I love my wife – But I’m not “IN LOVE” with her!
Everyone thought that Mark and Sarah were the perfect couple. They remember when it was time for Mark to start dating. He was the “ideal catch” for any young woman who was lucky enough to get him. Mark’s father was a prominent doctor in New York. And his mother always praised Mark for being her favorite son – he was the youngest of four brothers. His parents started getting calls from the Shadchanim when Mark was 21. But they wanted Mark to finish college before he started dating.
Shortly after graduation, his parents had an impressive list of “eligible” young women. Meaning that they came from good family stock, excelled in Seminary and were certainly attractive. Mark enjoyed the dating process. He felt like when he was a boy and his parents told him that he could pick any flavor at the ice cream store. Yes, Mark had a great time dating and so did the sweet girls; that is until he broke it off usually after about seven dates. These girls couldn’t figure it out. Everything seemed to be going so well with Mark. He was attentive and funny. And he always flattered them and took them to the best restaurants and shows. To their dismay, after about five dates, they noticed that he no longer had that charm that they saw at the beginning. In fact, it looked like Mark was losing interest in them and was getting bored and reluctant to engage in conversation.
Even though his parents were getting frustrated with Mark’s dating pattern, they always blamed it on the girls. None of them were “good enough” for Mark. That is until Sarah came along. She had all the traits that Mark wanted in a girl. And she even played a little bit hard to get. Mark couldn’t resist and he married Sarah on Lag B’Omer 2008.
Mark was definitely “in love” with Sarah. He took her out to dinner all the time and showered her with gifts. They bought a nice apartment on the Upper West side of Manhattan in a trendy neighborhood. Sarah quickly got pregnant with their first child and within two years with their second. Sarah was a stay-at-home mom, while Mark worked in a fast paced brokerage office near Wall Street. Sarah changed diapers and made sure that their maid kept the house clean. She surrounded herself with other moms and hosted playtime in her home with their toddlers. Sarah had graduated at the top of her class from college with a marketing degree, but no longer had time to pursue her promising career.
Mark was climbing the corporate ladder and had an impressive office with a secretary and an assistant (both were quite attractive and ambitious). It wasn’t unusual for Mark to skip the special dinner that Sarah prepared since his job kept him in the office or with a client until late at night. There just didn’t seem to be time for Mark and Sarah to go out to the restaurants anymore or take those romantic trips out of town. By the time Mark got home, Sarah was exhausted after taking care of the kids and their home. She often fell asleep before Mark arrived.
Before they realized what hit them, Mark and Sarah no longer had that “heart racing, euphoric, sweaty palm, wanna be with you all the time, IN LOVE” feeling they had while dating and in the first years of their marriage. When they came to see me, they each complained about how their spouse treated them and how they seemed to have fallen out of love. Sure, they wanted to stay married, but felt like they had become friends rather than lovers.
It wasn’t long before they took so much distance from one another that they began to talk about divorce. Sarah suspected it, but couldn’t confirm why Mark was spending so much time at the office and on out of town trips. And she wasn’t comfortable knowing that Mark had an assistant who was young, attractive and determined to get ahead. Mark couldn’t figure it our either. He loved Sarah. But he seemed to lose interest in her and started to feel that “rush” that he used to have with Sarah, but this time with his assistant. By the time they came to me, lines had been crossed and their trust was broken.
After hearing their story and the patterns that were emerging, I explained to them about research on the neuroscience of love and lust. Dr. Fred Nour M.D. has recently published a book about the Four Phases of Marriage:
1) Mate selection
2) Falling in love
3) Falling out of love and
4) True Love.
The research shows how the brain is stimulated to respond based on certain powerful brain chemicals in all four phases. In the Mate Selection Phase, our brain uses a blend of our upbringing along with our physical senses. In the Falling in Love phase - epinephrine, dopamine and serotonin create that high but are short lasting. Once these end, it is possible to conclude that we have fallen out of love. And we may pursue the “addictive rush” of falling in love with another partner. These chemicals along with oxytocin and vasopressin are also released while watching pornography.
Unfortunately, couples may assume that since that feeling of romance is gone, that they should get divorced. But I explained to Mark and Sarah that if couples are patient, another set of brain chemicals called nonapetides will be generated. These chemicals cause strong bonding with one partner only and promote trust, calmness and a harmonious marital relationship. I also taught Mark and Sarah that they can take active steps to enhance and encourage the True Love phase, including: Introspection, Intimacy, Courage, Cooperation, Discipline and Trust.
It wasn’t always easy for Mark and Sarah to practice these steps, but thanks to their commitment and patience with one another, they are experiencing and appreciating the power of True Love!
We share Mark’s and Sarah’s story as we are writing a Monthly Series about lust and internet addiction. In upcoming articles, you will learn a lot more about this "dis-ease." We will share more stories about real husbands and wives, and how you will learn about the cause and effect cycle that leads to all addictive behaviors. The research and methods we present are based on the well-known 12 Step Program for Addictions, the Art and Science of Personal Development and Motivation utilizing the latest insights from the fields of neuro-psychology and enriched by the enlightening Wisdom of our Sages.
Please know that this disease does not discriminate whether you are young or old, traditional or modern, whether you wear a kippa or a sheitel... or not! This Lust Addiction is truly a “Silent Killer.” It can exist in your midst and you may not even know it.