sure if what he was feeling was real or a hallucination. All he knows is that it’s dangerous to be this close to most women- we get crazy when we fall in love!
And even though it’s a perfectly reasonable reaction, that freaks us women out!! The sudden withdrawal of that intense affection is like a slap in the face and we immediately go to a dark place in our heads:
“He was playing me” “He never loved me” He never wanted me” “I was used”
We do the only thing that seems to make sense. We pull back too. It’s what our sisters and mothers and friends and coworkers and aunties tell us to do, but more than that, it feels safe. We put our walls back up. After all the vulnerability of those first months, we start worrying about “self” first again and we get back into our pre-infatuation comfort zones. We stop trying to give to our Boo and start worrying about what we’re getting and why we aren’t getting more.
At the same time we’re doing all in our power to protect ourselves by creating distance, we want that closeness back! We never felt like that before, so we’re left thinking it had to be real, and it had to be something we could feel again with the same person.
We try to make things last long term with our Boo for selfish reasons; we try to make it work because we remember what that love high was like. Again, it’s your brain that is in control here, not your heart. You want to feel good again- you aren’t motivated by the desire to give to and enrich the person you’re with.
If you’re still really into them, even after the chemical cocktail wears off, even if they don’t make your heart race every moment of the day, that’s better than “in love”. You’re in the next phase- the one that lasts. You’re forming attachment and commitment. This is where your heart finally gets itself into the game.
Suddenly it’s not about how you feel any more. It’s not infatuation but real-life, “I care about your happiness more than my own” love. That’s real love- the kind that can last a lifetime and let you have your (mostly) happily ever after with your Boo.
You can still have the moments of “in love” bliss but they usually only happen when you’ve been doing the loving and selfless actions you did when you felt like that the first time. (That’s how you trick your brain into producing the same chemicals!)
So when he says “I love you, but I’m not ‘in love’ with you”, don’t panic. He’s expressing the fact that his brain has stopped producing the extra chemicals that made him crazy in love but he’s still choosing you.
So don’t pull away more like the fear will tell you to do. Do the loving things you did back when you were feeling vulnerable and you let down your walls for him. Don’t worry about being played or looking like a fool and just love, meaning give. Stop worrying so much about what you’re getting and concern yourself with giving away more to him.
Play more, laugh more, smile more, have sex more- all the silly and sexy things you did when your brain took away your fear of being hurt in order to make you love.
I know you have your reasons not to give any more- not to try anymore- but you’re still hanging in with him, so I think it’s time to let your reasons go and try a new way. I’m here to give you a push in the right direction if you need it!