The urge to merge. It's an old cliché about a woman's need to bond intensely with her partner, and is usually used in reference to lesbian relationships. It is the reason why female couples jump into relationships with each other, and is exactly where the whole U-Haul joke comes from. (What does a lesbian bring on a second date? A U-Haul. Ha ha.) While the urge to merge may have an urban dictionary definition rooted in lesbian culture, the phenomena is actually backed by science, and pertains to all women, regardless of sexual orientation. It is the female inclination to form a committed, lasting, monogamous relationship with someone. This desire to connect is a part of our chemical makeup, and is apparently triggered by a hormone called Oxytocin.
The Female Desire to Bond
According to clinical psychologist Dr. Lauren Costine, the urge to merge is fundamental to all women from birth, though lesbians might experience it on an even more intense level. She explains, “Biologically our brains are wired for a relationships and connection. We emit much more Oxytocin than men. Oxytocin is a hormone women emit when they’re falling in love, having sex, or breastfeeding. It’s biological encouragement to attach. It feels so good that for some women, in this case lesbians, they can’t get enough. Since there’s two women, there’s twice as much Oxytocin floating around…”
The bonding feels good, so we are often eager to seek it out, even though sometimes in doing so we might enter into a relationship with someone who isn't right for us, stay in a bad relationship for fear of losing that bond, or worse, we lose our identities. We become a couple rather than two distinct people in a relationship. That definitely happened to me in my marriage, and ended up being one of the main reasons for my divorce. And I see this around me all the time. Women want to feel intensely connected to their partners, so much so that they put aside their own needs and desires. When I first married my ex-husband, I didn't think twice about putting his education above my own in terms of importance. I made the sacrifices that seemed necessary at the time, because the marriage was the most important thing. I didn't want to upset the waters. But the waters became rough anyway. I had said “yes” to his proposal after only a few months of dating, and I guess I let my Oxytocin be the guide. Before I had figured out who I was and what I wanted just for me, I had rushed into being a couple.
Feeling is a Solitary Emotion
A character from a television show I watch once said, “It's when couples always say the word we... I hate it. We think, we may, we might..but we feel, that's the big one. Feeling is a solitary emotion. So you may feel like you're falling in love, while I, myself, might feel like I'm being caged.”
We have a tendency to expect the other person to feel the way we are feeling, to understand what we're feeling, and share our general experience as human beings. Basically, we want to merge. But it doesn't always work in our favor. In fact, it can get us into a lot of trouble. Since my first marriage ended after years of feeling lost from my own identity, one would think I would have learned to value my autonomy. Yet, I am constantly having to restrain myself from rushing into relationships. Even when I know it's too soon, or they aren't quite right for me, my instinct is to recreate a harmonious partnership. It's only natural, after all. Now that I know there is a biological reason for it, I am giving myself some slack. But not too much slack.
Learning Not to Rush Into a Relationship
After all I've been through with my divorce, one lesson I have taken with me is that being in a relationship should not be a life goal. Females are taught from a young age that marriage is the ultimate destination in life. What little girl didn't fantasize about herself in a wedding dress, or play house? We are socially conditioned to want to be someone's wife, so when that is coupled with a hormone that urges us to partner off, it's no wonder there are so many failed marriages. We so badly want Mr. or Mrs. right now to be right. We want the feeling of being in love, even if all signs point to disaster. But as Dr. Costine explains further, Oxytocin levels drastically decline within a few years of being with someone. So when the honeymoon phase is over, we better hope we chose the right person when our hormones were guiding our decisions. If we made a mistake, as is increasingly the case, we can only hope to emerge from the wreckage not as the other half of a couple, but as a whole person. Eventually, we'll fall in love all over again. Just remember, there's no need to rush.
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