Searching for love is an activity of the heart, and the brain. However, the mind and the body often interfere and hijack our sensibility without us even realizing it. The brain is the great organizer. The primary goal is to take in information and put it where it belongs or send a message to release neurochemicals that push towards stability and homeostasis. The activity of dating requires a lot of neuro-firing and that often confuses us and makes us feel emotionally unstable, somewhat fearful, sometimes childish and giddy. The roller-coaster is REAL. This is perfectly normal and should be embraced, even though it is awkward and exhausting. Hopefully, by rolling with it, taking it seriously and enjoying the ride will lead to lifelong love and commitment.
When seeking a new love relationship, there is no way around the feelings of vulnerability. Hello, we are searching for a person to share the most intimate parts of our life with. This requires us to be totally open, and accessible to another person. It would be one thing if we knew for sure that a person was going to be “the one” but instead we have to open ourselves up and assess our emotions at the same time. The potential partner does the same. It sounds so easy, but it is one of the hardest things we will do in our lifetime.
The analogy of pulling the handle on a slot machine comes to mind. First, we choose the machine to put our money in, then pull the handle, next watch the number spin by in a blur, slowly but surely they begin to stop and we then start to see if they actually match up, or better yet we hit the Jackpot! When dating, we decide who to take a chance on, invest time and energy into that person, then watch, wait and see what happens. Will it be a match or will the glitter fade? Your intuition will send you microscopic messages for you to pay attention to, it’s up to you to decide what they mean and what to do about it. No one wants to waste time and energy on someone who is not ready to be fully present, ready to embrace true love head on.
Here are three red flags to watch out for:
Your potential partner uses experiences with their “ex” as a timeline for remembering things in the past. The brain organizes and uses common markers to remind us of things we have experienced. If those timeline markers are mostly anchored to an “ex” then your new love interest is not done. They may say, “I’m totally over it,” and probably even believe it. However, if you hear things like, “Oh yes, I love mashed potatoes, EX and I used to do this to make them even better.” Or “two summers ago, I was in Hawaii with EX, and we swam with the sea turtles. It was so amazing.” Or, “Oh my EX used to do that, and I hated it!.” All of these tiny references add up to the truth that the grieving process is not over. When someone is really done, they can filter their experience of an event from that of the person they shared it with. It is not about the “they” anymore, it is about how amazing it was to actually swim with a sea turtle. If the new person is stuck in their past relationship, you will hear these little comments and want to ignore them but the truth is that this new person’s unconscious communication is telling you they are NOT READY. It is your job to LISTEN.
When the person you are interested in engages with you, but then pulls away and seems to disappear, only to reappear just as your brain admits, “S/He’s not into you!” Have you ever met the “push me-pull me” person who sends mixed messages seemingly interested in you sometimes and totally dismissing you other times? It can be totally confusing to have someone engage then disappear. The communication pattern can be hard to handle. It should feel like the more you get to know someone, the more you want to be around them. The more you share about yourself, the more you want to know about that other person. It is exhausting to have to start this process over and over again. When looking for that special someone it is important to be fully engaged. Sharing the most intimate parts of your life with someone, only to have them respond to you by pulling you in, then pushing you away, the prevailing message is that, “they are not that into you.” The other message to pay attention to is that this may be a communication style. When things get rough, instead of being pulled in, they push away. Most people do better with someone who can be present with them in times of crisis or difficulty, not run away.
When someone comes across as too confident or not vulnerable when exploring the potential of a new romantic relationship. Confidence is attractive, there is no doubt. However, so is softness. When searching for love, it is important to seek balance. Someone who can be strong and comforting but also gentle, kind and open. Meeting someone who could occupy that space in your heart meant for just one should be scary because no one wants to get hurt or be humiliated. If someone comes across as too confident or cocky then watch out. This could mean they have been hurt and are not willing or ready to open up yet, or ever again because they might get hurt. Or it could mean that they are looking for a one-sided relationship that they control by using a false confidence. People do this to self-protect. We all want love and intimacy but very naturally are scared to risk ourselves in the process. False bravado, is a sure sign that someone has been hurt and isn’t ready to move forward openly yet. Tread lightly, broken hearts happen fast in this lane!
The point of this is that the brain and body conspire against the mind when looking for love and intimacy. As much as we want it to just happen, it makes some sense to pay attention to the landmarks along the way, so you don’t get pulled down the wrong channel into a dead end. Keep your eyes and ears wide open early, remember that the neurochemical cocktail is dying to run amuck with your heart and body, so be patient. No matter how much you want to just be done with the process and settle in, remember you cannot know someone fully for about two years, so pace yourself and enjoy the ride. Love is a journey, not a destination.
These materials and all discussions of these materials are for educational purposes only and do not constitute medical or mental health advice. The presenter is not your mental health or medical service provider. If you need medical or mental health care or advice, we encourage you to contact your doctor or therapist, or you can contact your insurance company for a referral. Reproduction or use requires written consent of Dr. Kristin Beasley.