Falling in love and being in a healthy relationship is something most of us want to experience in our lives.
When we fall in love, it’s as if the world stops, and life as we know it has just shifted, changed and improved. We are suddenly enchanted, a better version of ourselves.
Everything suddenly feels different, better, and alive.
In a relationship, especially a brand new one, all we want to do is be with our partner. Nothing is more important than cultivating our growing new reality: us.
We have never felt happier, more exhilarated, or more ourselves. We pinch ourselves to make sure it is real, and not a dream.
We are in love.
Falling in love, in some ways, feels like the ultimate “trust fall” game — trusting our partner enough to allow ourselves to fall, to let go. The falling is thrilling, but being held is intoxicating — so intoxicating that we don’t want to stand back up.
And this is where we might find ourselves forgetting (or at least setting aside) routines and habits that we know are good for us.
Nothing feels as important or fulfilling as being in love with our partner, and biologically speaking, this is by design, according to research by Helen Fisher and Lucy Brown.
Discarding other interests and goals allows us biologically to bond with our partner so strongly that we will stick with each other, and ideally create and raise offspring.
Anthropologically speaking, mating might be the most important thing we do to ensure our survival and that of our species.
So important is romantic love to our species’ survival, Fisher argues, that our brain allows us to put aside almost all other obligations and needs just long enough to ensure for this possibility: 18-24 months.
Floating along the current of this intoxicating new love can take us to new and wonderful places, but it also can tempt us to put aside self-care and other responsibilities that are important to our happiness and well-being.
We put these things off, but it doesn’t work.
As we avoid important aspects of our life, we start to feel unsettled, irritable, even resentful — resentful at the very responsibilities themselves, that they somehow can’t be shared, or indefinitely ignored like we might wish they could.
And even anxious about how we will be able to balance the needs of the relationship against our own personal ones. It feels so good to be loved and taken care of that it can feel hard to take care of ourselves.
Love can do this — trick us into thinking we are done being responsible for our health and wellness. But without our health and wellness, our love and relationships will suffer too.
The key is to listen to that whispering anxiety telling you what you’ve let slide for too long.
You know where your life is tipping out of balance, and you know what you need to do.
Maybe it’s paying your bills, cutting your grass, or doing your laundry. Or maybe it’s buckling down on a work project you’ve been putting off or making time to see a friend or family member you’ve been neglecting.
Perhaps your target should be healthier food choices, and getting back to the gym a few mornings a week instead of cuddling in bed.
Creating boundaries that allow you to reclaim your individual needs allows you to be the healthiest person you can be, which in turn keeps your relationship strong and healthy.
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It’s OK not to want to make room for the mundane chores of self-care, it might feel really hard and frustrating to get back on track.
But it’s also OK to push through and do it anyway.
Getting started might be hard, but tending to your needs will set you up to feel less anxiety and more balance, and in turn, strengthen your relationship.
Balance is the goal when it comes to translating romantic love into lasting love.
The love between two healthy individuals is what sets the stage for lasting love and healthy relationships — and the life partnership we so want.
Dr. Alicia Clark is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist. For more help with managing stress and anxiety, check out her anxiety blog, download her free ebook, or sign up for her newsletter.