The 3 phases of love and their characteristics
Do you love your partner but you don’t feel like the first day anymore? Do you notice that the feeling you have towards your partner has changed over time? These are completely normal feelings that describe the changes in the way we feel and interpret what a relationship means to us.
This happens because
love has different phases and stages , all of them with their defining characteristics. If the article “The 5 phases of overcoming the grief of the break-up” spoke of the stages of falling in love, in this text we will deal with the different phases of love.
Love also evolves
It is important to note that, although this is a phenomenon that has aroused much interest among psychology professionals, there are discrepancies in the number of phases of love and the characteristics that define them.
according to the psychologist John Gottman , author of the book Principa Amoris: The New Science of Love , romantic love has three distinct phases that appear in sequence, just as people are born, grow up and age.
Their research has shown that love is a complex experience, and has served to identify some stages in a couple’s life in which love can deteriorate or continue to evolve forward until it reaches the deepest form of emotional bond .
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The stages of love: limerick, romantic love and mature love
What are these stages of love? What characteristics do they present? Below you can see them described and explained.
Phase 1: Limiting
This stage is also called the phase of falling in love or lust , and is the phase in which we are most excited and eager to see the other person. The feelings and emotions of lovers have to do with euphoria and rapid changes of mood.
The term “limerence”
was coined by Dorothy Tennov , and according to her, the characteristic symptomatology of this stage are some physical changes such as redness, tremors or palpitations; excitement and nervousness, intrusive thinking, obsession, fanciful thoughts and fear of rejection.
Falling in love is something exceptional
In the book
The alchemy of love and lust, Dr. Theresa Crenshaw explains that not just anyone can make us trigger the cascade of hormones and neurotransmitters that accompanies the exciting first phase of love. But when falling in love occurs, then, and only then, does the neurochemical cascade of falling in love explode, changing our perception of the world.
The psychologist and communications director of the magazine
Psychology and Mind , Jonathan García-Allen, in his article “The chemistry of love: a very powerful drug”, explains that “in this phase the brain releases large amounts of dopamine, serotonin or noradrenaline, that is why when we fall in love we feel excited, full of energy and our perception of life is magnificent. Exactly the same as if we use psychoactive substances”.
In short, when we fall in love, our brain secretes :
- Phenylethylamine (PEA) : is a natural amphetamine that our body produces and is called the “molecule of love”.
- Pheromones: derived from DHEA, they influence sensuality more than sexuality, creating an incredible feeling of well-being and comfort. In addition, pheromones could influence our decision making without us realizing it.
- Oxytocin-also called the hugging hormone, helps create close bonds with the other person. When we feel close to that person and have intimate relationships our body takes care of secreting it. This chemical lasts in the brain for about 4 years according to the theory of Donald F. Klein and Michael Lebowitz
- Dopamine: is related to pleasure and is the neurotransmitter that plays an important role in gambling, drug use, and also in love. It is important because it is involved in the reward system, that is, it helps us to repeat pleasurable behaviors.
- Noradrenaline : also known as norepinephrine, it is associated with the feeling of euphoria, exciting the body and giving it a dose of natural adrenaline.
- Serotonin: acts on emotions and mood. It is responsible for well-being, generates optimism, good mood and sociability.
This abrupt change in generation and hormones and neurotransmitters makes us tend to be less emotionally stable, at least for a while and, specifically, when we think of the other person or feel them close.
Phase 2: Romantic love (building trust)
The questions that may arise during this phase are: “Will you be there for me?” “Can I trust you?” “Can I count on you for good times and bad?” These are some of the reflections we make to know if we want to continue with that person who has made us feel so much and if we really are with the right person for this long journey of love.
When we can’t answer these questions positively,
conflicts arise again and again and can seriously erode the relationship . The answers to these questions are the basis of the secure or insecure attachment to the relationship.
A challenge for managing emotions
Therefore, it is common that at this stage there are crises . Getting out of them implies a growth in the relationship and the strengthening of affective ties. On the other hand, if doubts are confirmed, frustration, disappointment, sadness and anger may appear.
These crises can appear around the age of 2 or 3 and, in many cases, the outcome of these fights is determined by the members’ ability to negotiate and communicate.
Developing or building trust is based on taking into account the needs of the other partner as well. This is achieved:
- Being aware of the other person’s pain
- Having tolerance for their point of view in addition to your own
- Meeting the needs of the couple
- With active, non-defensive listening
- With an attitude of empathy
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Phase 3: Mature love (building commitment and loyalty)
If the couple manages to overcome the previous stage, they reach the stage of union or mature love . This stage is characterized by the construction of a real and loyal commitment. It is the stage of deepest trust, in which more rational decisions are made. That is, a deeper appreciation of the other person is produced and there is a union that prevails over the emotional torrent and turmoil of the beginning of the relationship.
At this stage, calm and peace are more valued, and the other person becomes a support point.
More importance is given to attachment, tenderness, deep affection, and love then reaches another level .
Consolidating the stable relationship
In this stage love is fed by understanding and respect from both members of the couple . Somehow, love is experienced in a less individualistic way, thinking of the couple as a unit that is more than the sum of its parts.
The emotional bond is not as obsessive as in the first phase and gives way to a free love, based on communication, dialogue and negotiation. In this phase it is very rare for communication problems to appear that were not present before, unless they are due to a concrete and easily identifiable fact that breaks the health of the relationship.
To reach this stage we must take into account that love is not born, it is built through time and is constantly cared for. The simple passage of time does not make it possible to reach the last of the main phases of love ; for example, it could cause the emotional bond to deteriorate if attention is not paid to it.
Do you want to know more about mature love? This article may interest you: ”
Mature love: why second love is better than first?”