Is There Love That Lasts a Lifetime?

The short answer to this question is a resounding “Yes!"  A million times over, “Yes!” “Yes!” “Yes!”

So why does there seem to be an ever-growing plethora of terms such as:

"divorce" 

"starter-marriage" 

"conscious uncoupling?"

The Western-World culture has been answering this question with a common theme that has, in my strong opinion, been totally off-mark. Most of the advice offered has to do with finding someone that is “compatible” or techniques and tools for better communication and interaction. Finding someone who shares common values and ideologies is important, for sure. And, no doubt, the majority of people in our culture are accustomed to interacting with others in a communication style that is fraught with overtones of sarcasm, manipulation, and narcissism. However, there is a pervasive mindset that has far more to do with failing relationships.

In the 1960’s, as science began to be more involved in scientific fields such as: neurology, psychology, psychiatry, and sociology, a researcher by the name of Dorothy Tennov was attempting to further understand and describe what happens when someone “falls in love”. The word love, itself, didn’t seem to suffice. One might love pizza, love their dog, and love their fiancée. However, those three uses of love carry meanings that are obviously very different. She needed a term that differentiated this concept from other common uses of the word, so she coined the term:

 
limerence1.png
 

Haven’t heard of limerence before? You’re not alone!

A few years ago I was attending a conference on marriage. The vast majority of the audience of 400 or so was made up of professionals such as therapists, psychologists, counselors and social workers. Dr. Patricia Love (her actual name), a nationally recognized relationship expert, was the keynote speaker. Her speech that day kept referring to this other type of love but not once did she use the word limerence. I kept thinking to myself, “surely she knows the term”! So, at the close of the session, I made my way to the front of the room and introduced myself and thanked her for her important speech. Then I asked her why she never used the term “limerence”. Her reply: “Most of these people wouldn’t know what I was talking about”.

That reply has continued to trouble me, although I have to agree with her. It’s so troubling to me because, over the past 4 decades there has developed an overwhelming body of research on the subject. I strongly encourage everyone who intends to engage in a couple relationship, or anyone who has done so, to look into it! I just did a quick “google” of the word and came up with over 200,000 entries.

I’m not going to take the time here to go into detail on how neuro-transmitters are not in their normal state during limerence. I also won’t elaborate on how someone in limerence tends to behave practically identically to a cocaine addict. I won’t take the time to expound on how limerence seems to “trick” us into thinking we are getting someone totally different than what we actually get. Limerence is not a bad thing. It is just a human phenomenon that most people will experience, through a period, at least once in their lifetime.

What I want to focus on here is the fact that limerence runs a course that doesn’t last. The typical term for limerence is only about 6-18 months. In uncommon instances it lasts for up to 3 years and, occasionally, it can even last 5 years. Many want to know how to make it last longer than the basic 6-18 months and the answer is a pretty straightforward formula: To make limerence last longer, stay away from the one you are in limerence with. (I have yet found someone who has been successful in applying this formula)

In simpler terms, limerence is the illusion of being fully accepted… the basic reason we seek out a mate in the first place. The reason limerence is so powerful is because we have such a strong, innate drive to be accepted. When we believe we are accepted, whatever or whomever supplies that belief becomes irresistible. 

But, eventually, we discover that they have flaws and issues, and they discover the same about us. And so, the limerence begins to fade away, providing fodder for numerous songs and poems with phrases like, “you’ve lost that loving feeling” and “trying to get the feeling again”.

So here’s what it all boils down to: 

 
limerencelove.png
 

Sure, it feels great but it goes away. Real love CANNOT go away. If you truly love someone, that love is not based on how they make you feel. It is something you choose to do. Sometimes you have to recommit to that choice several times in one day. Someone who loves their child does not refuse to change their dirty diaper simply because they’re not “feeling it”.

Now the good news: There are couples who have lifetime love, who love each other more after 50 years of marriage than they did back during the honeymoon. This love is a much more profound love than two people who are in the throes of a wild affair. (By the way, there are recent studies that indicate many couples who have been married for 30+ years have similar neurotransmitter proportions to those who are in limerence) This love has been through some deeply troubling times together. This love has shared decades of events that have laid bare most of the facades, insecurities and warts we all try to hide. And the biggest reason it is so strong is that there is no longer an illusion of acceptance… the acceptance is real.