That brain of yours…
It’s so good at thinking. Why doesn’t it just stick to what it’s good at?
But no, it has to get involved in how you feel.
One minute, it’s making you high with happiness. The next minute, it’s dropping you straight back to earth.
Even worse, it was designed to work that way.
By sneaky old Mother Nature herself.
As a rational, mature, well-informed woman, you may think that you make your romantic choices all by yourself.
You take all available information into consideration, weigh it against your values and preferences, and decide whether you’d like to see Bachelor #1 again or block him from your phone.
Your human body has different plans.
It’s got a hidden agenda:
To make sure you pass your genes down to the next generation.
To ensure you don’t thwart its plans, it guides you to do what it wants by priming you with happy chemicals like dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin.
Ignore its guidance, and it will shut off that feel-good flow, leaving you disappointed, frustrated, and casting about for something that will help you feel good again.
Your love life is a vicious cycle of seeking happy chemicals. You’re less in control than you think.
Think about it:
Why do you want to find someone?
Because being with someone makes you feel good.
What happens if being with a particular man doesn’t feel good?
In most cases, you extricate yourself from the relationship and find someone else.
What controls how good you feel when you’re with a man?
Your happy chemicals.
What releases those happy chemicals?
Can you consciously make the brain release happy chemicals?
You’re at the mercy of your brain’s programming.
Think of it like a computer. You can use your brain to do things, just as you use the software on your computer. But you can’t change the operating system, the basic rules that govern how it works.
That operating system tells the brain to release the happy chemical dopamine only in response to finding something new it likes.
That’s why the first time you enjoy something is always the best. The first bite of chocolate is better than the tenth bite. The first time you watch that cute cat video on YouTube is always the funniest. The first date is always the most memorable.
A couple that’s been together forever won’t enjoy a dopamine spike just because they’re going out to dinner. But a couple that’s just met will be floating on air every time they meet.
Novelty intensifies the pleasure.
You already know that all relationships have a honeymoon period, when everything seems amazing. At some point, those rosy-hued glasses come off … and you see all the negative things you’d been overlooking about him.
That’s not his fault. It’s not your fault, either. It’s the fault of those happy chemicals. They’re only released in response to new sources of pleasure.
Once you’ve settled into a relationship, it’s not new anymore. You become habituated to it. So you look for other ways to get that dopamine hit.
Flirting with someone new gives you the spike of pleasure you’ve been missing. So you decide your relationship has run its course. You give your guy his walking papers so that you can pursue those exciting feelings with someone else.
And the whole cycle repeats.
Your brain wants you to keep searching for new things, because that’s how your ancestors survived.
If they found one good berry patch and kept returning to it, pretty quickly the berries would be gone and they’d be hungry again. Their survival depended on finding new sources of food and other resources.
So that’s why you never feel satisfied.
It’s not some moral failing, to never feel content with what you have and always want more. It’s the way your brain is programmed.
You get a dopamine spike every time you get what you want. Then you get used to having it, and those good feelings drain away. So you search for your next dopamine hit.
The key to managing your tricky brain is to trick it back.
Instead of aimlessly casting about for things that make you feel good, decide in advance on goals that are worthy of seeking behavior.
Go after health goals, or career goals, or personal development goals, rather than any new experience that gives you a pleasurable hit.
Set goals in your relationship, too. Keep testing your comfort zone. Learn new ways to argue and new ways to relate. Never get stuck in the status quo. Even just going somewhere new together can deliver an intense burst of pleasure.
And forgive your brain. It’s just trying to keep you alive. Mother Nature didn’t design us for a world where new partners are just a swipe away.