Written by Contributor Writer Margeaux Koepele
Have you ever been so into somebody that your face hurts from smiling even just thinking about them? Or the butterflies in your tummy feel like they’re at a hardcore rave every time that person is around? Maybe people aren’t your thing, rather you feel these things around your pet, instead. Furry friends are basically boyfriends anyway, right? I mean, they snuggle, they make you laugh, they make you cry, they feel comfortable enough to fart around you…And honestly, who doesn’t wish they could stay up all night talking to their dog?! Whether you’ve found someone special enough to trust with your heart, you’re a cat lady (but in love with her cats), or even if you’re perpetually single, it’s almost undeniable: love is a drug. It can be scary and it can be hard, but romantic forms of love are some of the most rewarding relationships that can happen. So, let’s talk about this crazy, highly-addictive drug called “love.”
STAGE 1: EXPERIMENTATION
In early grade school years, we experience our first taste of love outside of the family. I’m referring to that cute boy who gave you a Cheez-It literally ONCE, sparking your undying love for him. From then on, even just seeing this boy, we’ll call him “Timmy,” would give you goosebumps. One time, he even touched you while walking to the pencil sharpener! It MUST be fate. But, as any researcher would say, you can’t just do one experiment and publish your results. You have to do quite a few trials to prove the evidence. So, when Timmy also offered your best friend a Cheez-It a few days later, you called it quits and moved on to someone else. This would become a routine change, as each potential suitor proved to be unequipped for handling your love. Everyday was a new experiment, but most results in the experimentation stage made something very evident: boys are dumb. This stage continues through most of our teenage years, possibly because many of us wait to “blossom” until college, but once we are introduced to MEN, we begin to realize why we did all of the experimentation in the first place.
STAGE 2: REGULAR USE
This may happen before we start to be attracted to the more mature, slightly rugged type, but becoming a regular user (often known as “serial dating”) is the next step towards addiction. Stage 2 is very similar to stage 1, however these aren’t your typical Cheez-It lovers. These are the guys you’ve been texting for a few days, and let’s be real…it’s totally adorable when you fall asleep during a conversation and wake up to a “Guess you’re asleep…goodnight” text. These are the guys who not only need to learn how to flirt, because I seriously hope that a goodnight text like that wouldn’t be good enough for you, but they’re probably not here for the long run. Instead, they seemed interested in you and you decided you didn’t want to be the only one without a date on Friday night so you gave it a go. That would most-likely be your only date with him. In fact, he’s probably so unimportant in your life that we don’t even give him a fake name. Timmy could have treated you better.
Regular love users haven’t really been introduced to the emotional side of love yet. This stage would include the drunk Tindering and going out to dinner with that guy from work because you don’t feel like cooking and he’ll pay. In my opinion, drunk Tindering is an absolute necessity in order to come out of Stage 2, however Tinder is also addictive, and could result in something entirely different, though that’s not the point.
STAGE 3: SUBSTANCE ABUSE/RISKY BEHAVIOR
After you’ve enjoyed Tinder as much as you see to be socially acceptable (and I mean, how socially acceptable is Tinder in the first place..), you make what could be one of your first real adult decisions EVER. This stage of addiction induces a desire to give love an actual chance. No more 24-hour boyfriends or one-night-stands! You’re an adult and there MUST be someone out there for you, so you’re going to start looking. That first serious relationship will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the best times of your life. And when he says those three magic words, “I love you,” you realize that you’ve done something horribly wrong. You’ve fallen. You’ve fallen in love with someone other than yourself or your dog or the box of easy-bake brownies you always have sitting in the pantry.
Once you’ve accepted that this feeling of love isn’t going away any time soon, you indulge in some of the riskiest behavior: you begin to enjoy it. You learn how much each and every moment with this person means to you. You take in every moment of it and bask in the excitement of being in love for the first time. This is the stage where other people, namely friends and family, begin to notice the early signs of addiction, as many inexperienced lovers fall off the face of the earth to spend as much time as possible with their S.O. But who cares if you don’t talk to your friends as much anymore?! You’re in love and you just LOVE love.
STAGE 4: ADDICTION OR CHEMICAL DEPENDENCY
Coming to grips with addiction is no easy process. This involves a cycle of denial, acceptance, and allowing it to fully enter your life. The addiction to love is incredibly evident, all you have to do is take 5 seconds to think about how your S.O. makes you feel. You are at your happiest when you’re together. Even just thinking of him or her sends your heart to the moon and back with excitement. Happiness itself is addictive! You yearn to be with them in any way, whether it’s going out to dinner, watching a movie on the sofa, or even just talking on the phone before bed. Yes, I said “yearn.” You always want to be in contact with them and feel like you can’t survive without it. The cravings don’t end here. You begin to imagine a long-term future with this person, discussing marriage, kids, and where you want to retire. WE ARE STILL SO YOUNG… WHY ARE WE THINKING ABOUT RETIRING?! But this can actually be a healthy thought process, because you wouldn’t be seriously considering your future family and even making little versions of you to take over the world if you weren’t a mature adult.
STAGE 5: WITHDRAWAL
In most of our not-so-perfect love stories, someone might swoop in and steal that love from us. As with many drugs, coming off of the high is the most difficult part. The feeling immediately after a break-up is one of the most horrible feelings in the world, even lasting months after the relationship ends. Suddenly, that person you spent the past x number of months with is no longer there. You have to find other people to take up that time you would have spent with your now ex-S.O. In an ideal world, you would have had a good balance between your romantic relationship and your friends, but let’s face it…your life revolved around your significant other. This is commonly the hardest aspect of withdrawal, often leading to other addictions, like Netflix or Ben & Jerry’s. Unfortunately, it doesn’t end here. The things that you once loved to do with your ex are now just a reminder of what you no longer have. Your only option is to change your routines and find new hobbies. Everything seems to be lost in this newly discovered world without love. And you begin to ask yourself a series of questions that may or may not make your life even harder. How could something so magical be over? How come it didn’t work out? Will I be forever alone? The answer? No.
The steps to dealing with withdrawal may not seem easy, but if executed correctly, you could be back out there with someone even better in just a few weeks. Or so you would think…
As with any addiction, relapse is a likely follow-up to withdrawal. You miss how it felt to be wanted and cared for. Attention was given so regularly, you didn’t even notice how much you craved it…until now. Now that you’re alone, you want nothing more than to go right back to where you were with something that made you so happy.
Sometimes this is the reintroduction to Tinder, as many ex-lovers revisit Stage 2: Regular Use in order to begin to trust potential suitors again. In a perfect world, your ex would come running back to you, begging for another chance before you even downloaded the app, but this isn’t always the best option. Many people, myself included, choose to give their ex-S.O. another chance (or, like, eight chances in my case..). We’re convinced that they have changed and realized what they’ve lost and just can’t imagine life without us, as they claim to feel. In some cases, this second chance is all it takes to get the relationship rolling and to a place which will ultimately lead to a long and happy life together. However I’d say that 95% of the time, if someone even begins to doubt their feelings, there is someone better out there.
Relapse can actually be a good thing, though, and it is absolutely necessary to get back into the world and give love another chance. With something this good, there is nothing much worse than depriving yourself of it! Plus, with everything that you’ve learned from this previous relationship, despite not working out as you had hoped, you’re coming in as a totally different person. You’ve (hopefully) learned more about what you want from a relationship and what you don’t. And honestly, you’re probably a much less shallow person, because one of your last relationships was likely with someone you dated just because he was hot, not because of his character. Yes, the cuteness of your kids is important and I am totally guilty of thinking about whether or not my partner and I would make adorable babies, but it’s not the only thing that matters! And let’s be real…You’re awesome. Your kids will be awesome, too, no matter what. And you’ll teach them how to love just as you have.
Love is a drug. However, like an antibiotic, love can be so beneficial to a person’s life that it can sometimes put what was once a shattered soul completely back together. Unfortunately, it can also be the reason that soul was shattered in the first place. Though love is highly addictive and sometimes totally devastating, it’s a learning experience. Many people try multiple types of drugs to find just the right one, and though I don’t advise any drug-use at all, this is essentially what dating is for. Test the waters, try a few different things, and find what you enjoy most. There are literally billions of people in the world. The chances of not a single one of them being perfect for you are virtually nonexistent.
So, whether it’s coming from an S.O., a pet, a best friend, parents, or even the creepy old guy who lives down the hall from you, choose your partner wisely and love will be healthy. If you’re experiencing love right now, KEEP IT! And if you’re losing faith in your ability to navigate through life with love, get back out there and give it another shot. Yes, you are risking addiction, but if I were a doctor, I would prescribe the shit out of it.