After years of trauma bonding with men and having dysfunctional relationships, I’m finally working on boundaries and being authentic with men. Now I don’t feel that giddy excitement I used to feel during the first few dates. How do I know if I’m missing that dysfunction or I’m just not into him?
This is a fantastic question!
Let’s start with the word “excitement.” Here’s a fun fact: The body can not differentiate between anxiety and excitement. From the linked article:
I remember how startled I was to learn, somewhere in graduate school in clinical psychology, that the body can’t tell the difference between anxiety and excitement. Meaning…the nervous system mobilizes the body to respond – take action – whether we’re dealing with something truly dangerous or simply something new or unknown. How our brain processes and our mind interprets that automatic stress response is key to whether we believe we are anxious, excited, or some dance of both.
Both are arousal responses and both result in the same biological responses ie a racing heart, stomach flutters, etc.
The only difference between the two responses is the narrative we attach to them. That’s why anxiety is usually associated with something negative and excitement something positive. The way we differentiate between the two is based on our lived experiences. In a nutshell, you have to have experienced both enough to be able to tell the difference. If you’ve experienced one more than the other, well, you can see how you can often conflate the two.
That “excitement” you felt with your dysfunctional partners very well could have been anxiety. The dysfunctional guys you were dating might have been behaving in a way that made you unsure and uneasy like being hot and cold, love bombing you, talking about other women. Or maybe they were building a false sense of intimacy with their marathon dates and love bombing, causing you to experience surges of brain chemicals. You very likely weren’t excited at all. You just assigned a positive narrative - one where you were excited - to the arousal response. Hence the confusion. While the bodily reactions are interchangeable, the narratives are not.
So now let’s examine what you’re feeling by dating guys who aren’t dysfunctional. Now the trick is to differentiate between whether you’re not attracted to them or just not being over-stimulated. Much like with anxiety and excitement, you need enough experience with both to be able to differentiate. That only comes with time and repeated interactions.
If you truly want to know if you’re not interested in someone or just not being bombarded with brain chemicals, pay more attention to your lived experiences. Specifically those where you have to make a choice between one thing or another. How do you feel when you learn something doesn’t meet your standards or isn’t what you want? Hone in on that reaction.
You can also spend more time with these guys - maybe one more date - to see how you feel.
IMPORTANT: Here’s the response you do not have to research ever: fear. Never feel you have to give someone who made you uneasy another chance.
The mere fact you’re questioning whether you might not be giving a guy a fair shot should be enough to tell you you’re somewhat interested in getting to know him further. Most likely, you already know what not being interested or attracted to someone feels like. You’re just questioning your instincts because of previous experiences.
Give yourself time to recalibrate.
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