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Does it matter if the spark in your relationship is gone?

In the world of romance, there is nothing more coveted than the elusive “happily ever after”. Who among us does not long for the imagined bliss of abiding love?

But of course there’s a reason why our favorite rom-coms all end at the beginning of a relationship, or why the best TV couples go through a cycle of fights and breakups until they get their happy ending in the series finale. Despite our cultural obsession with finding a lifelong love, long-term relationships in practice rarely have the same effervescent, exciting quality of a new romance.

According to the research of philosophy professor Aaron Ben-Ze’ev PhD, all relationships are destined to move from boiling to simmering over time. But there is good news. By adjusting our ideas about what love should feel like, we can learn to embrace the transition rather than fear it.

“Love and eggs are best when they are fresh”

Writing for Psychology Today, Ben-Ze’ev explains the psychological reasons why relationships inevitably lose their spark — and how we can learn to enjoy the simmering love even more than the initial tension.

Thus goes an old proverb, as quoted by Ben-Ze’ev. Love, like food, as this proverb seems to say, tends to grow old over time – and nothing can ever bring it back to its original form.

This is a concept that is widely believed to be true. Long-term relationships have a reputation of getting duller and more predictable as the years go by. We often talk about relationships that “lose the spark” after a few months or “rekindle the flame” in relationships that have become too monotonous. And, of course, we’ve all heard of the dreaded “seven-year itch.”

And scientific research seems to back it up.

Hormonally, we are all programmed to start relationships on a high and it is normal for this high to diminish over time. “The dopamine hit and excitement of a new relationship can be a real thrill, and for some it’s almost addictive,” Caroline Plummer, relationship therapist and founder of CPPC, tells Stylist. “Understandably, when the ‘honeymoon’ phase is over, some may begin to feel bored, despondent and even trapped.”

And according to a study by Zava, 57% of couples in relationships lasting six months or more experienced a decrease in sexual activity over time. Another study found that women, in particular, experienced a steady decline in sexual desire as the relationship progressed.

The emotional impact of change and familiarity

Why do relationships all lose their spark? According to Ben-Ze’ev, it largely comes down to our psychological response to change.

“People usually experience emotions when they perceive positive or negative significant changes in their personal situation — or in that of those associated with them,” Ben-Ze’ev writes. “This seems to work against the ability to tolerate romantic love.”

“The dopamine hit and excitement of a new relationship can be a real thrill, and for some it’s almost addictive. Understandably, when the ‘honeymoon’ phase is over, some become bored, despondent, and even trapped. ”

Change, he argues, is emotionally stimulating. And so it is exciting to meet someone new and have new experiences with them. But of course it is also untenable. “Change cannot last for an extended period of time,” he writes. “After a while, we see the change as normal, and it no longer stimulates us.”

Familiarity, on the other hand, has its own value – while it’s less emotionally stimulating and therefore feels less exciting, it can lead to something deeper. As Ben-Ze’ev puts it, “While change tends to elicit intense, short-lived emotions, familiarity tends to produce a more moderate attitude, which can indeed be long-lasting.”

Nurturing a deep relationship through romantic familiarity

Unsurprisingly, we are drawn to the intoxicating passion of new love affairs. The emotion of a new romance is intense. But maybe intensity shouldn’t be the goal.

“External change is very important in generating romantic intensity; in romantic depth, familiarity, stability and development are extremely important,” explains Ben-Ze’ev. “While romantic novelty is helpful in preventing boredom, romantic familiarity is valuable in promoting bloom.”

For a lasting love that blooms long after the initial high is gone, there has to be a foundation of similarity and familiarity. This usually comes in the form of common interests and shared values.

“While romantic novelty is helpful in preventing boredom, romantic familiarity is valuable in promoting bloom.”

“While many healthy relationships can begin with a higher level of intensity, relationships that start with a lot of drama—either through lots of passionate arguments and fabrications, or even relationships that start out as an affair—often lack the substance it takes to cope. distance,” Plummer says. “Once the excitement fades, you’re left with a partner you have trouble seeing eye to eye with.”

Romance can age like a fine wine – if you let it

If we keep thinking of that telltale romantic thrill as the number one indicator of a good relationship, chances are we’ll end up disappointed — the intense, overwhelming emotion of a new romance springs from a state of change — and no change for long. can be sustained.

Instead of looking for ways to bring more newness to our relationships in hopes of rekindling a lost spark, perhaps we should instead focus on nurturing the deeper aspects of the relationship. After all, while a sparkling new bottle of wine can be fun to kick back on a Friday night on the town, an old bottle of fine wine tasted slowly and carefully may well be worth the wait.

This article was originally published on Stylist | Image: Getty

This post Does it matter if the spark in your relationship is gone?

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