We've all been there. You've met a new guy. You've gone on a date or two. And you can't stop thinking about him. Or talking about him. Or obsessing to see if he's emailed/called/texted/tweeted/or posted on your wall in the last five seconds. And so you check...and re-check your phone or your Facebook or your email--over and over again. You know it's irrational, but you just can't seem to stop.
Well, you can blame it on biology, says Rebecca Gladding, MD, author of the new book "You are Not Your Brain."
"Desire, feeling a connection with someone special, hope for a future with someone and love are some of the strongest positive emotions we can have," she says. "When you feel like that, you never want it to end. And, when you have contact with him, especially at the beginning, you feel that wonderful rush over and over. That's why you're dying to see if he's contacted you - it feels good."
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And that "good" feeling acts as a reward to your brain, says Gladding. Which means it will start wanting to make it a priority.
"In essence, by constantly focusing on that feeling and behavior, you 'teach' your brain that this activity (i.e., checking texts, etc) needs to be done more often," Gladding explains. "This ramps up the activity in your brain and causes your Habit Center (i.e., basal ganglia) to automatically respond without much thought or awareness; rather than thinking about whether you should text or not, you immediately respond to the desire to feel connected by checking email/text/etc."
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Unfortunately, this kind of behavior can backfire if not kept in check. Especially if you're not only checking your texts, but texting back, in hopes of a response.
"You might be annoying him - because you are feeling so overpowered by the urges and desires to connect with him," says Gladding. "You cause him to feel crowded or to feel bad because he can't text you back as often as you text him (i.e., if he's really busy at work, etc)."
So how do we curb our obsession and retrain our brains? Rebecca says there are four steps we must take.
1. Relabel: Call your obsessive texting what it is: an obsession, a NEED to connect. Say: "This is my desire or insecurity getting in the way!"
2. Reframe: Remind yourself that you are having these urges to text him because you really like him and want to feel that connection (or because you are anxious that there's a problem in the relationship).