The Phases of Romantic Love

Three Phases of Romantic Love

The Phases of Romantic Love

People often ask in one way or another, “Should love change over time?” My response is always, “I certainly hope so!” Why do I say this? It’s fairly simple. I see far too many couples who settle for so much less in their love life.

They may have initially fallen in love but after a while, it doesn’t seem to progress much beyond that.

People get disappointed easily these days and, honestly, our culture is more about promoting romance – which is good – but we need more emphasis on love.

There’s no prescription for how long each phase takes. We all take our time in love, but it’s nice to see where you may be, where you’ve been and where you may be going. Wherever you find yourself, take this time to process each stage as an opportunity for personal reflection. You also may want to take a healthy assessment of your relationship or where you want to be.

So, let’s talk about this a bit more. It’s not there are only three phases of romantic love, but if we were to group all the different kinds, I have found that they would fall under these three categories.

Falling in Love

Was it love at first sight? Or did you meet through mutual friends or online dating? If you’re not there yet, there are lots of reasons to be optimistic. But whatever the case, there is no doubt that chemistry plays a role in the early phases through dating and into love.

However, if you have arrived at this point, there is an undeniable attraction and good feelings when you spend time together. Be mindful that this doesn’t go too far into infatuation, where you can have a lot of short-lived passion or admiration of surface-level attributes. That can be fun, but if you’re looking to have a long-term relationship, it’s important to build trust and intimacy.

There is no timeline for falling in love, however as the process unfolds, don’t be afraid to ask yourself “Is this the right person for me?” All too often, I’ve seen couples who have settled for less than they deserve because they were too comfortable in their relationship.

Being in Love

There comes a point in all serious relationships, where you each become more relaxed, the facades and trying-hard-to-impress fall by the wayside and reality sets in.

You may discover the little quirks that were once cute are now annoying. You may find the once hot-and-heavy passion has died down and you may have sexual discrepancies. You may also find that there are going to be the inevitable conflicts that happen even in the very best of relationships.

But if you can weather the storms and navigate each other’s love language well, then you’re very ly going to increase your chances for a wonderful time together.

During this phase, we experience less of the falling head-over-heels “in love” feelings. We feel more connected with our partner. Being in love gives us those warm and cuddly feelings. We feel cared for, safe, and appreciated.

You may feel that you’ve found “The One” and are considering taking your relationship to the next level by moving in together or getting married.

If you’re trying to decide where this relationship is heading or happy right where you are, this is the time to cherish each other and build a relationship that brings you both great joy. That can take time, patience, courage, persistence, acceptance, trust-building and learning how to communicate well (and sometimes fight fairly).

Being able to successfully manage the inevitable bumps in the road is a good indicator that the relationship can evolve into something more long-lasting and stable.

Mature Love

Devotion found in long-term relationships and successful marriages are a sign of mature love. In this phase, two people are together because they want to be together, not obligation or infatuation, but because they are the person they want to spend their lives with. This relationship is marked by commitment, acceptance, deep connection, emotional support, respect, depth, and kindness.

Couples in the mature love phase have worked through most of their conflicts and power struggles (it’s not that they don’t argue, just the main issues most ly have been worked out), and have earned a greater degree of empathy, trust and understanding of each other.

Sex and intimacy certainly still exist in this stage, but not in the same near-delusional, mostly chemical way it does in the falling in love period.

The mature phase of love is a beautiful aspirational goal for any couple. Mature love is a secure, loving, stable phase to work towards, to cherish, to enjoy and to celebrate as the highest expression of romantic love.

Wherever you are in your relationship, I have worked with hundreds of couples to get the joy and satisfaction you both deserve. I always encourage individuals and couples to settle for more. If you would to have a conversation to see if we could work well together, please feel free to reach out for a free 15-minute consultation.


The 3 Phases of Love

The Phases of Romantic Love

What do you do if you love your partner, but you are no longer in love with your partner? Does the feeling of love transform or change over time?

In my book Principia Amoris: The New Science of Love, I explain the three natural phases of love. While being in love is a very complex experience, my research has identified choice points when love may either progress to a deeper place, or deteriorate.

Phase 1: Falling in Love – Limerence

In 1979, Dorothy Tennov coined the term “limerence” for the first stage of love, characterized by physical symptoms (flushing, trembling, palpitations), excitement, intrusive thinking, obsession, fantasy, sexual excitement, and the fear of rejection.

In Dr. Theresa Crenshaw’s book The Alchemy of Love and Lust, it is clear that not just anyone can set off the cascade of hormones and neurotransmitters that accompanies the exciting first phase of love. The person we select has to smell right, feel right, look right, and be just right in our arms. Then, and only then, will the cascade get started.

Here is a partial list of chemicals that exert an enormous influence on Phase 1:

  • Phenyleteylamine (PEA) is a natural form of amphetamine our bodies produce and has been called “the molecule of love.”
  • Pheromones, produced from DHEA, influence sensuality rather than sexuality, creating an inexplicable sense of well-being and comfort.
  • Ocytocin has been called “the cuddle hormone.” It compels us to get close, and when we are feeling close (to anyone) we secrete it. It is secreted by the posterior pituitary gland, and stimulates the secretion of dopamine, estrogen, LHRH, and vasopressin.

The cascade of “in-love” hormones and neurotransmitters of Phase 1 is highly selective and multifaceted in the experience of love and limerence. It is also generally accompanied by poor judgment, so that people will ignore the red flags that they will inevitably confront in Phase 2 of love.

Phase 2: Building Trust

The big questions of Phase 2 of love are, “Will you be there for me? Can I trust you? Can I count on you to have my back?” These questions are the basis of all conflicts newlyweds had in my Love Lab. The answer to this question is the basis of secure or insecure attachment in the relationship.

Love in Phase 2 becomes punctuated by frustration, exasperation, disappointment, sadness, and fury. The majority of fighting in a relationship happens in the first two years.

Thus, the success or failure of Phase 2 is how couples argue. If the ratio of positivity to negativity exceeds 5:1 during conflict discussions, a couple is ly to stay together.

The building of trust is about having your partner’s best interests in mind and at heart. It’s about listening to your partner’s pain and communicating that when they hurt, the world stops, and you listen. Over time I have created a model of communication that helps partners attune to one another.

The word “ATTUNE” is actually an acronym that stands for six processes:

  1. A for Awareness of one’s partner’s pain
  2. T for Tolerance that there are always two valid viewpoints in any negative emotions
  3. T for Turning Toward one partner’s need
  4. for trying to Understand your partner
  5. N for Non-defensive listening
  6. E for Empathy

Phase 3: Building Commitment and Loyalty

Phase 3 of love is about building true commitment and loyalty. It is about a couple either cherishing one another and nurturing gratitude for what they have with their partner, or the couple nurturing resentment for what they think is missing. This third phase is about making a deeper love last a lifetime, or slowly nurturing a betrayal.

An important metric in Phase 3 of love is what I call the fairness metric. The sense that power is fairly distributed in a relationship is what the fairness metric is all about. It is very difficult to establish deep and lasting trust in a relationship that has an unwelcome power asymmetry, one in which the distribution of power feels unfair to at least one person.

Although love appears to be a process that is highly unpredictable, my decades of research and the research of my colleagues have discovered that the opposite is true.

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