You may often hear happily married men say that the first time they saw their wife, they knew she was the one for them. Some men are attracted to a woman’s smile, others are attracted to her scent, and some men just feel right, like they’re “home”. Gottesman says that Julie is not the most beautiful woman he has ever seen, nor is she the richest, and Julie’s life together is not completely conflict-free. But there is a special quality in Julie that is hard to describe. She was the most different of all the women he had dated. This difference convinced him deeply that she was the love of his life. Rachel’s husband also said: “Rachel’s smile attracted me the most. I didn’t even see her face before I heard her laugh. It sounds strange, but it was her laughter that attracted me. Her laughter was full of pleasure and freedom. When she laughed, I immediately felt it. Even now, 30 years later, I am still proud of the lines on her face. It’s all for me to laugh.”
This doesn’t mean that the moment you see someone, you can know if you can watch the sunset with her hand in hand and be happy forever. You still need time to get to know each other, and you still need to go through the stages of love. You will also have all kinds of emotional ups and downs when the other person bothers you. That’s what intimacy is all about. Whether it’s through her laughter or her three or four years of dating experience, you will eventually know if this woman is the one for you in this life. You can’t force yourself to stay with her for the rest of your life.
In the love lab, we can teach partners communication skills, how to handle conflict, how to express love and emotions, and how to deal with fights. But if you are not dating the “right” person, there is no skill that can make up for your relationship with her. We have over 40 years of experience in partner counseling, so we believe that not everyone can spend a lifetime with you.
Contrary to popular belief and traditional gender stereotypes, men crave commitment just as much as women do. Sometimes it takes men a long time to realize this; sometimes they feel conflicted about it because they subconsciously feel it conflicts with evolution. But research shows that men actually want to find the one in their lives as much as women do.
But some women are not. Not all women want a big house with a white picket fence and 2 kids, and not all want to try to rush you into a commitment and seduce you into marriage after the first date. This is just a stereotype about women that is old and outdated. Modern women have choices, and there are plenty of them. The social roles of men and women have changed dramatically in the last 100 years. Again, not all men are playboys who want to sleep with as many women as possible, and never marry, and still have one night with someone else before they die. Research shows that men want meaningful, seriously committed long-term relationships just as much as women do.
The three stages of love
In previous chapters, we talked about the first stage of love, the infatuation stage. During the infatuation phase, you produce a steady stream of oxytocin, dopamine, phenylethylamine, testosterone, progesterone, serotonin and dehydroisosterone, and your entire body is in a state of complete chemical hormonal chaos. You will be sleeplessly thinking about your lover. You will be extremely excited and immersed in love from head to toe. You will also find yourself doing some crazy things. Likewise, that woman you love will experience the same big hormonal swings. Even if you’ve dated 100 girls, you probably won’t find this feeling of the infatuation switch being flipped all at once. But it’s quite possible that when the 101st girl comes along, she smells right, looks right, in short, everything about her is just right to charm you. At that point, you immediately fall into a period of infatuation.
The infatuation period drives us to connect, attach to each other, and then mate. Evolution doesn’t consider whether the other person is a good person or not. Evolution only drives you to find the right person and produce offspring with the best genes. The infatuation phase is fascinating, but it only happens when you and she are infatuated with each other. If you are infatuated with her, but the other person only sees you as a friend, then you may be very devastated. But there is not much you can do about it, although you will try to pursue each other hard, but this will only make you more troubled. If she is in a period of infatuation and you are not there, she may also feel very annoyed and distressed. Unrequited love can make both men and women obsessed and easily manipulated, possibly even frantically hiding in the bushes outside each other’s houses to observe each other. The chemicals that make you feel infatuated are very selective. But when you’re obsessed with each other, it’s a great feeling.
However, when you are in the infatuation period, it is not suitable to decide whether you can be together in the future. And you don’t want to impulsively go to Vegas and get married in some random church just because you think she’s the one for you. This is not a good time. Love is indeed wonderful, but oxytocin diminishes your fear response. At this point, even if there’s a flashing red light warning or a big neon sign that says “dangerous curve ahead,” oxytocin will make you blindly trust each other.
Not everyone in the world feels the infatuation of love, especially in areas with a tradition of arranged marriages. However, even in cultures with arranged marriages, anthropologists have found that there is some element of choice in the process of choosing a mate. Two families in India may be able to arrange separate matches for their sons and daughters, but if a woman does not like the other person, she may choose to wear a yellow sari instead of the blue one. Likewise, there are some hinted signals from the male partner. If both parties are not satisfied, both families will blame this on astrological discord and stop the blind date. Then, the parents will arrange another blind date. The infatuation phase is neither a sufficient nor a necessary condition for those who want to find a lifelong partner.
In the second stage of love, you begin to calm down from the hormone-driven ecstasy of love, doubts begin to become clear, and you see alarms that you previously ignored. The key to this second stage is building trust. This stage usually occurs in the first few years of a long-term relationship when you plan to live together. The evolutionary driving force in this stage is reproductive drive. Evolutionary biology drives you to look for the best genes for mating in the first stage, and to look for people who can help you reproduce and care for your offspring in the second stage, whether you have reproductive plans or not, biology doesn’t care what you think.
What you’re looking for is actually trust. Will a woman think about a man when he is in need? What about when a woman is in need? In the second stage of love, the qualities that attracted you to the other person before can instead become factors that annoy you or require careful consideration. You fell in love with her because she was shy, but now you wish she could be more outgoing and have more personal pursuits; she fell in love with you playing soccer with your brothers every Sunday, but now she’s wondering what she would do if she wanted you to be with her one Sunday. In the second stage of love, the heart of all disputes lies in trust. There is really only one question that bothers you: Will you be ready to help me when I need you? This may seem to include many other questions as well: Will you be faithful to me? Will you take care of me when I’m sick? How important am I to you? Can I trust you to be a man of your word and keep your promises? These questions and controversies are all in preparation for procreation. Because even in prehistoric times, no cavewoman wanted to sit in her cave and worry constantly about whether her man would bring back food for herself and her family; and no caveman wanted to return to his cave after a day of hunting to find another man tending his family’s fire.
The second stage is about building trust, while the third stage is about building loyalty. When you are in the third stage of love, you have chosen to make a serious commitment, knowing that the other person is the woman you are looking for. This decision is amazing, but it also means that you become vulnerable and susceptible to hurt. In this stage, you choose to go down the rabbit hole with your partner and embark on an amazing journey together. You are committed to making each other happy, just as you are committed to making yourself happy. Commitment is very powerful and goes both ways. Each stage of love is selective. To succeed in the third stage, both of you must commit to being the only one for each other and be able to sacrifice for each other. If you don’t want a monogamous life, then you will most likely become infatuated with another person and experience the first stage of love all over again. When you enter the third stage, you will still experience the effects of oxytocin when you reach orgasm or express your love for each other. At this point, the secretion of oxytocin will strengthen the bond between you. However, the secretion of other hormones will also decrease dramatically. In the second stage, any relationship outside of monogamy will threaten your entry into the third stage, where the hormones and chemicals associated with romantic love are highly selective.
Some partners choose to commit to each other and enter into marriage without ever having experienced the various stages of love, or even the infatuation stage. The study found that these partners who never felt “in love” always questioned whether they had made the right choices in life and always felt something was missing from their partnership.
Partners who have gone through the full three stages often feel that their partnership has some special meaning because together they have created something beyond themselves. When it comes to the story of how they met, met and fell in love, these people often express intense love. They are very at ease together and are able to spill their hearts to each other. They create a common meaning in life. They trust each other and are loyal to each other. Trust and loyalty are signs of commitment to each other. If a woman wants commitment, then all she wants is trust and loyalty. If you want commitment, you should also look for the woman who can give you trust and loyalty.
Of course, not all commitment will eventually lead to a white marriage. But studies show that when men get married, they are happier, healthier, live longer, and make more money. We’re not asking you to think of marriage as a preventative medical measure. But both personal experience and empirical research tell us that if you can build a deep, committed relationship with a woman in the third stage, you will be very satisfied in every way. For gay men, the same benefits may be gained by establishing such a relationship with a man. A man can be his best self when he finds a true partner.
What exactly can you gain when you give up a one-night fling? You can get the love and happiness of a lifetime if you are willing to work at it. Nothing more, nothing less.
How can I be sure?
Love and commitment are sometimes subtle. We’ve talked about the physical construct of the three stages of love, but what does it actually feel like? How can you know that she is the one for you?
There are probably more than 10,000 women on the planet with whom you could happily spend your life. So there is no “the one”, only many “possible ones”. We have spent decades in our love lab studying the real lives of real partners. We have found that if she makes you feel insecure, uncomfortable with yourself, unattractive and unappealing, or rejected, or just not very good, then she is not the one for you in your life. If she makes you feel desirable, attractive, funny, and just plain awesome, then she’s one of your many “possible ones”. If you can make her feel the same way, you’re the one for her. You need to remember that. If you feel like you’re “home” when you’re with her, that means she’s the one for you.
When you find the right person, you will feel very comfortable and relaxed, as if you are lying in a warm bed customized for you. If you feel very negative every time you’re together, as if you’re lying on a cold, prickly sheet, then she’s not the one you’re looking for. A good partnership doesn’t leave you with only negative feelings. Of course, there will always be conflicts as you get along and adapt. But when you find the right woman, you’ll feel like you’ve become a better version of yourself, and you’ll be more energetic, more pleasant and full of energy. If the relationship is not right, then you will feel angry, helpless, and possibly abusing substances. You’ll feel like crap.
The most common misconception is that you need to be completely compatible and similar in every way to be the best partner. It’s best if you have the same habits, preferences and even outlook on life. But our research shows that the same interests are one of the least important factors. What’s more important is how you feel when you’re together. You may both like to row a small boat, but you spend the entire rowing session arguing, so it doesn’t matter if you have a common hobby of rowing.
You can’t be exactly alike. And that’s a good thing. Men and women need to learn from each other about their differences. But there are some similarities that are also important, and that’s how you feel. Do you feel the same way about anger, sadness, fear and joy? How do you express intimacy and love? If your feelings are different, then this can cause you a lot of trouble. You will need to work harder to maintain the relationship.
We call this a meta-emotional mismatch. If one of you tries to avoid expressions and conflicts, or feels uncomfortable expressing your feelings, while the other is more erratic and intense, then you will have a lot of trouble. If your meta-emotions don’t match, one partner will feel that the other is pushing too hard, while the other will feel that the other is too cold. This combination is difficult to pull off, especially in the realm of intimate relationships.
Love is an emotional need. If you grew up in a family that was not very good at expressing love or affection for each other, and she is very fond of touch and intimate interactions, this can create problems in your intimate relationship and you need to address it. If you feel and express anger, sadness, and fear differently, this can also cause problems in your relationship.
The only real determinant of whether she is your partner for life is the children. However, if her views on children are completely opposite to yours, for example, one wants children and the other does not, then she is unlikely to be your partner for life.
Commit to living longer
If you’re like most men, you’d think you could achieve your longevity goals by eating healthy, exercising sensibly and controlling your weight. But research shows that taking the time to build emotional connections with those close to you, especially with your partner, is the secret to a long and healthy life. A good intimate relationship is the best self-interest behavior.
Interestingly enough, marriage, not cohabitation, can provide you with the most benefits in terms of a long and healthy life. You may think “marriage is just a piece of paper, I don’t need it to commit me”, but scientific research says otherwise. To prove this, we need to study those who choose to live together and those who choose to marry. Research shows that we can predict who will cohabitate or who will marry by their high school grades. The group of people who choose to cohabitate usually have poorer grades in high school and also have more other problems, such as being more likely to drink heavily, have promiscuous relationships, and drink and drive. None of these make for a healthier person.
In the book American Couples, Philip Schwartz and Philip Blumstein studied over 12,000 heterosexual cohabiting groups, gay couples, and married couples.
The results of their study were surprising. They originally believed that the longer people cohabitated, the more they would resemble married couples. But the study found the exact opposite. The longer partners lived together, the less they resembled married partners on the issue of commitment to each other. By commitment, we mean not only sexual fidelity, but also the support that cohabitants give each other when financial difficulties arise. Cohabitants are also more likely to leave an existing relationship when someone better comes along. In other words, cohabitants have lower levels of commitment to each other compared to married people.
On average, marriage and the commitment that comes with it can add up to eight years to a man’s life expectancy. For men, quality commitment and intimacy is the key to a long and healthy life. In terms of health, a well-educated female partner provides greater benefits.
The number of people, both men and women, attending college has increased dramatically over the past 40 years. Now, about 70 percent of high school students will choose to attend college after graduation. Studies show that higher levels of education and social status lead to greater health benefits. Between 1977 and 1992, scientists in Norway conducted a large study in which they followed 20,000 men between the ages of 35 and 56. The study found that education, especially a higher level of education for the wife, had a significant positive effect on cardiovascular health in men.
The study also found that men whose wives had higher levels of education had lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. In her book The Case for Marriage, sociologist Linda Waite mentions that the reason marriage has particularly clear benefits for men is that single men are almost always less able to take good care of themselves.
Single men are also more likely to be socially isolated, drink more alcohol, and use drugs more often. But this is the exact opposite for women, who are healthier without a man.
University of Michigan psychologist James House (James House) published a study in the journal Science. The study showed that men who were isolated from social activities had shorter life spans.
For most men, being married to a woman means they will lead a more active and healthy social life, and therefore they will be healthier than when they are single.
If by now you don’t have any motivation to find the other half of your life, then we don’t know what could motivate you more than a long and healthy life.
Commitment is a journey
Commitment is the desire for a long-term relationship and the effort you will put into that relationship. When you commit, you say, “This is the woman I’m looking for, this is my journey, and this is my path.” When you find that person, you will cherish her and appreciate the difference she brings to you. You won’t compare your relationship with her to what you’ve lost. Your relationship is about more than trust and loyalty; it is a heroic journey, the journey of a successful person.
You’ve decided to embark on this journey. Sure, it might be a little risky. You think that this relationship, this woman, is all you need. You vow to be faithful to this relationship, no matter what happens, no matter how stormy it gets. You are willing to start a life with this woman, loving her for who she was and supporting her to become the person she wants to be.
When a man commits, he embarks on the journey of the successful man. The journey of the loser goes something like this, “Someone better may come along, so why should I rush into commitment?” If you have found the love of your life, then you need to cherish her, harmonize with her You need to cherish her, reconcile your emotions with her, and give her your commitment, and always think of her. You will know how wonderful such a life can be.
For us, the experience was a very personal one. We’ve been on this journey for decades. Life is more wonderful than our wildest dreams.