Dating problems are also high on the list of the biggest
causes of stress. The fight or flight stress response is heavily tested as we
embark on the dating journey; however, the idea of fighting or fleeing is not the only aspect of the human stress response system that is heavily taxed as we try to find a lifelong mate.
We want sex, for sure, because reproduction is a basic biological, evolutionary need. Sex is how we guarantee our genes will survive to the next generation and that is a major piece of the survival puzzle, even if some people claim they don't ever want kids.
In fact, your body will serve you up a steady supply of some pretty nasty hormones until you get around to reproducing your genes in the form of a baby and there's no question that this particular hormone cocktail can make you feel pretty lousy. Of course, once that baby is born, it needs to be protected to ensure it survives.
Another benefit of sex is the fact that sexual release is a key way to
get massive doses of Nitric Oxide, a major part of the human system for
maintaining health. The production of Nitric Oxide helps activate our
built in medicine cabinet located in the endothelial lining of the
arteries. The more Nitric Oxide you get, the healthier you will be and
the longer you will... you guessed it... survive. That's why orgasm was designed to feel so good. All your worries about dating problems will just seem to fade away for a few hours after you get bathed in that Nitric Oxide blast, but unfortunately those bad feelings don't stay away for long.
Of course, once reproduction is handled, your stress response system
will most likely settle down a little, but there is still another major issue that
must be attended to to stop dating problems and that is the challenge of social inclusion and
respect, especially as we age.
Truth be told... just reproducing our genes (sex and babies) and keeping our built in medicine cabinets well-stocked do
nothing to solve another biological imperative and that's to find a
social group so we can be safe and secure from predators. The idea of marriage, from the perspective of the stress response system, is not really about being loved... at least, not directly. Once again, it's all about survival.
That's right, a huge part of our burning desire to date and find a match for the long haul is because of another evolutionary need for social inclusion and respect. We have these needs because, historically, if you were part of a strong social group and well-respected in that group (well-liked/loved), then you were far more likely to survive than if you were excluded from the group and left to your own devices.
On your own, you were very likely to end up as lunch for a large wild beast of some kind or to starve to death; whereas, in a group, even a small group of just two, you were more likely to be protected and well-fed.
And this issue, in my opinion, is at the very core of why dating problems are so out of control. The biological need in question is all about social inclusion and gaining and maintaining the respect of the group fro the sake of safety and security . It has very little to do with the idea of just falling in love.
But this is where things usually seem to go very wrong and dating problems start. If we worked
to gain the respect of the other person first, instead of trying to find
someone to fall in love with, we would meet our biological need for
social inclusion and respect and dating problems would go away because
being respected means all kinds of good things like friendship, trust
and loyalty and when you have those things, you will be far more likely
to secure an enduring relationship that will be pleasing to your stress
You see, the stress response system is very
powerful and very complicated, but it's not really that smart. It's
controlled by the central part of the brain, also known as the lizard
brain, and it does not communicate with language. Rather, it perceives
the world through emotion... basically, it just senses things.
So, when the stress response system senses anything that resembles social exclusion, it freaks out a little and starts to drown us in toxic Cortisol, which makes us feel bad, but when it senses things that feel like social inclusion and respect, it rewards us with small doses of happy brain chemicals like Oxytocin and Serotonin. And when we get these chemicals, we refer to the feeling as being well-liked or loved. And if one person causes this sensation in us more than others, we say we are falling in love with that person and often, a match happens.
But then something strange occurs.
After we have made the match, we tend to let our guard down and stop
behaving in a respectful way and we accept disrespectful behavior from
the other person and so neither person in the relationship is getting
regular doses of the happy brain chemicals and once again, the stress
response system starts to sense the possibility of social exclusion and
we are back where we started with all those dating problems.
So, if you want to end dating
problems and relationship stress, in general, then you would be wise the
accept your evolutionary needs for what they really are. First, you
need social inclusion and respect to secure a mate and these two things
must endure for your entire life together. If ever they stop, your
stress response system will want to find some other way to get these
needs met. Of course, both people have to do the work to keep dating problems under control.
However, creating an environment where respect endures so both parties are getting lots of wonderful Serotonin instead of nasty Cortisol, all the time, it's critically important for there to be significant awareness of the two personality types involved in the relationship. Then dating problems can always be kept away.
The two parties must know and understand each others' strengths and weaknesses and also what each person views as opportunities and threats (this is where childhood baggage comes in). It's kind of like doing a S.W.O.T. analysis, which is a business-related marketing concept. Go ahead an Google it.
Really knowing, understanding, accepting and helping to optimize the features and limits of our mate's personality type as well as our own can go a long way to making sure respect remains a huge part of the relationship forever so both parties are always getting that Serotonin chemical we all crave so badly to keep on feeling good.
And since we only get trickles of Serotonin each time we feel respected and because Serotonin does not last long in the body each time it's produced, it's very important for outward, reciprocal displays of respect to be given each and every day.
If both parties consciously and equally use this strategy in the relationship, then dating problems will become a thing of the past.
One of my favorite tools for doing personality awareness work is the Enneagram Personality System (pronounced "any-a-gram"). I have done many well-known personality tests in my career and personal life, including the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, True Colors and others, but I really love the Enneagram the best. Used properly, it can really keep dating problems at bay.
The basic 9 personality types and 9 levels of health within those types are so easy to understand and apply to many important, often stress-inducing, aspects of my life; relationships, parenting and business management are three excellent examples. I also like the fact that the levels of health blend so well with my favorite stress management tool, EFT or Emotional Freedom Techniques.
You can explore the 9 main types and the 9 levels of health within them to begin a journey of self-discovery that could end all your dating problems and relationship stress forever, not to mention other challenges you may be facing in key areas of your life.
The Enneagram Institute is an excellent source of information to learn more as well as the Enneagram in Business website. If you need a great resource for using the Enneagram with kids, check out the many books by Elizabeth Wagele.
However, if you decide you don't like the Enneagram for one reason or another, feel free to check out other personality tests that may work better for you.
My favorite part of the Enneagram Institute's work is the 9 levels of health. Here's an example of the more detailed description for Type 1 - the Reformer. I know all will be well in my relationship if I use EFT to stay in levels 1-3 for my type, but when various stressors cause me to drop down to levels 4-5 or even lower for my type, I know it's time for a personality overhaul.
I am very thankful there has
never been a time when I have dropped down to levels 8 and 9… so scary. If I was to ever let stress get so far out of control as to compromise my mental health in such a dramatic way, then dating problems would not be far away.
Below is a graphic that shows the nine types in summary.