“Oh, leave me alone, Dr. Deb. I’m in the bliss of love; I do not want to think of such boring things as friendship.”
I know exactly what you mean. Friendship sounds boring. Whereas falling in love is so exciting. Chemistry will back you up, too. Your brain chemistry is actually different when you fall in love than all the rest of your life.
The Chemistry of Attraction
In fact, the chemistry mimics the high of addiction. Researchers have pinned down the chemicals that flow in our brains and bodies when we have that rush of romantic excitement. Here’s some interesting research. A psychologist in York, England, had subjects who were complete strangers follow this protocol: They told each other intimate details of their lives for half an hour and then were directed to stare into each other’s eyes for another four minutes without speaking.
You won’t believe this. Or maybe you will. The subjects in many cases reported feeling “deeply attracted” to the other person—and two of these couples got married!
Researchers have demonstrated that that heart-pounding feeling of being in love is driven by norepinephrine, which is chemically related to adrenaline. Dopamine, found in the brains of people who are addicted, is also involved. And serotonin goes down. The level found in lovers is the same as that found in people experiencing obsessive compulsion. No wonder partners both obsess about the loved one and idealize the person.
Who would want to give this up?
But I’m not asking you to. I’m saying I’ve got the secret for having your cake and eating it, too. You can—and should—delight in the heart-pounding giddiness of love. It was planted within our brains to enjoy.
But if you want the whole thing to last, then you need friendship, too. And friendship is most certainly not boring. Think of your own good friends, the ones who have your back, the ones who are there for you, no matter what. The ones you can tell anything to and the ones you would do anything for. That stuff is real, dependable, and meaningful. Remembering times your friend was there for you brings tears to your eyes. Well, it does to mine.
So what is friendship? It is mutual:
A key here is the word “mutual.” Friendship has to be a two-way street. You are generous to each other with your time, your ideas, your feelings. You value what’s in the other person’s head and who that person is. You respect one another, always, even if you get angry. And there’s joy in being together.
This is the combination that gets you through the storms of life; it helps you enjoy the good times more because someone special is with you. And when friendship underlies the attraction, you can trust the other person completely. If your friend looks out for you and cares for your soul, not just your body, then you know you will not be taken advantage of.
Friendship and Attraction: A Perfect Mix
What’s more, there are ways to resurrect the excitement of falling in love for long-term couples who are true friends. That life gets in the way in the form of kids, mortgages, work, and in-laws should not dictate leaving the excitement behind. It can be revived by taking time—regularly—for just the two of you to be romantic.
If that English researcher found that total strangers could be attracted by looking into each other’s eyes and telling personal secrets, surely two good friends who happen to be married or in a relationship can reignite the spark the same way.
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