Now You See Me, Now You Don’t.

habituation in relationshipsA philosopher by the name of Alan Watts once said, “If you put your hand on the knee of a beautiful woman and leave it there, she’ll cease to notice it. But if you gently pat her on the knee, she’ll know you’re still there. This is because you come and go. Now you see me, now you don’t.”

There’s truth in that. Many women have confided in me about their true desires for a romantic relationship. Very often their description includes something along these lines: “I want us to be together all the time, like two halves of an inseparable whole.”

It doesn’t work out very well for the very reason alluded to by Alan Watts. Any constant stimulus is subject to the brain’s capacity for adaptation. Let me explain what I mean by that.

Have you ever stared at a fluorescent green object for ten seconds and then looked at a white wall? If you have, you know what I’m going to say next. Magically, a fluorescent pink silhouette appears in your vision as you stare at the blank wall.

Why does this happen? This is because of habituation. Your eye begins to adapt to the bright colors of the fluorescent green, causing you to perceive the opposite color when the fluorescent green object is suddenly removed from your persistent gaze.

It’s the same thing that happens when someone gets rich. For a short period of time, they bask in the wealth, enjoying the sudden opulence and many benefits in brings. However, after a short period of time, the feeling of happiness fades because being wealthy becomes normal.

Surprisingly, the same thing happens after we face most types of hardship. Research studies have consistently shown that we tend to adapt to changes in our environment, essentially by getting used to them. It happens on the microscopic level in the retina of your eye when you stare at a bright object. It also happens on a more global level when you experience a sudden change in your life for the better or the worse.

We adapt to the things that remain consistent in our lives, even if we did not mean to. What does this mean for your relationships? Does it mean you should come and go, disappearing and reappearing in your man’s life? Not exactly.

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