About a week back, I put up a tweet on twitter that got everyone all riled up. I’ll admit that it was a bit controversial, even for me. It read:
“The more frustrated men I work with, the more I believe that falling in love is the biggest mistake a man can make in a relationship.”
And of course, everybody started freaking out. While I did get a few “amen brotha”s, most of the responses (from both men and women) accused me of being “crazy”, “cynical” and an all-around poor excuse for a relationship coach. lol Pretty funny actually, but I understand why everyone was so upset. I quickly followed up with this:
“Now before the ladies assassinate me, let me point out that there’s a huge difference between loving someone and falling in love with them.”
And since there’s not much room for elaboration on twitter, I figured it might be a good time to put up another post.
Here’s the background info…
I’ve always been sort of a hopeless romantic my whole life so please don’t think I’m a jaded, misogynistic player type or anything like that. Now because I was never “good” with women when I was younger, I decided to devote my life to studying attraction and romantic love (kinda weird, I know) so I could eventually find a nice girl to settle down with. Thankfully, I have since made some VERY interesting discoveries, especially after helping hundreds of men with their dating/relationship issues.
A large percentage of my clients come to me after reading my book, “Get Your Girl Back,” so I do work with a disproportionate number of unhappy men, as one tweeter put it. However, this work has allowed me an in-depth look into the inner workings of man’s mind when he enters, what I like to call “the withdrawal phase” of a difficult breakup. If you’ve never experienced this yourself, consider yourself lucky because it’s one of the most difficult experiences a man will face in his lifetime (although it tends to get a bit less painful each time around).
Now before I make my case, let me go ahead and define what (I believe to be) the differences between “loving” and “falling in love.”
“Falling in love” is nothing more than an internal chemical process that can become triggered when we spend time with a person we’re attracted to (or simply have romantic thoughts about them). It’s an important biological function which helps persuade us to stay with the person we’re sleeping with so we can raise any potential children that the stork dumps on our doorstep.
Since the hormones/neurotransmitters/etc. subsequently released during this period produce a drug-like state of euphoria, it’s no wonder why lovers report feeling “high on life” where colors seem brighter, music sounds sweeter and the gustatory joy of eating Ben and Jerry’s pales in comparison to the sheer euphoria they experience when around their beloved.
Wow. Sounds just like being high on shrooms 24-7. Sign me up for some of that. Yet, just like how a heavy dose of psilocybin can lead you to believe you’re the second coming of Jesus Christ as you flee from the cops O.J. style (a story for another time), there are also a few “downsides” to the crazy mushroom punch cocktail I will hereafter refer to as “romantic infatuation.”
These downsides are (in my opinion):
1. Researchers (like the brilliant Dr. Helen Fisher, who I’m a huge fan of) have discovered that our bodies typically stop producing these love chemicals approximately three years into a relationship (Sometimes MUCH sooner. This is dependant on a variety of factors.). Because of this, we can safely assume that this “type” of love is not supposed to last indefinitely.
2. We can very easily become addicted to the feelings of romantic infatuation (much like a drug addition) and to avoid the pain that accompanies the loss of these feelings, we will frequently turn a blind eye to problems and issues in our relationships, as well as issues with our own behavior.
3. Many times, we don’t fall in love with our partner themselves, but with our perception of our partner (The more needy someone is, the more likely they’ll suffer from this tendency.) and the way they make us feel. This is a problem on multiple levels (see #2).
4. If your partner decides to end the relationship, your internal drug factory will immediately shut off as you enter a painful state of withdrawal that clouds all rational thinking. Much like how a heroin addict will behave when jonesing for a fix, a person stuck in the pain stage of a breakup will experience erratic mood swings and do whatever they think it takes to win back their lover, regardless of whether or not that person even wants them back. Some men will resort to threats, insults and violent behavior as they view their apathetic ex as the sole source of the crippling emotional pain they’re drowning in.
5. Romantic infatuation usually equates to “conditional” love, aka “I’ll love you unconditionally forever and ever and never hurt you. Unless, of course, you hurt me first or decide to remove yourself from my life for any reason whatsoever. Then all bets are off.” (see #4)
6. In an effort to keep the initial level of passion peaking indefinitely, some people start unnecessary fights and introduce ridiculous levels of drama into their relationships (this usually happens unconsciously). This back and forth between pain and pleasure helps keep the highs of the relationship incredibly intense as they get contrasted with painful, debilitating lows. The brain typically becomes addicted to this pattern, which is almost always destructive in the long run (see players, strippers and party girls).
So it seems that the very mechanism that creates the initial attachment at the beginning of a relationship can transform you into a raging lunatic as soon as your relationship is threatened. Add to this the fact that women will quickly lose attraction for a man who lacks the ability to control himself and you can see how getting hooked on romantic love can turn you into walking nuclear weapon set to go off the second your lover accidentally brushes up against the big red button. Definitely not a good long-term relationship strategy, imo.
So is there another option?
About ten years ago, when I was desperately searching for a way to get myself over a rough breakup, I stumbled across a mental technique that can quickly eliminate the pain of separation anxiety (No, it doesn’t involve sleeping with ten other girls. If you’re familiar with NLP, it’s a modified version of the swish technique).
I was rather shocked when I discovered it because I remember being completely obsessed and panic stricken one day and having zero negativity about the breakup the next. It was actually a little scary, since I had always believed that if you love someone, you have to be absolutely miserable after a breakup. But since I no longer felt any negative feelings, I began to wonder if I ever loved the girl in the first place, or if this meant that romantic love, as I knew it, wasn’t “real.” As an unlucky-in-love 21 year old, this screwed me up royally.
In any event, I found this technique to be so effective, that I started using it whenever I felt myself getting out of control in my relationships i.e., obsessing over a girl day and night or showing other signs of needy behavior. I even decided to teach it in my book, “Get Your Girl Back” so my students would have a way to quickly get themselves under control after a breakup.
With the help of this technique, I was able to curb my needy tendencies and, for the first time, have the ability to avoid OD’ing on the love drug. Whenever I started to become overly infatuated with a girl, I would use the technique to bring my emotions down to a comfortable level so I could enjoy my life instead of thinking about my girl 24-7 when she wasn’t around.
After doing much additional work on myself over the years, I eventually became a naturally laid back, non-needy guy who no longer flies off the handle into jealous fits of rage and insecurity at the first sign of relationship problems. As a result, not only do I now attract plenty of beautiful, intelligent women into my life, but I no longer feel the same level of romantic infatuation that I did when I was younger (even when I start falling for someone who’s truly amazing). Compared to before, it’s almost like the dial is turned way down.
So does this mean I’m no longer able to “really” fall in love?
Far from it. Actually, I’ve come to believe that what I was feeling all these years was anything BUT real love and have since formulated a whole new definition of what it means to truly love a woman in a healthy, mutually beneficial way.
Simply put, my new definition of love involves the following:
1. Taking a full, honest assessment of a person’s complete package, flaws and all, and making the conscious decision to shower them with care and affection, whether or not they behave the way you would like them to.
2. If your lover ever decides to end the relationship, as sad as you might be, you’ll separate amicably and wish them the best as opposed to lashing out at them in rash and desperation. What typically happens is once we decide someone is integral to our happiness, the burning need to possess them kicks in and we fly right off the handle the second they try to pull away. But I’d like to suggest if you truly love someone (and are not just suffering from a drug-fueled obsession) you should push through this pain and not let it affect your love and respect for them.
3. Finally, let me point out that just because you love someone, it doesn’t mean you should ever be a doormat. If the person you love more than life itself stops treating you the way you deserve to be treated, then you should make the conscious decision to walk away from the relationship, regardless of your feelings for them. Your level of physical attraction should never be your barometer for staying with someone whom you know on a logical level isn’t good for you. On the flip side, you shouldn’t automatically view the fading of intense attraction (which is almost inevitable when the relationship progresses past the infatuation stage) as a sign to jump ship and find someone new.
I believe that this way of looking at love encourages people to develop a solid, long-term strategy for making their relationship work; one which transcends the fleeting emotional foundation of the initial infatuation stage. I’m hoping this awareness will help couples grow closer together over time as they realize that the internal changes they experience may have nothing to do with the quality of their romantic bond, and may just be a glitch in our biological programming (or is our social programming the real problem? Hmmm…).
So the lesson here in a nutshell is simply this: Guys… no matter what happens in your relationship, do your absolute best to stay in control of your emotions at all times.
Let’s wrap it up here. I could have easily written 20 pages on this topic but I want to hear your thoughts. Do you agree? Do you think I’m nuts? Is falling in love something that should just happen or a process every man should be in control of?
Please post your comments below. The best comment from the guys wins a copy of “Get Your Girl Back” ($60 value). The best comment from the ladies wins a copy of my new CD “10 Secrets To Creating Your Ultimate Relationship” ($47 value).
Thanks for taking the time to read this. 🙂
Make it happen,
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