Disillusionment is a common factor for most married couples. Soon after the wedding couples often tell me that the person they married is not the same person they thought they married.
What is disillusionment? Psychopharmacologists have learned that couples in love have high levels of natural hormones flowing through their system, with high levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin within the brain. These chemicals in the brain will produce a natural positive reaction, so if something upsetting happens to one spouse, or in a dating relationship, it will cause the other to respond with positive and corrective feedback.
When I was a graduate professor at Touro College, a student walked into my classroom very upset because after six months of marriage, his brother was getting divorced. When I questioned him as to why, he responded that his sister-law had lied. She had not told his brother that she was bipolar. To make matters worse, she claimed that when she was dating this student’s brother, she no longer showed signs of depression, and as a result, she no longer needed medications, and subsequently stopped taking them … How can that be possible?
I then ask the student, “How did your brother find out that she was bipolar?” He responded that after she got pregnant, she told his brother that she had been diagnosed as bipolar, but once they dated and the relationship began, she no longer suffered from any symptoms.
When the chosson’s family heard about her diagnosis, and her concealment of her diagnosis, they were outraged. They wondered how it could be possible that symptoms of this type of disorder can be gone without medication!
I responded that I believe it is possible for this kind of depression to be suspended in a buffer state for a very long time. When the couple was dating, she was in love, and for all intents and purposes she still is. Because of the influx of hormones, the levels of serotonin in her brain began to rise and compensated for the missing neurotransmitters, leaving her in a symptom-free state without the need for chemical-altering medications. She did not mean to lie; she honestly felt her bipolar illness was gone, and for her it must have felt like a true miracle.
It is important to understand that for some people this anesthesia or “smoke screen” may wear off right after sheva brachot, and for other couples it can last far beyond shana rishona (the first year of marriage). New research using brain scans with various couples in different stages of their marriage shows that these chemicals produced in the brain during the beginning of the relationship do not completely leave the brain over time, but rather are stored in the brain in a temporary state—what neuroscientist Dr. Dan Siegal calls implicit memory. Interestingly, these chemicals in the brain can be retrieved and revitalized, and can be re-programmed to be utilized upon request.
The beginning story has a happy ending. The student who confided in me was able to convince his brother to come in to see me, and with some coaching, hypnotherapy and awareness, B’H he was able to avoid divorce.
Moishe Herskowitz, M.S, LCSW, CH, is the founder of the T.E.A.M approach (Torah Education and Awareness for a better Marriage), This five-part marital enrichment program is designed for couples right after sheva brachot. The brochure can be downloaded at www.howwecommunicate.info.
He can be reached at 718.404.2344, mherskowitz.com, [email protected]