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Coming Down From the Love Drug High

Reclamation of self with respect for the unit (Candace)

I love reading my friend Dave Booda’s blog. He always has such a unique perspective on love and relationships, and his posts are often food for thought and conversation over the dinner table. And yesterday’s entry was no exception.

In it, Dave explained that studies have shown that the same receptors in our brains that light up when we are high on cocaine are also triggered in early stages of love. That we actually get high. And that, during this early love period, while we feel as clear-headed and complete as ever, we tend to make decisions that are a bit, well, clouded. We tend to stop doing the activities that made us happy before the relationship, spend less time with the friends who fulfilled our lives when we were single. And he posits that, once we begin to reclaim ourselves, we either re-integrate those activities or begin to resent our partner for keeping us from them.

I have a slightly different point of view, as I know Dave will appreciate.  See, in my opinion, we were designed to have this “high” early on.  Just as babies trigger all kinds of endorphins when we hold them and hear them coo, in order to stay alive, as they have no way of taking care of themselves early on, I feel that love relationships between adults act in a somewhat similar way.

For instance, when Andrew and I first started dating, we lived 3,000 miles away from one another.  We will both readily admit that we were high as kites in love with one another (and still are), but that we needed to go through this period to take the steps necessary to move across the country, seek out new jobs, and get married.  We did physically move ourselves away from friends and family when we moved to the sleepy town of Dana Point last October, but we are so glad that we did. We gave ourselves the time we needed to learn about each other, and about ourselves in the context of our relationship.  It’s not that we love our friends, family and favorite pastimes any less.  Quite the opposite actually.  But rather, we made a mutual decision (admittedly while flying high) to redirect our time and energy previously allotted toward our single-self activities into one another.

And now, while we are traveling the world, we only have each other.  In his blog, Dave suggests that we begin to look to our lover to fulfill all of our emotional needs, when we had a deeper portfolio of friends and activities to do so before our relationship.  That we expect our partner to be the best of all human characteristics for us.  And that, for a short period of time, we sacrifice ourselves to do that for each other.  I can absolutely identify with this idea, as Andrew is the only person I see consistently each morning, noon and night.  We are the other person’s only source of consistent adult interaction, the only shoulder for the other to cry on.  But again, I think that this is good early on.  We are learning to be a unit, not forgetting who we both are in the process, but rather learning how to integrate our otherwise fiercely independent ways into a life together.

I do admit, however, that we were inspired by Dave’s blog to discuss how we plan to re-integrate into life when we return from our honeymoon.  Andrew intends to get involved in squash again.  I intend to re-engage in yoga.  We plan to schedule time for friends and time together, so that we can get both.  But these activities will still look very different than they did when we were single.

For instance, my life was remarkably different when I was single than it is now.  In some ways, I do miss my single lifestyle.  But in so many more, I see my independent activities in the context of Andrew now.  I care for his feelings and perspective.  And as a result, my single-Candace life looks very different than my married-Candace life, even post re-integration.  This is healthy.

On this honeymoon, something strange has happened.  I walked into this adventure adamantly communicating my need for independence.  For alone time.  For the opportunity to miss Andrew.  But often, when the moment comes to separate (i.e. when we were planning to separate for 12 days on the Camino), we decide together that we would rather be…together.

Don’t get me wrong.  If I were giving my little sisters love advice, I would tell them exactly what Dave is saying.  Don’t forget your life.  Don’t give up you sense of self.  Absolutely. 

But as I sit here (literally), next to my husband, building our life together for our first marriage after 30+ years of single life, I am sincerely appreciating the high we share, and look forward to coming down.  Together.