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The Danger Zone in Intimate Partner Relationships

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There is a ton of research on the brain in love. I’ll trim it down for you. First, what is most important to understand is that there are two different types of love – passionate love and companionate love. In Chapter 7 of Modern Romance, Aziz Ansari does a great job of explaining the difference between the two. To make it super simple, passionate love is the love you feel for your partner in the beginning stages of your relationship, let’s say from the first sight of your partner to about 18 months in.

Companionate love comes into play anywhere from 1½ to 3 years later. Most researchers in the field agree that these two types of love are necessary. There are many reasons for this.If we were to continue in the infatuation and passionate stage of love for too long we would wear ourselves out, be unable to focus, and neglect our friends, family, jobs, and hobbies – just to spend every waking moment entangled with the focus of our affection.Think back to when you were in the beginning stages of your relationship. Did you get much of anything accomplished? You were probably hyper-focused on getting to know every little detail about this new and fascinating person, weren’t you?

Passionate love is necessary because it plays a large role in allowing us to form an attachment bond to our mate. But, this stage can’t go on forever for reasons outlined above. Companionate love then saunters in to save us from utter exhaustion. However, instead of being relieved that companionate love has come to save the day, we freak out.

In the book The Happiness Hypothesis passionate love is likened to a drug because its symptoms mirror that of heroin and cocaine. No wonder we feel anguish and a little discontent when this love wears off. This is when we enter the danger zone.

If you have been with your partner between 1 and 3 years, you may be having thoughts such as

  • “What is going on?! We’ve lost our spark.”
  • “I don’t feel an attraction to him anymore.”
  • “Where did the passion go?! Do we not love each other anymore?”
  • “I’ve fallen out of love with her.”
  • “The butterflies are gone. I must not have really loved him.”

No one says it better than the Righteous Brothers in their song You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’. The song was released in 1965, but the lyrics seem to reflect the most current research on the brain in love. I bet the idea for this song came from the songwriter’s experience in their first few years into a relationship. This is the point in many relationships where couples give up. They often go out in search of that passionate love once again; which they find rather quickly, yet it eventually ends in disappointment just as before.

If you gain anything from reading this article, know that this loss of passionate love is normal and has even been documented by science. Many couples leave what could have been amazing relationships prematurely because they were not aware of this natural phenomenon.What you lose in obsession, you gain in trust. What you lose in fire, you gain in comfort. What you lose in infatuation, you gain in true love.

Just because you have ventured into companionate love territory with your partner does not mean that passionate love was left to die. It’s not one or the other. The two can live in harmony if you work together to keep the passion alive.

My relationship blog is titled Unearth Your Passion for this very reason. Head on over to the blog and find ways to reconnect with your partner today.

Cindy Norton is the Owner and Writer at AVL Couples Therapy. She holds a Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy. She is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Associate and is receiving training in Gottman Method Couples Therapy. Cindy will begin seeing clients in her AVL Couples Therapy practice located in Asheville, North Carolina in early 2017. In the meantime, check out her relationship blog for meaningful inspiration and look through the recommended resources to aid in improving and enriching your most important partnership. If you would like to see helpful relationship tips in your social media feed, connect with AVL Couples Therapy on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.


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