From our very first non-awkward Tinder date, the ease of my relationship with Bloody Good Chap has scared the bejaysus out of my mind. I’ve written about this before here.
Lately I’ve been really digging into my beliefs about love and relationships to make sure I don’t f it up like I have in the past.
Through coaching I’ve now realised that I’m not the only one who struggles with this phenomenon of it’s-too-easy anxiety. I spoke to a client yesterday who is facing the exact same dilemma – she’s in the kind of beautiful, loving, easy relationship that she’s always dreamed of. Yet her mind is now racing back to times with her ex; bringing up intense emotions from the past that make her question her current relationship.
Antonia’s (name changed for privacy – Antonia is the name of my first teddy bear) previous relationship was like a rollercoaster with an emotionally unavailable person. I’ve had the same experience in the past, so I know all too well the addiction of the highs and lows.
When we date someone who is up and down/ on and off/ hot and cold, it screws with us.
It keeps us in a perpetual state of hope/fear-based anxiety.
This anxiety can easily flip into a sudden emotional high when our partner gives us a crumb of the affection we’ve been looking for, and this gives us such a rush of aliveness that we stick around for more. There’s a very fine line between anxiety and an ecstatic high; they’re physiologically very similar responses.
When we date someone who we don’t feel 100% sure of/ secure with, we get the kind of elation and chemistry that we simply can’t replicate in a stable relationship. The peaks are made so peaky by the lows that precede them and the lows that we know will undoubtedly follow.
This is the perfect breeding ground for what most people call “falling in love”. Our partner pours on the love and affection, and then suddenly removes it. Then they rinse and repeat. This causes a form of needy attachment which most of us label as being madly, obsessively “in love”.
Most of us spend our dating life seeking out this intense high.
Like a drug, we seek the peak intensity over a stable, happy medium.
We seek it by dating emotionally unavailable people; by dating people we can’t be with easily (long distance or workaholics), or by dating stable people and then trying to destabilise them.
I’ve tried it all!
If we could see this kind of love as the drug that it is, it might not mislead us so badly. But the problem is that after our first hit; we set this kind of love as the benchmark for all our future relationships.
But nothing sustainable ever matches up to its intensity; how could it. The media further perpetuates the idea that this hectic, passionate chemistry is the end goal that we should all be looking for.
After the first time we get burned by the inevitable crash-and-burn of one of these types of relationships, we swear off rollercoasters.
Then we seek and seek, but we can’t find that same level of intensity in the less-scary rides. So we either find ourselves riding a new rollercoaster (pun intended), going back on an old rollercoaster, or finding a stable relationship yet questioning whether it’s intense enough to be the real deal.
Is this anxious-chemistry-amazing-sex-in-loveness really what we want?
When we have it, all we crave is to be with someone stable, affectionate and kind. But when we find it we go back to craving the magnetic attraction to unavailable partners.
Antonia’s current relationship is everything her previous relationship wasn’t. My relationship with Bloody Good Chap is everything that my previous relationships weren’t. We both now have everything we ever wanted. Or so we thought.
Yet both Antonia and I have had periods where we seriously question the stability and ease of our current relationships. Is this really right?
Is this love?
It feels really good, but it’s not like what I called love before?
We let our mind go into over analysis, which takes us away from enjoying what we have. We start to feel that we need to justify the relationship to ourselves; our friends; and even our partners.
It also increases the likelihood that our partner will fall madly for us. While we’re over analysing, we’re withholding from them. For them this creates the exact anxiety-high attachment that our previous partners created for us. And then this freaks us out more, because they’re clearly falling for us, and this makes us feel pressured to be more sure of whether we really love them or not.
But all we can find in our head is over analysis based on the past.
It’s a catch-22 that leaves many a decent relationship on shaky ground.
What we forget is that we don’t actually know what love is.
No one ever told us, we just worked it out based on our own experiences. What we call love is what someone else might call “in love” or “lust” or “friendship” or “I care about you”.
From my own overanalysis of my past relationships, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are two very different categories of love (though there are surely a million more).
In love / Clitoral Love
I liken the first kind of love to a clitoral orgasm.
It’s quick to build, like chucking petrol on a fire, and it brings us such steep, intense peaks. But after the peak comes a sudden lull, we often feel energyless and drained, and not quite satisfied. We experience a come-down, if you will, like a drug, and it leaves us craving more. This is the kind of chemistry-in-love feeling that I’ve experienced before – passionate, quick to a flame, but quick to extinguish, (before reigniting, and so on); always leaving a not-quite-satisfied feeling. This creates a sort of obsessive attachment that magnetises us to our partner like nothing else.
I think that this is what most of us call being “in love”. And we often tend to think that this is the ultimate goal/ necessary for a strong relationship. Yet I would go so far as to say that it only exists in relationships where the longevity or stability of the relationship is questionable. It tends to come hand in hand with the feeling that the object of our desire could be whisked away from us at any moment.
This could be in a relationship with someone we think is too cool/ too good for us; someone who is likely to cheat on us; someone who is emotionally unavailable; or someone who we have a finite amount of time with (someone we meet while travelling or who is about to leave the country.)
That’s not to say that we can’t make it work with these people, they might well be just as in love as us and prepared to put in the work to make the flame more steady-burning. But it is definitely a tricky sea to navigate.
- Love/ G-spot love
The second kind of love I liken to a g-spot orgasm.
It takes a long time to build, like a slow burning wood fire, the heat builds slowly over time.
In fact, you’re not even sure it’s building half the time; it’s very subtle. It feels stable; deeper; less peaky. When the orgasm comes, it comes in deep, long lasting waves, and it leaves you feeling satisfied and full. The subtle pleasure can last hours beyond the orgasm, and it doesn’t have a comedown. This is the kind of deeper love that exists in a stable, loving, best-friend relationship. Like a wood burning fire. It takes a while to grow, and though it feels good, we can question its lack of petrol-flame intensity. But in the end it feels so much more full and satisfying than the chemistry-intense high of falling in love.
I used to call this second type of love “just love”. Like “I love him, but I’m not IN love with him.” Love meant less to me than “in love”.
It’s taken me a long time to realise that this second type of love is what I actually want; and in fact it’s not “just” love, it’s the kind of deep, long-lasting love that makes me miss a person for years after we separate. Whereas the initial pain of an “in-love” breakup is intense; it often leaves me fairly indifferent about the relationship (other than craving the sexual chemistry) in the long term.
But that doesn’t stop my mind taking me back to those chemistry-laden relationships from time to time.
It tries to remind me of the intensity while sweeping all the drama and anxiety under the carpet.
I posit that anyone who has found the crazy highs of being in a crazy in-love relationship will often spend years (or lives) looking for that same feeling again, often throwing away amazing partnerships with people who they love in the latter way.
We’re like heroin addicts, we remember the highs of the drug, we forget the lows, and we allow those feelings of craving to make us question the stable, grounded joy of being in a secure, loving relationship.
And if we’re really unaware, as I was in past relationships, we end up recreating the highs and lows with a stable partner by destablising the relationship from the inside out.
I did it in the form of breaking up and getting back together with boyfriends and picking fights and causing drama that would jeopardise the stability of the relationship so that I could have the anxiety of nearly losing them so that it could flip into the elation of winning them back.
It came at enormous cost to both me and dudes I did this to.
And I had no idea I was doing it.
But now that I’ve redefined what love means to me, I suddenly find myself absolutely loving my stable, happy relationship with Bloody Good Chap. When the overanalysis pops in for a cup of tea, I thank it for its concern and kindly escort it to the door.
What I have now is what I really want, and anything else is just traces of a drug-like addiction to unhealthy relationships.
If you struggle with your over analysing mind as Antonia and I have, I hope that these new perspectives on love might help you to differentiate between what you really want, and what your mind keeps harassing you with.
This is the foundation of what I teach. What our mind says is often not in our best interests, and should not be taken seriously.
The sooner we can learn this, the sooner we can live a Bloody Good Life.
(Ps, yes I know we look like squinty little evil-ninjas in this photo. I’m running out of BGC selfies)