You meet; it’s love at first sight, the bells and whistles are going off, the birds are singing, and everything is brighter, right? Well, not really. Most of us have been exposed to the idea that relationships should be flawless and smooth, that you will always adore your partner, that he or she will meet all your expectations, and that you will feel excited to see him or her every day for the rest of your life. These ideas are prevalent in fairytales, Disney movies, adult literature, and romantic movies. It’s hard, if not impossible, to escape these unrealistic portrayals of romantic relationships. It’s even harder still to live them out.
While you may or may not feel completely enamored when you first meet your partner, you do feel differently in the beginning. In this Honeymoon Stage while feeling Passionate Love, you want to be with your partner all of the time, you feel deeply in love, you are excited, you experience intense emotions, and you physically desire your partner. After time, these feelings slowly change. What are you left with when the passion simmers out?
After the Honeymoon Stage, you may be left with Companionate Love (according to research examining Passionate and Companionate Love in couples). Companionate Love is a love that is more settled and based more on friendship rather than physical desire. You derive comfort from being with the person you love, you know him or her inside and out, you enjoy spending time with your partner, and you feel emotionally connected. Your partner truly becomes the person with whom you are most attached.
Sometimes this shift from Passionate to Companionate Love may be confusing. Partners may feel they must be falling out of love since they are no longer as excited to be with their partner, are no longer as sexually attracted, and feel like they have settled into patterns that may at times feel routine. Both loves have value and both loves can be present in your relationship. However, you do not need both types of love to have a satisfying relationship. How love is defined and experienced is different for each couple.
Relationships take WORK. No one ever mentioned work in the fairytales. Did Cinderella and Prince Charming go to Couple’s Therapy? Most likely, if they were together for ever after! When you are feeling lost in your relationship, you can remember to honor what you do have (try to take a mental inventory of what is working), make an effort to maintain connection and closeness by spending special time with one another on a regular basis, and to make time for physical intimacy (touch can come in many forms and may really improve connection). It may not feel natural at first to schedule time to go on a “date” or to make time for intimacy, but couples who work on staying connected, feel more connected. You don’t have to live in a castle to be happy.