Forum: We now have a forum.  You can post anonymously if you choose to.  Please feel free to read posts, ask questions, make comments, or start new threads.  Click here to go to the LLS forum.
Comments:  If you find anything on this website helpful, or even if you have some constructive criticism to offer, please do let me know - click here and title your enqiry 'Feedback'.    
Facebook:  Please 'like' our facebook page by clicking the following link.  Through this page you can also see updates relating to this website and make comments.  Official Facebook Live Life Satisfied page
Twitter:    Follow us on Twitter and receive updates relating to this website.

Falling in Love Too Quickly Undermines Happiness

Let us now re-visit the assumptions I hold as central to the model I follow for achieving life satisfaction.

1. We all have many fantasies concerning what we want in life.
2. How far we are away from achieving these goals or fantasies and whether or not we feel that we are steadily moving towards these goals will determine how happy we are and how much life satisfaction we have.

As we have seen, falling in love activates a number of areas in the VTA in our brain.  The VTA is central to the brain’s ‘reward system’, the part of our brains that creates a sense of general concentration, arousal, pleasure and motivation to pursue goals.  In essence, when we fall in love, our brain activates a system that creates in us a powerful desire to pursue and obtain a goal.  So powerful are the feelings accompanying this desire that thoughts of this ‘goal’ (i.e. Thoughts of the one we love) activate some similar parts of the brain to those activated when someone is ‘high’ on cocaine.  The reason the brain creates such a powerful drive, is obvious: in order to survive, any living organism must reproduce.  Therefore finding a mate is one of the most important goals for any living organism that requires a mate for reproduction. 

Since the desire for a loved one is so intense, those who achieve their goal of pairing with the one they love experience intense satisfaction.  It has been found that some areas in the brain that are activated in those who are happily in love are similar to those who are ‘high’ on cocaine.  Unfortunately, since the desire for a loved one is so strong, if the goal is not achieved, and we do not pair with the individual we are experiencing ‘love’ feelings for, our level of life satisfaction may be inversely proportional to that which we experience if we pair with the individual we are ‘in love’ with.  In other words, since our desire was so strong, our disappointment will also be of great magnitude.  And the higher the level of activation of feelings we experienced in relation to the one we loved, the greater the level of disappointment we will feel if we do not pair with the one we have feelings towards. 

This has strong implications for those who ‘anxiously’ attach and have a tendency to hyperactivate their feelings of love and desire for a partner.  Remember that those who anxiously attach tend to fall in love quickly and sometimes somewhat indiscriminately.  They also will tend to let the ‘love’ feelings become intensely strong very quickly.  The implications of this are obvious.  Since the anxiously attaching individual falls in love often, sometimes even indiscriminately, they are more likely to make bad choices in terms of who they chose as potential partners.  This could mean ‘bad’ in terms of not having good qualities for relationship maintenance, but could also be bad in terms of falling for people who are not actually returning the ‘love’ interest.  In either event, these behaviours will result in an increase in the number of times the individual is disappointed in love i.e. Finds that her love feelings are either not returned or that she loses an existing lover due to relationship problems.  Due to the intensity of affect associated with being ‘in love’, the emotional cost of such behaviour is great.  The emotional burden placed on an individual who regularly falls ‘in love’ but who also is regularly forced to deal with the negative affect resulting from rejection, is high.  As was outlined in the article ‘What is Love?’, rage, depression and despondency are all typical responses to rejection from a lover. 

Now let us re-iterate the aforementioned criteria for experiencing life satisfaction:

‘How far we are away from achieving our goals or fantasies and whether or not we feel that we are steadily moving towards our goals will determine how happy we are and how much life satisfaction we have.’

Clearly, if the anxiously attaching individual is regularly falling in love (i.e. Setting the goal of obtaining a relationship with a particular individual) and getting rejected (and therefore not achieving their goal), she will be experiencing marked distress. 

In contrast to the anxious lover’s behaviour, avoidantly attaching individuals typically attempt to avoid intense feelings.  An avoidant individual may either avoid love relationships altogether, or may avoid attaching.  This response means that the avoidant individual does not have to experience the pain associated with loss from being rejected by a lover.  An important point that can be drawn from this response is that it is in fact possible to suppress feelings of love.  However, the trade off for the avoindantly attaching individual is that she is not able to enjoy the intense ‘high’ that comes from being in love and she may miss out on possible relationships and intimacy as a result of closing herself off from such experiences.