Dating Stress is Often Caused by Our Basic Survival Need to Reproduce Our Genes
Dating stress is 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.
Time to Reproduce Your Genes
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, like all the feel good/feel great hormones, those bad feelings don’t stay away for long, and then it’s back to the ever-present Cortisol bath.
Dating Stress Can Be Caused by Our Basic Survival Need for Social Inclusion
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 if you want to stop dating stress, 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, which is 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.
Social Inclusion = Survival
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 stress is so out of control. The biological need, in question, is all about social inclusion and gaining and maintaining the respect of the group for the sake of safety and security . It has very little to do with the idea of just falling in love.
Then Things Fall Off the Rails & Dating Stress is Back
But this is where things usually seem to go very wrong, and dating stress starts. If we worked to gain the respect of the other person first, instead of trying to find someone to fall head over heels in love with, we would meet our biological need for social inclusion and respect.
Then, dating stress 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 response system.
You see, the stress response system is very powerful and very complicated, but it’s not really that smart. It’s mainly controlled by the central, limbic 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.
Social Exclusion Versus Inclusion
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.
The result is that 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 that dating stress.
Just Accept Your Evolutionary Needs
So, if you want to end dating stress 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 stress under control.
Getting Out of the Dating Stress Rat Race
However, creating an environment where respect endures so both parties are getting lots of wonderful Serotonin instead of nasty Cortisol, all the time, is critically important.
There needs to be significant awareness of the two personality types involved in the relationship, and then dating stress can always be kept at bay.
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).
A Personal S.W.O.T. Analysis
It’s kind of like doing a S.W.O.T. Analysis, which is a business-related marketing and strategic planning concept. Go ahead and 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 bath 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 stress will become a thing of the past.
Understanding Your Personality Type Keeps Dating Stress at Bay
One of my favorite tools for doing personality awareness work is the Enneagram Personality System (pronounced “En-AY-a-gram”).
I have taken 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 stress on the back burner forever.
The basic 9 personality types and 9 levels of development within those types are so easy to understand and apply to many important, often stress-inducing, aspects of life. Relationships, parenting, and business management are three excellent examples.
Enneagram Mixed with E.F.T. Is Even Better
I also like the fact that the levels of development blend so well with my favorite stress management tool, known as E.F.T. or Emotional Freedom Techniques.
You can explore the 9 main types and the 9 levels of development within them to begin a journey of self-discovery that could end all your dating stress 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
My favorite part of the Enneagram Institute’s work is the 9 levels of development. As an example, here’s a more detailed description for Type 1 (Reformer). Scroll down a bit to find the nine levels of development.
I know all will be well in my relationship if I use E.F.T. or Emotional Freedom Techniques to stay in Levels 1-3 for my type, but when various stressors cause me to drop down to levels 4-6 or even lower for my type… YIKES… I know it’s time for a personality overhaul.
I am very thankful there has never been a time when I have dropped all the way to Level 9… so scary. If I was to ever let stress, anxiety, and anger get so far out of control as to compromise my mental health in such a dramatic way, then I would probably find myself back in the dating stress game sooner rather than later.
Summary of the Nine Types
Below is a graphic that shows the nine types in summary.