Call off the man hunt.
You’re fresh off a too good to be true first date. And you’re ready to lock it down.
You call your mom and all your girlfriends. You renew your lease for another year. You reshuffle your vacation plans because it’s too soon to leave the situation unattended for a weekend.
There’s no way this one isn’t sticking.
So you go on a second date. And it’s just as delicious. You start reading his favorite magazine and buy new outfits (green, because it’s his favorite color) for future dates that will certainly never cease to be amazing.
But something happens on the third or fourth or maybe fifth date.
A sophomore slump, of sorts. The letdown can come in many forms.
A deafening pause in the witty conversation. An off-color comment you realize isn’t a joke. A series of horrifying realizations: He’s a modern day Woody Allen who’s rude to waiters and has the eating habits of a picky four year old.
This simply will not do.
So you retreat to your mom and girlfriends with your tail between your legs and slowly back out of your previous claims. You have a lot of great excuses.
But you still want to know: What the hell happened to your perfect partner?
Was he a mirage? Had you temporarily gone insane? What changed between the too good to be true first date and the disastrous crash back down to earth?
The answer lies in the expectation gulf between the first two stages of dating.
Let me explain.
The first stage of dating is infatuation.
When you lose a Wednesday night doing diligence on social media, LinkedIn, Google images, and accidentally find yourself deep in the archives of their ex-girlfriends blog two hours later.
Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us. Neuroscientists found that your brain literally shuts down and roofies you during infatuation.
Your frontal cortex, responsible for judgment and logic, and amygdala, responsible for fear and negative emotions, just peace out. Add the fact that your brain is swimming in dopamine, the body’s equivalent of cocaine, and you’ve got straight up addiction, pleasure, and obsession.
This brain malfunction lets you act blissfully ignorant of consequences, blinded to his flaws, and deaf when your mothers says this is a God-blessed, awful idea.
But just as you’re cresting the wave of this euphoric high, the second stage kicks in.
Some psychologists call it landing, some call it ambivalence, some call it settling, some call it disillusionment.
It’s all code for soul-crushing reality check.
This is the stage with doubts, red flags, and imperfections ev-er-y-where. The drugs have worn off. Your brain turns back on. And you wonder how you never noticed how horrifyingly loud he chews.
I mean, did this sh** just come out of no where?
Don’t be disheartened – many couples work through the settling stage. They learn to accept and love someone exactly as they are. Or something like that.
I just can’t help but think the stronger the high of infatuation, the harsher the detox in the settling stage. When expectations are too far from reality, you’re destined to crash in the gulf.
When it feels too perfect, it probably is.
If the first few dates have you checking the availability of your married name on Instagram, then you should probably seek the counsel of unclouded judgement in your nearby vicinity.
Don’t make any sudden movements until you’ve come down from the buzz. Don’t invest in a new wardrobe, create a social media PR campaign to announce your love, or befriend his mother on Facebook until conditions improve.
If you’re still feeling love drunk after weeks of hard cold reality, then it might be the real deal. But until then, keep both hands on the wheel and your obsession to yourself.
And here’s to hoping your infatuation lasts, to the fifth date and beyond.