The Honeymoon is So Over: How to Keep the Love Alive
“He used to help with the housework,” one woman remembers fondly about her first year of marriage. “She used to wear tight clothes and makeup,” her husband recalls. Now their life together feels burdened and passionless. They still love each other, but something has changed—something neither one expected nor prepared for.
My Chemical Romance
Remember that rush you felt when you and your spouse began dating? You probably assumed that euphoria was caused by true love and the magic of soul mates uniting, but science tells us that it was most likely the result of chemical surges in your brain. In particular, a molecule called PEA (short for phenylethylamine) causes feelings of elation and acts as a natural amphetamine.
In the book Anatomy of Love, author Helen Fisher explains that this chemically induced state of infatuation—what we commonly refer to as “romance”—typically lasts about 18 months to three years. Coincidentally, most American divorces occur between the second and third year of marriage. It’s not so much that the honeymoon is over; it’s more like the initial chemical surge is over.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Couples who have nurtured a strong friendship during the infatuation phase of their relationship evolve to another level of bonding—attachment. Fisher reports that the attachment phase is characterized by feelings of comfort and safety, which are triggered by the production of a new set of brain chemicals, known as endorphins. Unlike infatuation, the attachment phase has no typical duration. The only thing Fisher’s research revealed with any certainty is that as married couples age, the easier it is for them to remain attached.
Reigniting the Spark
“You have to work on your marriage” is advice we hear from grandmothers and therapists alike. Although the concept is true, the definition of “work” isn’t as bad as it sounds. According to a Redbook magazine article about five-minute marriage makeovers, it’s the little things that keep love alive.
Simply sharing daily activities, whether it’s chores, cooking, relaxed conversation, a morning shower or reading bedtime stories to your children, the simple act of doing routine activities together ignites the brain chemicals that strengthen your bond.
Another way to fan the flames of your love is to revisit the discovery phase of your relationship. Remember how much fun it was to learn all about your spouse when you were dating? You might think you know everything about each other by now, but people grow and change over time. Try asking your spouse the type of discovery question that you would have asked when you first met, such as, “If you had all the time and money in the world, where would you go or what would you do?” Or how about, “If you could trade places with any celebrity for a day, who would it be and why?”
Sharing your feelings and fantasies like this is a fun way to show how much you care about each other—and a great way to keep your chemical romance bubbling in the laboratory of love.
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