Nice to Meet You, Let’s Get Married

We all want to feel loved and be wanted. Who doesn’t love the rush of falling in love?
When we’re falling in love, we have increased levels of endorphin and dopamine. Our brains release oxytocin and cortisol. Oxytocin is a loving, feel-good hormone, and cortisol is the stress hormone. This causes us to feel happy and nervous at once. When the cortisol enters our bloodstream, it causes the blood vessels around our gut to constrict. This constricting sensation causes nausea or “butterflies.” Suddenly the world is a happier place, colors seem more vivid, and problems fade in importance. We feel complete in the presence of our love object. We’re just sure we found our soul mate and partner for life. But, as good as it feels, this chemical rush can be harmful if it causes us to jump too quickly into a legal contract of marriage.

I once met a couple who met on a Friday, and married on Saturday. They were happily married six children and seventeen years later. A hasty decision to marry is not always a predictor of divorce, but it certainly comes with risk. Fifty percent of first marriages in the US end in divorce. Sixty-seven percent of second marriages fail and 73% of third marriages end in divorce.

Helen Fisher, anthropologist of love, suggests that lovers should wait between a year and a year and a half for these chemicals to subside. There is not an unending supply of these chemicals. They always subside with time. Imagine marrying Mr. or Ms. Right before the rose-colored glasses are taken off. You risk feeling terribly disappointed when you see their quirks and short comings. This is the point when people declare “you’ve changed” or “I’m not in love any more.”

Generally speaking, falling in love too quickly says more about the person who is falling than it does about the object of their love. They are likely feeling incomplete in themselves. The allure of being loved can temporarily override a poor self image or inner emptiness. Intimacy can eradicate a sense of loneliness and social isolation. These are natural and healthy drives, but taken to extremes can result in poor choices. And if the object of your love struggles with the same issues, you’ll find two needy people trying to drink from the same empty well.

Men are quicker than women to remarry after a spouse dies or after a divorce. It is said that women mourn and men replace. However, it is more accurate to say that men and women differ in how they manage their grief. Interestingly, men spend more time around grave sites, tending them as a sign of their grief rather than talking or crying. Therapist Emily Gordon says that men tend to have fewer therapeutic resources and less emotional support to weather the storm of separation or loss. Therefore, they may seek out dating partners sooner than women.

Statistics show that women are often a lot happier after divorce. One third of men remarry and just a quarter of women do. For men whose marriage ends because of death there is often a desire to repeat the happiness they knew. But, women are not as happy in marriage as men.

My advice is to allow the feel good chemicals to abate over time in order to make a sound decision based on long term knowledge of a person. Take time to work on yourself so that you come to a marriage without excess baggage. Consider premarital counseling. It can help ensure that you and your partner have a strong, healthy relationship, giving you a better chance for a stable and satisfying marriage. It can also help you identify weaknesses that could become problems during marriage.

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