Love, A Many Splendored Thing

  Tips for the Long Haul! Love and intimacy

  Are you “in love” with your partner?

Are you infatuated?

Hooked on Romance? Feeling a deep sense of love?

There are two distinct stages of a romantic relationship. The first is the “falling in   love,” or the     infatuation phase… that intense euphoria of attraction. The second phase is the “attachment”        phase that is often less intense emotionally but much more comfortable and satisfying.

Each phase is important and has it’s purpose in human mating and long term relationships.

The infatuation, or “falling in love,” stage is intense. We’ve all been there. We know what it feels like to be obsessed with someone. We can’t stop thinking about him, we daydream, we can’t sleep, we take risks, we laugh, we talk, “love is a many splendored thing”.

What is really going on in our brains when we “fall in love”?

The common symptoms of love, including sweaty palms, shaky knees and general restlessness, are caused by a natural chemical, Phenylethylamine (commonly dubbed the `love molecule’). Its release from the brain can be triggered from deceptively simple actions like the meeting of the eyes or touching of the hands. Heady emotions, racing pulses and heavy breathing results, and all these are (unfortunately) clinically explained as an overdose of this chemical. A very interesting thing is that chocolate is known to have very high level of this chemical…perhaps that’s the reason why it is considered a perfect gift for valentine. Or for your sweetheart.
This feeling of being in love, or infatuation is powerful, pleasurable, and has evolved to keep our species procreating. It is that magnetic sense of needing to be with another, nature developed to make sure offspring would exist and our species would continue.

However, something happens… our physical bodies cannot sustain that intense emotion and onslaught of neuro-chemicals for long periods of time. Research suggests this feeling of intense romance in humans usually lasts between eighteen months and three years.

“Many people believe that romantic love is the same as passionate love,” said psychology researcher Bianca P. Acevedo, PhD, then at Stony Brook University (currently at University of California, Santa Barbara). “It isn’t. Romantic love has the intensity, engagement and sexual chemistry that passionate love has, minus the obsessive component. Passionate or obsessive love includes feelings of uncertainty and anxiety. This kind of love helps drive the shorter relationships but not the longer ones.”

The next phase of love is the attachment. This sense of deep love feels peaceful, comfortable, soothing, secure, and warm. As infatuation fades, attachment grows. New chemicals saturate the brain; endorphins similar to an opiate. These chemicals calm the mind, reduce anxiety, and provide a sense of peace.

Scientists suggest these chemicals provide in each partner a sense of safety, stability, and tranquility.

This is a very important  for our species. Unlike most animals, in humans, offspring survive best with care and support from two parents.  Attachment, or deep love, is an amazing evolutionary invention to keep partners together because our species needs the bonding and concern for one another that comes with the attachment of love.

While the infatuation stage is very clear with a beginning and an end, the attachment phase can last a lifetime. It potentially grows stronger and deeper over the years. Deep love when nurtured, often brings humans a sense of joy, peace, and care unlike any other emotion.

Long-term love can progress into a healthy, companionship/friendship type of love, which will last for the long term. This type of romantic love in marriage can extend for a lifetime of “happily ever after”!

Here are 7 Tips for the long haul.

  1. Focus on the things you can control: your attitude, your behaviour, your words, and your energy. If you want something to change in any stage of a loving relationship, make it your own traits or actions – not your partner‘s.
  2.   Learn healthy ways to express your disappointment, anger, or frustration. Be honest and authentic, and kind and loving in all stages of relationships.
  3. Remember the first stage of love! Recall your feelings of lust, attraction, and desire for your partner. Think about the traits that you were attracted to, and let those old feelings come to life again.
  4. Appreciate your partner‘s good qualities; be grateful for the life you share. Gratitude can enhance all stages of relationships.
  5. Focus on emotional intimacy in all three stages of love. Be vulnerable to have a healthy love life.
  6. Own your feelings. Your partner can’t “make” you feel stupid or worthless. If you feel unfulfilled or sad about your life, look at your own dreams and goals. Are you pursuing the life you were meant to live? Are you following your heart? Develop your personality, mind, and spirit. Figure out what will make you happy in this stage of love, and start creating the life you were meant to live.
  7. Consider counselling in any stage of love. If you’ve lost that loving feeling, it could be an individual thing that you need to deal with or a couples’ issue that you should tackle together. An objective point of view, from a therapist, pastor, or friend you trust, is incredibly helpful in all stages of relationships.