By Jesse Marx
By Chris Parker
By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
My best friend and I sat in her car outside the church where, later that evening, I was scheduled to be married. With my wedding dress and her bridesmaid's dress neatly laid out across the back seat, we surveyed the scene before us. Caterers and florists streamed in and out of the church, and other wedding attendants began to arrive.
Suddenly she turned to me and blurted, "I've got a tank full of gas and my credit cards. If you don't want to do this--if you have any reservations at all--just say the word and we're outta here. We can go to Florida or something." I would like to say that I answered her without hesitation, calmly informing her that no, this was the happiest day of my life. In fact, however, I was overwrought with apprehension.
Truth be told, what weighed most heavily on my mind was the fact that I, as a married person, would never again experience that rush, that buzz, that electric shock of purest sensual pleasure that comes at the very beginning of a new relationship. Anyone who has a pulse knows what I'm talking about.
At the outset of a fresh romantic attraction, the entire world is infused with a patina of hormonally charged zest. For some, the feeling is energizing and physically thrilling. For others, it's a dreamy, rose-colored state of altered consciousness. It can be hard to eat or concentrate. Every ring of the phone holds the promise of something wonderful.
But these intense feelings fade eventually, and lovers morph into the next phase of their relationship with an acceptance that comfort and commitment can balance out the loss of their early ardor. Or one of them moves on, looking for another shot of new-love-itis.
In my own case, I was always swept away by the sensations that accompany the first romantic contact. In fact, I was something of a love-junkie. The physical, emotional and sexual feelings that flooded my body each time I met and connected with an attractive man were clearly addictive.
I still remember the first time I experienced this phenomenon. It was in sixth grade and his name was Billy Ray something-or-another. In my mind's eye he looks a good bit like a young Brad Pitt clad in Sears Tuffskins. The two weeks during which we held hands on the bus and talked on the phone each night left me breathless.
Although Billy Ray and I soon parted ways, I was hooked. I craved more of the same, please. Throughout high school, college, and early adulthood, my life became, as Washington Irving once aptly described it: "a history of the affections." But it wasn't actually affection that I sought. Nor was it true love, fidelity, or even (often to my detriment) a Good Guy.
Instead I was like a surfer in pursuit of endless summers. In the first days, weeks, or occasionally even months of a new relationship, I was in heaven. I lost weight without trying. I felt high without a single mood-altering substance, expansive and generous and beautiful...and...and...and...
Of course, as with any drug, this one had its downside. Feeling out of my gourd with sexual tension and giddiness also caused me to do stupid things like drop out of school repeatedly, waste other people's money, skip important family events and turn down opportunities-of-a-lifetime. It is because the newly infatuated are so self-absorbed and unreliable that most people find them so irritating.
I was no exception. One old pal tells me that she actually wore earplugs during a protracted car trip during which I chattered incessantly about my latest flame--and I never even noticed. At least she stuck with me, though.
I lost more than one friend over the years as I focused on a fresh crush. And during particularly dry spells, when I was truly jonesing for "the feeling," I also hooked up with some real losers. In those periods, virtually any guy would do, as long as my early interactions with him could produce my favorite state of being.
It wasn't until I invited several of these disastrous slackers in a row into my life that I began to believe that I really had a problem. I needed to settle down, tame my craving for intense romantic gratification, and discover what love-over-the-long-haul had to offer. I like to think that it was no coincidence that I met my fiancé at just about that moment. Of course, the early days with him produced the same seductive thrill as had all the others, but soon--almost sneakily--weeks turned into months, and months turned into an engagement that surprised everyone, especially us.
So I did get married that night--to a wonderful person to whom I am still happily hitched. But I still vividly remember the wistfulness that commingled with my joy on the date we tied the knot. I wasn't worried that I was marrying the wrong person. I couldn't--and still can't--imagine making that commitment to anyone else. But I harbored a real fear that when the initial zip faded, so would my ability to stay the course.
I was wrong. The years have turned into a full decade together, and I can now weigh the fabulous feeling of a first kiss against one seasoned with scores of shared memories and experiences. In my case, security and true intimacy conquered fleeting moments of passionate abandon. After all, I'm still married, right?
To say that I don't sometimes--and periodically often--miss the old feelings would be a lie. Occasionally I feel truly sad at the thought that--barring something I don't actually want to happen--I may live out the rest of my life without ever again feeling an electric impulse travel up my arm the very first time a man unexpectedly takes my hand.
I have come to the conclusion that, ultimately, the tradeoffs are worth it. Physical intimacy with someone you know very, very well has a quiet, pulsing energy all its own. When my husband takes my hand, it may not strike me as a thrilling surprise, but it always gives me great joy. Additionally, I have been surprised to discover just how much more I enjoy my personal identity as a "lifer" than I did the unpredictability of not knowing who would celebrate my next birthday with me.
And perhaps best of all, my friends like me much better now.
Katie Allison Granju is the author of Attachment Parenting: Instinctive Care for Your Baby and Young Child (Pocket Books). Her Web site is www.attachmentparent.com.