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Hooked On Hooking Up

January 13, 2013 | by Chana Levitan

How to leave behind the thrill of the chase and attain a lasting, empowering relationship.

“I’m getting the itch,” a young woman named Brooke recently confessed to me. “I’ve been married for four years now and I’ve never been with one guy for this long. I mean, I love my husband and I’m dead-set against cheating but, well, I kind of miss the hook-up culture I grew up in. I always thrived on getting the guy I wanted – I thrived on the chase, the thrill of the chase. I know it sounds bad, but I miss that high.”

Behind that “high” is actually a potent cocktail of chemicals – phenylethylamine (that’s the chemical that makes us feel so good that we don’t need to sleep or eat), norepinephrine (this ups our heart rate and blood pressure), oxytocin (aptly nicknamed the “love hormone”) and dopamine (which helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers). When these chemicals are pumping through the body, it feels good, really good – until the post-hook-up crash, of course. But somehow we seem to develop selective memory, remembering only the high and not the low.

For Mike, who spent 20 years getting in (and quickly out) of relationships, it wasn’t so much about the physical rush of hooking up as the power high that came with it. “It’s all about the power of the chase,” Mike told me. “And when the chase is done, I’m done.” The irony is that although you feel powerful in the moment, you’re left feeling empty and powerless. Thus the need for the next chase…and the next.

As I explained to Brooke, hooking up is about what I call “Getting Power.” Marriage, on the other hand, requires “Staying Power.” That means – according to – vitality, tolerance, endurance, backbone, guts, and heart. Let me show you what it looks like in action:



An immediate and shallow high that’s followed by a void/emptiness.

A high that grows in duration and intensity as spouses gradually discover and reveal their hidden selves. (Vitality)

Insecurity: “Uh-oh…I’d better not like him/her more than he/she likes me (or get more attached).

Security: “Although there are ups and downs in how connected I feel to my spouse, there’s always someone by my side.” (Tolerance)

The tendency to quit when the going gets tough.

The ability to hang in there and push through, which often leads to an even stronger connection. (Endurance)

That momentary good feeling in your stomach.

That lingering good feeling in your heart. (Vitality)

Dependency: needing someone to want you.

Interdependence: a bond that’s built when two people express their individuality within the framework of the partnership of marriage. (Backbone)

Fear and/or inability to be seen or see the other.

Emotional intimacy (otherwise known as “into-me-see): the profoundness of being seen and known by another – and seeing and knowing someone else. (Guts)

Keeping score: “I gave you more than you gave me.”

The expansion of self that comes from caring about your spouse’s needs as your own. (Heart)

Let's get practical, here are some key pointers to help make the journey from 'getting power' to 'staying power':

*Write for clarity: Since 'getting power' sets off an immediate high that's followed by a void/emptiness, write down each time this happens and/or happened in the past. It's all too easy to forget the pain of this 'getting power' cycle. Keeping a written record serves as the ultimate reminder of the dead-end process.

*Look for role models: Look for people in good marriages (they do exist!) and set out to learn from them. You can do this through observing them and/or actually asking them for some guidance.

*Read and research: There are fantastic books and literature out there…about how to create stable and lasting marriages. Two books I highly recommend are Dr. Susan Heitler's, "The Power of Two" and Dr. Bill Doherty's, "Take Back Your Marriage".

*Unleash the power of giving: Flex your giving muscle and you will discover what inner power really is. If you want to experience real love, the secret is to give, as Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler, a famous mid-twentieth-century Judaic scholar taught, "We are accustomed to thinking that giving stems from love, because when we love someone we naturally give to them. But there seems to be another side to this argument." Rabbi Dessler goes on to explain that when we invest ourselves in someone or something, we come to love the person or thing we pour our love and attention into. Truth is, the ultimate sign that you have inner power is that you can be a giver.

Staying power…we all have it deep within ourselves. Perhaps we’re a society that’s hooked on hooking up because we’ve lost sight of what it means to be truly powerful. We've been tricked into thinking that the 'getting power' mindset will ultimately help us…well…get power. Instead, it leaves us powerless and lonely. “Staying power,” on the other hand, requires far more heart and guts, but it leaves you empowered and powerful…not to mention the bonus: a loving marriage – for life.


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