Linda Carroll (@Lovecycleslinda) is a licensed marriage and family therapist, relationship sage, and author of Love Cycles: The Five Essential Stages of Lasting Love.

What We Discuss with Linda Carroll:

  • What to do when good chemistry goes bad.
  • Why falling in love with “forbidden” people feels so exciting — even when we know it’s wrong.
  • What to do when we find ourselves Facebook-stalking old flames and fantasizing about rekindling relationships probably best left in the past.
  • What happens to an otherwise good relationship under constant attack by misfiring fight or flight chemicals (and how to get back on target).
  • How to get over the end of a devastating relationship and on with your life.
  • And much more…

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If you’ve ever tinkered with a chemistry set in the path of an oncoming tornado, deafened by wailing sirens and drenched to the bone with icy rain and cold sweat while relentless barrages of cruel lightning ignite everything you hold dear, you probably have an idea of what it’s like to attempt navigation through a relationship’s tough times.

Love Cycles: The Five Essential Stages of Lasting Love author Linda Carroll joins us — for the first time on this show — to help us understand what happens when the good chemistry in a seemingly idyllic relationship goes bad and how we can either work through it or commit to moving on when it’s time to call it quits. Listen, learn, and enjoy!

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The brain chemistry that motivates us when we’re attracted to someone else informs the lenses through which we see reality. Sometimes these lenses are rose-colored and cause us to view the world — and the object of our infatuation — in a light that’s perhaps a bit more optimistic than how we’d see them without. In Linda Carroll’s book Love Cycles: The Five Essential Stages of Lasting Love, this is the state that accompanies the first cycle — The Merge.

Over time, it’s natural for this chemistry to acclimate within the context of a relationship, and the lenses shift again, depending on which of the next stages we find ourselves.

But what can we do when this good chemistry — that made us feel incredible and overwhelmed with affection for someone else — turns bad?

Falling in Love with an Incompatible Person

“Nature breeds for diversity, not relationship compatibility,” says Linda. “So we get attracted to somebody, which doesn’t mean it’s not a real attraction. But based on our cultural cues, the idea is ‘the stronger the attraction, the more we’re meant to be with another person,’ and that’s not true.”

So it’s clear that we can be extremely attracted to someone with whom we’re not necessarily compatible. But how can we know for sure? Linda advises, while in this first stage of attraction, to “just go for it. Have a great time. But don’t make decisions until you start to feel less of that chemical attraction.”

In other words, if we can move beyond these feelings of sexual attraction and still find qualities that keep us enjoying — and not annoying — each other, we may be compatible.

Falling in Love with an Inappropriate Person

Sometimes it’s not enough to fall in love with an incompatible person. Sometimes our chemistry really plays havoc with our emotions and makes us fall in love with a person who — in most circles –would be deemed inappropriate for us. This could be anyone from a best friend’s significant other to a boss in the workplace to a “kissin'” cousin.

“Falling in love with someone who’s forbidden? One thing we need to know about that is that makes the longing greater,” says Linda. “Helen Fisher talks about frustration attraction; I love that expression. That when something stands in our way between ourselves and the person we want, in some ways it amplifies the desire. We want it even more. So having that information is really important.”

So what can we do if we find ourselves in this situation?

“Stay away!” Linda says. “Know this information. Understand about frustration attraction. Understand that eroticism gets exaggerated when we move to the forbidden zone and that we have not lost our powers of judgment. We have not lost our discretion. But we have to navigate the chemistry.”

We have to be really careful not to trick ourselves into crossing the line in smaller increments that seem innocent on the surface but move us toward making big mistakes down the line.

A good rule of thumb: if other people you know would be disappointed, angry, or upset to find out about these minor dalliances, perhaps they’re not so minor after all.

The 90-Second Rule

A feeling lasts, on average, 90 seconds. We can use the chemicals generated at this time to take action, or we can start feeding that feeling with thoughts, essentially building it into something it is not. Recognizing this can help us stop such feelings from growing into something destructive.

“Sexual attraction comes,” says Linda. “We feel it. It’s not a bad thing — it’s a human thing. Here it is, it’s my feeling. But what do I do with it? Do I play with it? Do I keep it going? Or do I say, ‘Bad idea. This is the person I work with. I’ll get fired if I even mess around. Off I go in a different direction.’

Journaling about our feelings — and how we choose to act on them — is another way to keep ourselves honest.

Listen to this episode in its entirety to learn more about what to do when we fall in love with a fantasy — like an ex and who they (and we) were years ago, how we can use spot stopping with the 90-second rule to distinguish between craving and need, how to curb defensiveness in a relationship to ensure there’s a healthy channel for honest criticism (and forgiveness) for both parties, how move on from a relationship that’s really over, and lots more.


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