"It takes no time to fall in love, but it takes years to know what love is."
Singer-songwriter Jason Mraz
Romance is a hot topic, something the romance novel industry knows something about as it brings in a whopping 1 billion annually. We are interested in keeping romance alive, yet while time passes most relationship will be plagued with the romance blues. Researcher, Helen Fisher, details her findings in the Chemistry of Love. Fisher’s research explores the various neuro-hormonal pathways of love, the longevity of such chemicals, and theorizes the idea of a love map.
Many factors are contributory toward the decline and the rate at which couples may experience the diminishing romantic feelings, such as each partner’s sexual constitution, lifestyle, health, finances, work schedule, children, living situation, religion, etc. Also, one’s expression of romance is important to understand to ensure that their love language is conveyed in a way that is received.
Bottom line is we are wired to connect. Within a very complex neural network, we have a reward motivational system that is activated when we encounter a potential mate. This juices up the system with dopamine and norepinephrine. This system gives us the craving for that person leading to focused attention, obsessive thinking, and euphoria. We may relate to this as “the fall”. Serotonin which helps regulate moods, emotions, sleep and appetite drops during this phase, which causes the lack of appetite, reduced sleep and emotions and moods that feel uncontrollable. Our bonding hormone, Oxytocin ensures the attachment and provides the peace and calm we feel when in their presence. Of course, testosterone needs mentioning as this propels us into the pursuit and desire for sex. Once sexual activity takes place, these hormones and neurotransmitters go into overdrive to essentially ensure procreation and pair bonding. However, there is the caveat. It’s a short-lived experience. It’s essentially not sustainable.
The question becomes how to create sustainability and satisfaction for both partners. First and foremost, hormones levels are important to know as hormone replacement may be all it takes to ignite the desire and pursuit of romance. Of course, communicating wants and needs is fundamental to a healthy bonded relationship. Stella Resnick, PhD., a leading researcher in keeping the spark alive in long-term relationships, says there are three distinct behaviors these couples exhibit with each other. First, they eye gaze and attune to their partner. Secondly, they touch each other and hold hands often. Lastly, they have continued kissing one another throughout their relationship. As a sexuality counselor, these behavior are usually absent from couples I see. Training in these behaviors alone, gives the kick start. From there, scheduling dates, doing activities together that arouse a sense of excitement and fun together, and mostly, it’s the true desire to want to engage with each other with an authentic and connecting approach.
Sherri Aikin is a Fellow of Integrative Medicine, Nurse Practitioner, Sex Counselor, Mindfulness Facilitator, and Life Coach.
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