How to stay in love is not a silly question. Indeed, what breaks many relationships is the failed transition between the “butterfly love face”, called limerance, and the “real” relationship aftewards.
Let’s dig deeper.
The Beginning of Love
People sometimes refer to limerence as the “honeymoon phase”, “butterflies in the stomach” or “puppy love”.
Some sources even list “having a crush” as a form of limerence.
When in limerence we often feel the following:
- Happy and upbeat
- constant thoughts about our partner
- strong sexual attraction for our partner
- desire for reciprocation
- craving to see our partner
- hope and optimism for the future
- when reciprocated, a feeling that nothing could tear you apart
Now, that last point is the most important. Because when limerence is still groin strong, we don’t notice much our partners flaws. And when we do notice, we also tend to accept them and to be confident that we can overcome them.
But what when limerence ends?
Dorothy Tennov says limerence can last from a few weeks to several decades, but the average is 18 months to three years.
Once limerence is over, our blinders also come off. Romantic attraction might still be there, but it’s not anymore the main driver that keep us together.
And all the small issues that bothered us at the beginning start screaming louder and louder. And if we are not careful contempt, criticism and stonewalling can all plant their ugly roots right after limerence and poison our relationships.
And to stay together in a happy, healthy relationship we need something else.
What can we do then to keep love alive?
How to Stay In Love
Fondness and admiration are the second layer of the Gottman’s solid foundation for a relationship to work (the first being love maps).
Fondness and admiration are the perfect antidote to the limerence expiration date and they are the perfect way to keep us focused on the positives.
Because of the positive atmosphere they foster, they are also the perfect antidote to vicious circles and contempt as well.
Fondness and Admiration Examples
Being fond of your partner includes the following:
- Feeling of pride for your partner
- Liking our partner
- Attraction for our partner
Here are a few ways to express it:
- It drives me wild when you… (come back home and start kissing me)
- I’m really proud of you… (getting that promotion)
- I love it how you… (smell so good before coming to bed)
- I am really impressed by your… (knowledge on X topic)
- I really respect you because of… (strong values)
- I very much appreciate that you… (work so hard for us)
- Thank you for… (admitting that)
When Love Expires
When love expires without fondness, we could get a vicious spiral into the four horsemen of the apocalypse and a separation.
But it’s also possible the couple stays together. Indeed, as Mira Kirshenbaum wrote, divorce is an overrated predictor of poor relationships.
Many poor relationships indeed never end. They just stay poor.
This is a perfect, sad example of a relationship fully devoid of fondness an admiration:
Staying In Love Test
Read the statements below and think whether or not they apply to you.
- Touch and kiss affectionately
- Say “I love you”
- Respect each other
- Feel loved
- Think of your partner fondly when away
- Can easily list 3 things you admire about your partner
- Feel accepted and liked
- Feel proud of your partner
- Enjoy his achievements
- Can easily say you you dated him
- Feel he finds you attractive and sexy
- Think there’s fire and passion
- Feel turned on by him
- Would date him again if you could go back
- Feel romance is still alive
- Sleep showing affection
- Feel glad when you see your partner
- Appreciate the things your partner often does
- Feel your partner generally likes your personality
- Feel satisfied about your sex life
If you can say yes to more than 10 question, your relationship is very healthy.
If you score poorly, not everything is lost. Sometimes fondness and admiration must be re-discovered beneath layers negativity.
You can start with the exercise below.
Staying in Love Examples
Here’s an example of appreciation I liked:
Her: Thank you for admitting that
Coupled with her expression of sincere gratefulness, it makes it a great moment of appreciation and admiration.
If she wanted to go one step further she could have added “thank you for admitting that. I really love you when you are so honest”.
Exercises to Stay In Love
In The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work Gottman introduces an exercise helping couples rediscover fondness and admiration and staying in love.
The idea is to pick 3 a positive adjectives among a list that describe your partner.
Then name situations when your partner recently showed those qualities. And tell them about it.
The idea of this exercise is not to do it once and end it. The idea is to kick-start an habit.
Creating Shared Meaning
The second level of this exercise is to go deeper. Explore with your partner why you picked the virtues that you picked.
And articulate why they are important to you. This why you will better get to know your partner and you will create shared meaning.
The beginning of love is always great. But to build strong, healthy and long lasting relationships, we need to throw the basis and foundation for when the “butterflies phase” runs out.
We do it by building a culture of apprecciation, fondness and admiration.
This article gave you a few examples and an exercise on to stay in love forever.