by Amy Alkon
Q: Is there anything inherently bad about getting into a serious relationship quickly? I met this guy about a month ago. We hit it off instantly, became boyfriend and girlfriend two weeks later, and have been dropping I-love-yous. It all feels pretty great; I don’t have a history of poor relationship judgment; and I wasn’t desperate or even looking for a new partner. However, popular opinion seems to run against getting involved so fast. Your thoughts?—Speedy
A: Ah, yes … your love is like a summer’s day—if a summer’s day chased its lemonade with two Red Bulls and a five-shot latte.
It’s easy for you to assume you’re in your right mind, just because you haven’t started throwing peanuts at people in the park while debating abortion with a squirrel. But there are three stages of love: The “falling in it” stage, the “figuring out how it’ll work” stage and finally, the “you’re the one!” commitment stage. You’re in the starting days of the “falling in it” stage—getting hit by rushing hormones and neurotransmitters—which is to say that you’re chemically dazed. Which is to say that making any sort of decision about what you two have is like getting really high and going off to sign papers for a bank loan.
In fact, according to research by psychiatry professor Donatella Marazziti, it’s likely that right now, you and this guy are each chemically different people—and thus behaviorally different people—than you will be once the chemical storm dies down. Marazziti found significant shifts in testosterone levels in both men and women who’d recently fallen in love. Compared with single people and people who’d been in relationships a while, women newly in love had elevated testosterone, likely making them more sexually tigress-y, while the T levels of men newly in love dropped, likely making them more gooey and emotional—to the point where even a Navy SEAL might start sounding like a Valentine’s Day card.
How long the biochemical inebriation lasts varies, but Marazziti’s research suggests that couples are pretty much out of the falling in love daze a year to two years later. It’s only then—once you sober up—that you find out what you actually have together.
The kind of love that sticks around is not just a feeling but a feeling that inspires loving action. As novelist Marlon James, quoting a former lover, put it: “Love isn’t saying ‘I love you’ but calling to say, ‘Did you eat?’” Love that lasts should also inspire a sort of loving inaction—loving the person enough that you don’t hate them for all the ways they turn out to be a total idiot: How they can’t seem to understand that pee goes in the big white porcelain thing, not on the floor; that those gross phlegm-clearing sounds are not a mating call; and that socks left on the bedroom rug will not grow tiny legs, crawl up the hamper and fling themselves in.
Q: I’m a 70-year-old man, and my wife is 68. I suffer from ED, and we both seem to have lost our sex drive. Don’t get me wrong; we are still very loving and affectionate with each other. We just don’t have sex. Is this a problem I should be addressing or just a side effect of aging? My male ego keeps telling me that I should still be a horndog.—Older Dude
A: No need to pull out the hose if there’s no fire.
So, on date night, you have a romantic dinner (early-bird special!) and then retire to bed for some rough hugging. Assuming your ED doesn’t stem from some more serious medical condition, the only thing that’s wrong with you is your thinking that something’s wrong with you. OK, your sexparts aren’t as perky as they were back when Warren G. Harding (or whoever!) was president. Would you deem yourself less manly if you got osteoarthritis in your elbow? Probably not. But predictably, your elbow has probably stopped working as well as it did when you were 22—just like Mr. Winky Senior.
The reality is that there’s much more to physical intimacy than being all Vlad the Impaler—a point sex therapist Dr. Marty Klein makes in his book Sexual Intelligence. Touch and affection are essential, and you have those. So instead of lamenting what you don’t have, focus on what you do. You might also consider that your level of manliness is reflected in your character—what you do when the chips are down—not by how, lately, your favorite thing to do in bed is sleep through the night without getting awakened by the twins: Your bladder and your prostate.