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In today’s video, I’m going to talk about the number one mistake people make when they fall in love, particularly younger people. And that is: spending way too much time together.
Read on to learn more about one of the counterintuitive causes of retroactive jealousy.
Zachary Stockill: I made this mistake when I was younger. Moving in together way too fast, giving up on our friendships and hobbies, feeling like we’re getting all of our social needs met by one person, that we can neglect all of our other extremely valuable social connections.
One of the people who sums this idea up really nicely and perhaps best is the psychotherapist, Esther Perel. She’s the writer of my favorite book on long-term relationships, “Mating in Captivity”.
Esther Perel talks about this idea that in the modern era, couples expect one person (our intimate partner) to fulfill all of the roles and all of our social needs. In other words, we expect our partner to be our therapist, co-parent, chef, trainer, best friend, lover, and on and on. We expect one person to provide us with all the intimacy and social connections that an entire village used to provide.
And obviously, this is insane. No person can do that for long.
If you have a great intimate partner, and you’re deeply in love, that person can add enormous dimensions to your life. They can spend some time filling multiple roles in your life as the case may be, but at the end of the day, we still need our friends and our acquaintances. We still need distance from our partners on a regular basis and sometimes it is extremely difficult to take this distance because those love hormones are absolutely jacked. They like the same movies we like and they listen to the same records that we listen to…
We feel like, “I found my best friend, my lover who I can have sex with, she’s amazing and etc. I don’t need my buddies anymore. I can quit my band, I don’t need to go out drinking with my friends every once in a while…” And for a while when we do this, everything is good. For a while this is fun, it feels like we’re creating our own little secret world with our lover, where it’s just “us against the world.”
We’re in this little lover’s cocoon, but eventually, this leads to a process of what some people would call depolarization. In other words, the attraction, the magnetism that originally drew us together, starts to become less and less and less.
Because we’re depolarizing from each other, we’re becoming more alike and this isn’t good for attraction. We start picking up each other’s habits, interests, and gestures. And all of a sudden, what initially drew us to our partner becomes lost because we’ve forgotten about it. We spent so much time together in this little lovers cocoon, and we’re neglecting the parts of ourselves that make us us. The parts of ourselves that our partner was drawn to all those years or months ago.
This is one of the counterintuitive causes of retroactive jealousy.
When I was a younger man, the first time I felt love, head over heels and absolutely smitten, I neglected all my other friendships. I stopped hanging out with my friends. I neglected my hobbies in some ways. I moved in way too fast, which was a huge mistake. And, I did all the things that young people do when they fall in love and it cost me. It put so much undue and unnecessary pressure on that relationship.
This is one of the counterintuitive causes of retroactive jealousy. It puts so much pressure on our partner to fulfill all these roles that no person can fulfill long-term. It’s simply impossible for us to fill all these roles for our partner, or for our partner to fill all these roles for us.
This can also lead to irrational jealousy, whether it’s irrational jealousy of our partner in the present, or retroactive jealousy, where we’re irrationally jealous about our partner’s past. When we build someone up so much, when we’ve encouraged them and invited them to fill this enormous presence in our lives, when we’ve invited them to fill all of these different social roles in our lives, all of a sudden, there can be an enormous amount of fear associated with that.
Fear of loss, sensitivity, and hyper-awareness to any kind of outside threats that could potentially take this person away from us.
The fear associated with the loss of this person goes up because we know on some level, that if we lose this person, we’ll be screwed.
Our friends will likely have become more distant, because we haven’t maintained those friendships. And all of a sudden, all these roles in our life will go unfulfilled.
So of course, this is one of the causes of retroactive jealousy, of irrational jealousy and possessiveness, because we’re so scared to death of losing this person. Because this is our entire social life. This is the entire social world that we feel will lose if we lose this person.
Human beings are social to the core. We need other human beings.
And I’m saying that as an introvert. I still know that I need other people. I need to push myself to be social sometimes, because it’s good for me. Even when I don’t necessarily feel like being social.
So what’s the solution? The solution is multifaceted. But at the end of the day, maintain your friendships, don’t let those friendships fall by the wayside. Spend time without your partner. Maintain your hobbies, interests, and the qualities that your partner was originally drawn to in the beginning. It’s good for them, good for attraction, good for the relationship and it’s also good for you.
Remember who you were before you met your partner.
I know it’s difficult when you’re having incredible sex and all the rest, but you need to remember who you are without them.
I would also say, encourage your partner to feel safe doing the same thing. Encourage them to go out without you, spend time with their friends. Encourage them to maintain their friendships, and maintain their own lives separate from you. Because the irony is, these are the things that you were drawn to in the beginning. There was a certain element of autonomy and mystery that drew you to your partner.
If you don’t encourage it, this autonomy and mystery will drift away and that’s bad news for the relationship.
The good news is that the more you encourage your partner to do this, and the more you do this yourself, the better chance your relationship will survive. The better chance your relationship will eventually succeed and even thrive because you’re not putting all of your social eggs in one basket.
You’re not putting all kinds of incredible pressure on this beautiful thing that you’re creating. You’re letting the relationship flourish naturally. So maintain your own lives. Maintaining your own identities, resisting the urge to completely merge will help you have a better chance at a healthy, long-lasting, intimate relationship.
I wish I learned this lesson when I was younger.
Maybe you have to go through and make these mistakes yourself to learn and to really internalize these lessons. But once I learned these lessons, my relationships have never been better. And everyone I know who follows the same path has the same experience.
Don’t put all your social eggs in one basket. Don’t make your partner your world. Maintain your own life and encourage your partner to maintain theirs. And you’ll have the best shot and a truly healthy, happy, long-lasting long-term relationship.