When you connect deeply with someone a new person evolves, a kind of third wheel singularity that makes choices in cooperation–and even in discord–with the two of you. I first heard this concept, of all places, while reading the book In Cold Blood: a true story about two men that murdered a family of four living peacefully in the country. The writer explained how neither of these men would have committed this crime on their own, but that when the two of them got together a kind of third personality was born. Once this new shadow of life emerged, deeds that would previously have been impossible became acceptable, and actions that would previously have been morally filtered out are acted upon.
I thought about this a lot! How often had I become a third person? Many times I realized. How often had I been careful in the creation of that person? chosen well? been aware? Seldom. Especially in romance.
I am unlike most girls. I never dreamed of a man who would buy me things. Not roses or chocolates or Lamborghinis– though I did hope one would gift me with children. I never dreamed of being spoiled are dripped in diamonds. I dreamed of working hard and saving people. Still, every year when the words “Will you be mine?” happened to find my ears via movies, grocery counter cards or radio ads, they coerced a feeling to stir within me, a feeling of yearning, of wanting, of wishing it were so. This would happen to me even if I had a special someone at the time. The difference then was I knew who to yearn for and who to be disappointed in when they didn’t buy me the flowers I didn’t even want.
Romance is tricky.
I should know, I’ve been married five times. Five times by the age of 43 often for the reason noted above: wanting what I didn’t want.
At one point I even dreamed of getting married on Feb 14th in a white wedding dress covered in embroidered roses. I wanted it to take place on a cruise ship that reminded me of The Love Boat. I wanted it most Februaries even though I hate the claustrophobic feeling of cruise ships and deplore dressing up. I do like weddings.
Fact is, it isn’t just me, people don’t always – or maybe never- make sense. They are full of contradictions and emotional responses easily manipulated by childhood dreams, music and imagery. Heck, even a camel will cry if you play them the right song. Seriously!
We may think we are strong but when it comes to romance, well, some of us are not.
So I devised a plan: Ask yourself who you want to be, how you like to spend your time, and if another person actually fits into this picture, Valentine That! The picture, the third person, the new reality.
Since you and the person you romance with, sleep with, plan with, work with, talk with, fight with etc, disappear into each other and create a new someone else, design with intention.
If you are wondering what it is that happens to you that could potentially make a new person out of you– they call it focus, but for this article we will call it love. This is because when you fall in love or reach to satisfy any yearning and then do, your nucleus accumbens lights up like a Christmas tree on LSD. This is your brain’s reward center having a party on its favorite neurochemicals. Actually, maybe I should have said cocaine instead of LSD because love keeps dopamine around almost as well as cocaine does, and dopamine is your reward center’s drug of choice.
Romantic love, like the pusher in the back alley, is addictive. Addictions change your brain. In fact all experiences change your brain, but addictions change them quicker and more profoundly by leading us to repeat our actions (in this case, focusing on our feelings and making them grow) over and over again. And as the apple of your eye’s pesky little pheromones infiltrate your brain, you lose your ability to judge and asses logically because your frontal lobes are not paying attention. At this point you no longer respond to warning signals about any aspect of your craved for sexy someone, at least until you are satiated. During this mainlining on love period we all lose a few IQ points by turning off our executive functions and lubricating our limbic system . Our sensory readings go through the roof as we “feel’ the other person’s nearness, even before we make contact. In a sense our auras extend our bodies into each other. Our brains begin to fire more coherently across the hemispheres like a love seizure of sustained dimensions. So we are happy,giddy and slightly stupid. This is the love drug of romance and while we engage in it we reshape the real-estate of our brains.
If you are lucky enough to find yourself surrounded by an intervention of friends who help you go cold turkey, you may emerge to discover that during your love drunk bender you reshaped yourself into someone you didn’t want to be. You may even of become legally entangled. (Don’t worry, divorce is pretty easy in Texas.)
And I should know, I’m a brain scientist, that’s been divorced five times. They call me The Brain Broad! I think it fits.
Fact is healthy love -which is what you hope you will have once the addictive period of romance backs off — is supportive, stress relieving, joyous, engaging, economically advantageous, and mentally enlivening–it is good for you. I know because all my non-romantic relationships are all of these things, these are the results of love and romance is not required to get them. I am blessed.
However regardless of who you love, you WILL become someone new, it happens, with each person you bond to, with or without romance. So “Who do I want to be?” should be the question you ask yourself not “Who do I want to want me, and what do I have to be to get them to?”
Being strong requires self-love. Being strong in romance, well, I never figured it out, but I suspect it requires choosing a third personality that fits your ideas, beliefs, and goals. Since I learned all that quite late while I was doing romance, I never asked the right question. Thus, I spent most of my life single, waiting for a divorce so I could try getting married again. Throughout my entanglements I have been many personalities. I have been traditional enough to run cowering to get his slippers, been bisexual, had open arrangements and monogamous commitments. I have been the matriarch, the submissive, the reject-or and the rejected. I have worn many faces as I married against my own true self and tried to become the woman they would want me to be. It never lasted because — as it turns out — I want to be, well, something unsexy and slightly intimidating. I want to be me.
I love me in fact. I am proud of my many accomplishments and enjoy all eight of my children, even the ones who don’t always enjoy me. I live to love, just not to romance. In fact, every hat I willingly wear is motivated by love.
That is what I discovered when I did ask the questions. That is when I admitted I don’t like flowers, gifts, chocolates, or dating. I like working, playing, skill acquisition, and creating. I don’t accept limitations and learn myself out of them. I also don’t want a mate, though if it happens I guess I’ll change my mind. What am I looking for? Nothing. What would entice me?: A beautiful third person. This understanding gives a whole new meaning to ménage a trois.
And yes, I know that since I get my dopamine rush from so many other satisfying places in my life, because I am loved and love without libido distortions and projections of romance, I might always be available to work on Valentine’s Day. Fortunately, my heart is in my work.
Remember, keep your eye on the person you create.