The idea of rose-colored glasses is no joke when it comes to dating and premarital couples. People who are in love perceive their loved ones differently than others.
People who are in love are literally addicted to their loved one. Neurologists have put people in an fMRI machine (a machine that takes pictures of brain activity) who claim they are in love. Researchers then ask the participants to think about their loved one, and the machine takes a picture. When the picture is taken, an interesting pattern emerges. Dopamine levels rise and activity in the frontal cortex goes down. You can read more about this here.
What does that mean?
Dopamine is a reward neurotransmitter, meaning it gives your brain a high five when you do a certain behavior. The message dopamine gives your brain is, “That was good, do more of that!” And so you do. The second part of the pattern is decreased activity in the frontal cortex, which is the part of your brain responsible for critical decision making. So think about it: You spend time with your loved one and your brain rewards you with dopamine, while at the same time minimizing any warning flags. It’s like your brain put on rose-colored glasses and you only see what you want to see.
Infatuation is a dangerous drug. Researchers have compared the brain patterns of those in love to Cocaine and gambling addicts, and found them to be almost identical. So what does this mean for someone wanting to take his or her dating relationship to the next level? Or for the premarital couple preparing for marriage?
You must accept and recognize that when you are in love, you are most vulnerable to believing delusions about your partner.
In a study conducted by Gingrich in 2003, Gingrich pointed out that couples actively engage in delusional perceptions of their partner and of their own ability to work through problems for several reasons:
They unconsciously project their idealized mate onto their partner
Resisting self-disclosure, which may emphasize dissimilarities between partners and overemphasizing similarities
The desire to seek out a mate that will heal all the wounds incurred in one’s family-of-origin.
Dealing with the added disillusionment from the “romantic high,” some myths partners actively maintain include:
“We expect exactly the same things from marriage.”
“Everything good in our relationship will get better.”
“Everything bad in my life will disappear.”
“My spouse will make me whole.”
Believing these myths can hurt your relationship in the long run.
Needless to say, couples develop unrealistic images of marriage and their partner, which usually persist through marriage. Unfortunately, delusions contribute to unfulfilled expectations within the marriage relationship, causing much pain and conflict.
Here are a few suggestions for overcoming the power of delusions:
Seek premarital counseling
Having a third set of eyes on an issue can really help. Premarital counselors are trained to help couples through issues like these. A good premarital counselor can help create solutions to a potential problem, give advice and offer understanding.
Explain to your partner what you are wanting from the relationship, what you are wanting from him or her, and where you would like the relationship to go. That means talking about things like where you would like to live, how many kids you want and any jobs or schooling you want to pursue.
This is an important one. Be honest about who you are! Dating and premarital couples are always trying to present their “best self.” Then when they get married, the other self comes out. A true and lasting relationship is one based on total acceptance.
Red flags and deal breakers
Be prepared to look for and discover red flags about your partner. Just because you love your partner and you are dating or getting married doesn’t mean he or she is the right person for you. The rose-colored glasses might be disguising a major problem. That problem may in fact be a deal breaker. Ask yourself, “Is this something I am willing to live with for the rest of my life?”
Take the rose-colored glasses off. This is not easy to do, and can feel like an uphill battle because you’re fighting against your own brain’s addiction to love. But a real and authentic relationship, based on who people actually are, is more realistic, and I would argue, more fulfilling. Delusions, on the other hand, are fueled by fantasies. Fantasies are not based in reality and they always disappoint. Move past the fantasy and into a real, genuine relationship by doing the hard, yet rewarding work of authentically being yourself and accepting the real (non-fantasy) version of your partner.