Im going to give you way more than your $2 worth here because I feel
like youd like to hear it, and because I think a lot of other people
would benefit by understanding the dynamics Im going explain here.
What you are going through is typical for any love relationship. Many
scientists agree that love goes through three phases and all of these
phases are chemically driven. Now this may all sound rather clinical
and non-romantic (it will have nothing to do with buying her
flowers!), but the fact is, we are biological species and are driven
to act and feel in certain ways in order to propagate the species. Im
sure that once you read through this you will recognize the different
phases in your own relationship and maybe it will help you understand
where you are now.
A quick note different scientists have given these phases different
names. Ive arbitrarily chosen one to use here.
The first phase is the LUST phase. This phase is hormonally driven
(testosterone and estrogens) in order to cause humans to seek out a
partner. Its sort of the shopping phase, where you are scoping
The second phase is called ROMANTIC LOVE. This is the phase you are
in when youve found the perfect woman! You cant stop thinking about
her. You write her all that bad poetry and send her emails 4 times a
day. Its that amazing high you get just thinking about her, and that
heart-flipping joy you get when you see her walk into the room. When
youre in this phase you wake up every single day knowing that you are
IN LOVE! This phase is driven by the chemicals dopamine and
norepinephrine and other biochemicals, the same chemicals that many
high-inducing drugs release into your brain; hence its one of the
greatest feelings of all time.
The biological purpose of this phase is to force you to focus on just
one person in order to form a pair bond. Ever notice how when you feel
this way, other women dont seem all that attractive any more? Thats
the brain chemicals at work. Only she can trigger that euphoria in
you. You want her and her alone.
Now the bad news is that that phase only lasts 2-4 years. Long enough
to form the pair and supposedly reproduce. Remember, were talking
biology here, not culture. You may NOT reproduce in the first few
years, but thats what biology intended so thats how were chemically
Once thats done, our body chemistry moves into the third phase
--ATTACHMENT phase. This is where you are now. That heady feeling of
being in love has been replaced with a calm. No more major
heart-flutters when she comes home. The little I love you notes are
fewer and farther between, and they just dont do what they use to do
for you. Everything seems kind of
well .. bland. Normal. Not sparkly
like it used to be.
This biological phase is designed to be the calm that allows you to
raise children without the distraction of that earlier phase. Anyone
who has ever left a marriage and fallen in love again will testify how
difficult it is to focus on the kids during that time. Our brains
arent designed to work that way.
So, where you are now is in the calm-after-the storm. Youre
questioning why the sparks arent there and youre wondering what this
means for the future of the relationship. This is the part of the
relationship where everyone gets nervous. Have I made a mistake? Does
this mean its over? How can I reclaim those old feelings? If I love
her, why dont I feel like Im in love?
Many people do bale on their relationship at this point because the
only thing they had in common was that chemical euphoria. When they
come out the other end of that they dont want (or dont care) to
build a stronger relationship on a foundation of common interests and
steady love. Some people thrive only on the high and so chase one
relationship after another almost like an addiction. The minute it
gets stale they move on.
So, enough of the biology lecture. Lets get back to you. Rather than
try to recapture that old feeling, you and your partner have to decide
if you can live together in this new dynamic. You have to find the
things you have in common and see if you get any pleasure out of just
doing them together. You have to assess whether you really do share
long-term goals. You need to decide if you have fallen out of love
because you really had nothing solid to begin with, or if you have
just moved into the next phase of love -- the pure contentedness of
just living life together. And, last but not least, you need to figure
out if youre both on the same program. Unfortunately, just because
you want the relationship to work, doesnt mean she will.
The entire key is communication. Flowers are nice. Love notes are
nice. Sex is nice. But in the end, if you cant sit down and have an
open conversation about your relationship and where its going, then
youll never get there. If you cant do it alone, there are plenty of
counsellors out there who will help you. Sometimes it takes fresh eyes
and ears to really hear what youre both saying and ask the right
questions. There are also a million self-help books out there on how
to put the zest back in your relationship, but fixing the superficial
problems is never a long-term solution.
Love is a verb. Its not something you sit around and wait for. Its
something you take active part in. Two people who are in love --
really in good solid lovewill naturally attend to all the little
things that make the relationship stick, not because they read it in a
book, but because they care to. They dont work on the relationship.
They work on life, and because they love each other and share life
goals, they grow in that life together as couple.
Im going to end my lecture here and give you some further reading. I
hope that you can apply what Ive said to your relationship and
understand that there are no quick fixes. No 10 steps to pure
happiness. No magic bullets. If that sounds like bad news, it isnt.
You can take it from me, although that early euphoric stage of love is
one of the best feelings on the planet, there is really nothing like
the feeling that comes with the solid love of a long-term
The Science of Love
Love Chemistry; New Studies Analyze Love's Effects
What Is Chemistry in Love Relationships?
The Chemistry of Love
The Chemistry of Love:
Mysteries of love really boil down to chemistry suggests U.S.
I wish you the best in your relationship, and in life. As I said, I
hope what Ive written here helps you to understand what you and your
partner are now facing in life. Sit down, be open, talk to each other,
and if you think you need it, find a counsellor to help you through
the process. Only when you understand how you both feel and where you
both want to go, will you be able to move forward together as a couple
through the passage we call life.
Clarification of Answer by
18 Sep 2002 11:40 PDT
Yes, it is hard to put past relationships, especially abusive ones,
behind you. The abuse gets ingrained into our subconscious and so many
of our reactions to our current partner are really knee-jerk reactions
based on our former dynamics. The question is, how do you get past
this? Rule number one is still the tried and true maxim: Recognition
is the first step to recovery. You need to recognize when you are
reacting based on some other issue.
One of the best descriptions of a relationship I ever heard was the
Imagine your relationship to be a large cup that you and your partner
are sitting in, facing one another. Now what are you sitting on? You
are each sitting on a suitcase. That suitcase is your baggage. Its
all of the things that you have brought from past relationships, your
childhood, your experiences in life.
Now heres the problem you can only see the other persons suitcase.
You cant see your own. To you its perfectly clear why she is acting
the way she is. Her baggage is obvious. But what about yours? She can
see it, but you cant. She knows how to fix you and you know how to
fix her. As a result, you each spend more effort addressing the other
persons suitcase, trying to help clear out their baggage. Each of
you knows that if the other would just get over it then everything
would be ok.
No, the key is work on your own suitcase. As you have found, you
cant just push the issues behind you. They just keep resurfacing
every time there is stress or tension in your life. You have to face
the issues -- process them and understand them -- before you can move
Now, how to do that?
You have one huge thing working in your favour. BOTH of you want this
to work. BOTH of you are willing to take the steps to help each other
work through the issues that plague you.
Youve tried talking it out but its hard to know what you need to
address and how to make changes. The temptation is always to think
youre over a certain situation and then just move on. This is where
you need help. I really truly believe that joint counselling is the
best answer. It doesnt mean youve failed in your relationship or
that you are incapable. It just means that you and your partner are
committed enough to each other that youre willing to work extra hard
to make your relationship work.
There are many resources for such services: online sources, private
counsellors in your area, retreats, worshops, and public service
counsellors who offer services for little or no fee.
Here are some links to examples of such services. These will give you
an idea of the types of services offered. Ive included my search
terms so that you can use them to find services in your own area. Just
add your city name as part of the search.
Search for: COUPLES COUNSELING
Here is a full online service that includes individual phone
counselling, classes, coaching, retreats, and much more. Run by
psychologist and authors John Grey, Ph.D. and Bonney Grey, R.N.
SOUL MATE ORACLE
CENTER FOR CONSCIOUS LIVING
CARL EGGERS, MFT
Search for: COUPLES RETREATS or COUPLES WORKSHOPS
*a note on the retreats if they interest you make sure they offer
counselling. Retreats that just offer a week of quiet relaxation for
the couple does not solve your problem.
THE GUEST RANCH
SOUL MATE ORACLE
FOUR SEASONS HEALING
THE RELATIONSHIP INSTITUTE WORKSHOPS
Finally, if cost is an issue, you can search your local phone books
for Counselors, Marriage counselors, and Mental Health services for
free or low cost services near you. An example I can give your from
my local area is that both Catholic Family Services and Jewish Family
Services offer free (or near free) private and group counselling to
anyone who asks for it (without regard to faith). Also the county
mental health office offers private and couples counselling on an
income-based fee scale.
I hope this information suits your purposes better. Im glad to have
had the opportunity to clarify my previous answer. Thanks for your
question and best of luck!