Not to take away from the magic of that first kiss, but let's talk about what's really going on in the beginning of a new relationship. Before deep love has time to take root, we experience strong infatuation — and it's taking place at the neuro-chemical level. Two central chemicals are at play: dopamine and oxytocin. First of all, dopamine is the feel-good, foot-on-the-gas, got-to-have-it factor. It drives you to want to have sex as soon as possible with your new love interest.
When you do go for it, you also encourage the production of oxytocin. Oxytocin is the cuddle, bonding, unconditional love hormone. So, here's what you need to consider: once you start having sex with a new love interest, dopamine is supplying the kick and drive, and oxytocin is causing you to fall in love. Having sex too soon in the relationship will most likely have you bonding to a person whom you scarcely know outside the bedroom — and who may be all wrong for you in significant ways.
And guess what else? Dopamine goes straight to the pleasure receptors in the brain, which demand more and more to get high. How many women have told me that they know he's all wrong, but still can't seem to break away? Or what about those couples who break up because, "it's not working," only to find themselves returning over and over because the sex is so good? When that happens it's a true case of "stuckness," as nothing beautiful is growing or moving forward. You may be having good sex but you're not getting much else.
So what are the issues that you want to be checking out in those first few months of dating? Here are 12 questions to ask yourself before jumping in the sack:
1. Does this person seem happy? It's generally not a good idea to hook up with a person who is basically unhappy and looking for you to fill the void. Happy people know themselves, their values, and their interests, and have more to offer.
2. How is this person doing in their other primary relationships: family, siblings, best friends, and co-workers? Sometimes we ignore evidence of people being surrounded by chaotic and dysfunctional relationships in the hope that we'll be the one true exception. This is probably not a good idea.
3. How did this person do in past romantic relationships? What has been the intensity, frequency, duration and context of these loves? Look for patterns that indiciate that relationships have been meaningful and have lasted for significant periods of time. They should have a good, coherent explanation of why things ended, including both parts in the demise.
4. Does this person show signs of being addicted or dependent on sex, alcohol, medications, or illegal drugs?
5. How many things about them are you really attracted to? There needs to be a lot if your relationship is going to last!
6. How aware are you of this person's faults? If you don't know them yet, it's too soon to decide to be in love.
7. Who are you when you're with this person? Do you like the way being with him/her affects your personality?
8. How deep, personal or intimate is the other able and willing to go? The relationship can only go as deep as the level of the least amount.
9. Is this person comfortable with interdependence or does she/he have a fierce need to be dependent or independent?
10. Is he or she jealous and insecure about you? Never good.
11. How consistent is your level of interest in each other? Do you use sex to make up for boredom with the other's intellect?
12. Is there a dependable degree of harmony? Couples don't always see eye-to-eye, but overall, a relationship should be more positive and loving than negative and nasty.
Looking for a good rule of thumb? Date for a few months. Get to know each other's dreams, values and goals over an array of circumstances. If it's right, sex will still be there — and it will be even better, because you'll have cultivated a real connection! Here's to sweet, erotic bonding with the man or woman of your dreams!
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