Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Applying the Brakes

Remember when you were a kid, and your parents were driving the whole family to Disneyland or Magic Mountain or Lion Country Safari? As soon as you saw the signs on the highway telling you there were only a few miles left to go, you hopped up and down on your seat and squealed, “Faster! Faster!” You couldn’t wait to get there. Remember what your parents said in response? “Calm down. It’ll still be there when we get there.” The same holds true for this thing you’re on the verge of experiencing. Calm down. It’ll still be there when you get there. You’re still in the ignition stage. As you read through this chapter, I want you to envision a flashing yellow light. Proceed cautiously. Don’t come to a complete stop, but slow down and look both ways. Enjoy the scenery. I know it’s hard chilling out when you can’t wait to arrive. (I have a daughter. We’ve been to Disney World.) But there are lots of really good reasons why it’s a good idea to take a deep breath and gently apply the brakes, or at least be a little less lead-footed with the gas.
In previous chapters, I talk about the chemistry of love. What you’re dealing with in this early stage of dating is the chemistry of lust, which can be much more compelling and much more confusing. When your dates go well, your brain becomes flooded with natural amphetamines, or uppers, that make you feel — literally — high on life. You’re full of happiness, energy, optimism. If you were on an old Mary Tyler Moore Show episode, you’d toss your hat up in the air. It feels like this excitement will last forever, which is lust’s practical joke on us all. It doesn’t last. Eventually, the chemicals fade, and if deeper feelings haven’t developed, your fledgling “relationship” fades as well. When you race into a relationship instead of meandering along the scenic route, not only do you miss out on all the good stuff you’d never see otherwise, but you also set yourself up to drive straight off a cliff if things don’t work out. It’s hard to see all those Dead End or Detour or Slippery When Wet signs when you’re speeding, so the ultimate crash and burn takes you completely by surprise.
  • Focus: Why do I really want this person in my life? Is it about liking him or her or how good it feels to have this person like me?
  • Motive: Is this a romance or a rescue mission? Do I need or want this person?
  • Rationale: Do I think I’ll lose him or her if I don’t give all I’ve got right away?
  • Function: Is this more about getting into bed rather than getting to know someone?
Be honest. It’s important to know what’s truly lurking in your head and your heart. Misleading a date is uncool. Misleading yourself is unwise.

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