There is nothing quite like the realization that it's time to call it quits. Sometimes the truth sweeps over me like fear, creeping into my stomach and twisting it just enough to make me nauseous, but not enough to actually make me sick. Perhaps as a direct response to the nausea and the heart ache, some part of my brain launches a desperate campaign to convince me that Mr. So Long could still be Mr. Right.
Whether it's major red flags in the relationship, like dishonesty and abuse, or the simple but important realization that he can’t love you the way you need to be loved, so many of us talk ourselves out of moving on.
Recent research in neuroscience has uncovered a connection between chemicals in our brains released by physical touch and emotional intimacy–oxytocin and vasopressin–and bonding between men and women in romantic relationships. Anthropologist Helen Fisher explains that “romantic love is an addiction: a perfectly wonderful addiction when it’s going well, and a perfectly horrible addiction when it’s going poorly.” Fisher and many neuroscientists define love as a partly chemical addiction, which explains why we so often cling to relationships even when they are bad for us.
Feel-good chemicals wreaking havoc on our brains can certainly play a role in making break-ups more difficult, especially in more physical or sexually active relationships, but we can't blame it all on the oxytocin. Letting go of a man can also be scary because it may mean letting go of a dream and having to embrace the unknown.
However, mind over matter is achievable when it comes to love, and it's critical for women to practice getting in the dating mindset so that the man we fall in love with will be the one who can love us back. It’s easy to slip into a kind of love haze; so many of us have been there. Before we met him, Mr. Right could have been anyone, and this prospect was exciting. But as the haze slowly wears off, we may find ourselves unhappy, and instead of looking for the exit, we begin to change our ideals of a loving relationship so that the guy we are dating can continue to play the leading man.
It's important to remember that, even though dating relationships can be exclusive, no one has promised “till death do we part”. Dating means we need to maintain a discerning attitude; ignoring our needs or red flags when deciding whether or not to share the rest of our life with a man could severely jeopardize both of our longterm happiness. Too often, we settle for unhappiness when we should be turning towards the promise of the unknown.
Photo via flickr user Riley Alexandra