I once saw a meme that said, “Dating is getting to know someone until you realize you don’t like that person anymore.”  I mean, how true is that statement though? 😬 It’s kind of sad when you really think about it.  You invest time, energy, and emotion in someone until you ultimately discover that person is not worth your time, energy, and emotion.

There are a lot of great things about being single, don’t get me wrong.  The freedom is undeniably one of the best aspects of it.  But the dating part is hard.

First, choosing the person you want to date.  Not just anyone will set off the “cascade of hormones and neurotransmitters that accompanies the exciting first phase of love.  The person we select has to smell right, feel right, look right, and be just right in our arms.  Then, and only then, will the cascade get started.” – John Gottman, Ph.D

Once we choose that person (which I think is a conscious and subconscious decision), our brain releases several chemicals that have enormous influence on our judgment and affection.  These chemicals include a natural form of amphetamine, dopamine, pheromones, and oxytocin.  Psychologist Dorothy Tennov coined this phase of love as “limerence”.  Limerence is a state of infatuation or obsession typically experienced by an involuntary strong desire for reciprocation of one’s feelings.

It is our biological makeup that reacts to the people we are attracted to.  We cannot control the release of these chemicals, which is what makes the initial phase of relationships so intoxicating and exciting.  Then we enter the make it or break it phase of the relationship: Building Trust. 

This is where we discover we may not really like that person after all.  Some of those feel good chemicals have worn off, our blinders are no longer up, and we start to see this person for who they really are.

As we navigate through learning whether or not our partner can be trusted, we experience feelings of frustration, disappointment, sadness, and exasperation.  If healthy, positive conflict discussions ensue, the relationship has a better likelihood of working.  If blaming arguments occur, well, it’s the opposite. 

In animal research, scientists found that oxytocin and vasopressin are two chemicals associated with lifelong pair-bonding among prairie voles.  Prairie voles have high levels of oxytocin; they mate for life.  In a study, when scientists blocked the oxytocin receptors, the animals no longer formed monogamous bonds and tended to roam.

Oxytocin has been called “the love hormone” or “the cuddle hormone” because it plays an important role in forming attachments.  Our style of attachment (secure or insecure) as adults is rooted in how we bonded with caregivers as infants and children, namely our mother.  When you hold an infant, they wiggle in your arms to find comfort.  Once they find it, they put the whole weight of their body on you.  They give you com.plete. trust. with their being.  They feel safe and secure.

The building of trust is about having your partner’s best interests in mind and at heart.

John Gottman

In Trust Factor: The Science of Creating High-Performance Companies, Paul Zak describes the chemical reactions in our brains on how we respond to challenges and how trust is created.  In rodents, oxytocin has been shown to signal that another animal was safe to approach.  In an experiment conducted by Zak’s team, they found that oxytocin tended to reduce the fear of trusting a stranger.

Challenge stresses, (a difficult but achievable task), releases oxytocin and adrenocorticotropin.  Chemicals that intensify your focus and strengthen social connections.  In dating, this would probably be “the chase”.

Ultimately, you cultivate trust by setting a clear direction, giving people what they need to see it through, and getting out of their way.

Paul Zak

This comes down to expectations, communication, and feedback.  Not only are these typically weak areas in businesses, but also just in day-to-day relationships with coworkers, friends, family, and romantic partners.  

What’s interesting to me about all of this is that it goes to show that whether you are in a romantic or professional relationship with someone, our chemical reactions to building trust are essentially the same.  Healthy and positive conflict discussions in either type of relationship will see more success.

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