When we are in the throes of NEW RELATIONSHIP ENERGY, we are actually, and quite literally, high; as if we’re on drugs. Our brain chemistry is affected, with more “happiness-inducing” chemicals being released regularly. And it can last 6 months to TWO YEARS. That is a long time to be hooked on a drug…or in this case, a person. (And we wonder why breaking up feels like withdrawal!)
NRE doesn’t look precisely the same for everyone, naturally. But for those of us who experience sexual attraction, you will probably experience a surge of hormones that stimulate desire the other person, usually based on pheromones that we pick up by scent. Then, while we are enjoying ourselves, our brain over-produces BOTH Dopamine and Norepinephrine – the same things that give you that feeling of “butterflies”, a pounding heart and faster breathing when you see your partner. It’s literally a surge of the “reward” chemicals, which come into play when we do things that feel good to us. We feel like we need less food and sleep and we have increased energy. AND on top of that, the brain REDUCES it’s output of Serotonin, the chemical responsible for us to feel satisfied and content, and a reduction of it…well, hell.. it literally creates an addiction the other person.
I advise all of my clients not to make any major life-changing decisions like moving in together, changing jobs or moving states or provinces to be with somebody until at least ONE year of a relationship has occurred, preferably TWO. Visits sure, and yes please, because you do need to get to know one another, but for pity’s sake – NOT moving or moving in! Don’t even consider it until you have a series of varied experiences together and a significant amount of time (like a year) has passed. Even then, tread carefully.
I liken dating and being in NRE (where you do not cohabitate) to visiting someone’s house.
You LOVE the outside! You are drawn in. And they let you in, BUT only so far…let’s say to their living room. If you’re only seeing the living room, you have no idea what the rest of the house looks like. Like, what kinds of things do they put in their storage room (ie. what’s their baggage), if it is structurally sound (ie. how’s their mental and physical health), what the plumbing is like (ie. how they process difficult situations), what it’s like to live there in different seasons (ie. how they communicate under stress, when sick, when distracted, when overtired), what gates, doors or windows they keep shut or even locked (ie. what are they inflexible about, what boundaries and limits do they have?) or what the landscape is like (ie. what are their goals/plans and the things that stop them from achieving them?).
Maybe you start in their “bedroom” – both literally and figuratively, and you hang out there often and get to know them very intimately, very quickly. That’s great! Do that, and enjoy! But don’t assume that the kitchen, the bathroom – ANY of the other rooms (ie. parts of them) – will be familiar to you if you’ve only been hanging out in the bedroom. It can be a real shock to the system, once you step outside that part of the relationship; moving from the comfy-coziness of the intimate sanctuary into the cold hard reality of the rest of their “house” (ie. the rest of who they are).
For many relationships it looks like this; you’ve only seen the front yard and living room in the first few weeks, you get to see a room or two in the first few months, and you might get a tour of the whole place in the first year. STILL I have clients telling me “I know it’s early to be thinking about this, but I am so in love and we really want to live together” after only a few weeks. Ugh.
When you are dating/”visiting” them, using this analogy, what you get to see is a VERSION of the them/their “house”. This is the version where the counters aren’t cluttered with bills and the bathroom is clean. Their phone is away and they focus on you. They don’t have their most annoying friends or family over. You might spend a lot of time in one room of someone’s house, a little in another, but not really need to have access to the other rooms, or a reason to try the appliances etc.
If you think about moving in with someone as “buying a house” maybe …just maybe…you’ll spend more time investing in conducting a proper INSPECTION, you know?
Believe me, I speak from experience. This is coming from me, someone who has rushed into many of her relationships, only to be SHOCKED that someone had other rooms in their house I hadn’t even SEEN! GASP! How is this possible? I am faced with new information, and I’VE MOVED IN, so now I have to manage this somehow. Sometimes I would even exclaim, “Who IS this person?” because I quite literally had never seen that part of them before. Most of the time, it wasn’t because that person was withholding who they are from me, I just was so affected by NRE, I didn’t realize how much I didn’t know about them.
Of course, we can’t wait until we know everything about someone – that’s unreasonable. And honestly, I think nature has designed NRE to mess with us so that we’ll keep propagating the species, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be mindfully aware of what our brain is doing (that trickster!) and make decisions based firmly in reality, not some self-created notion of what we BELIEVE is behind the rest of their doors.