Romantic love — as described in most movies and songs — typically lasts about 18 months. (For more on this concept, see Helen Fisher's Why We Love.) But once the natural high of lust and obsession wears off, we're left with a decision. Do we stay and work at being in a relationship, or do we chase that high with someone else? And how do we know we're in love with the "right" person?
Here are some changes you can expect to see as you transition from being madly in love to building a long-term attachment with someone:
1. Your sex drive will diminish.
You won't be automatically aroused every time he or she enters a room the way you were when you first fell in love. This is normal! If we felt that way around our soul mate for the rest of our lives, we would not accomplish anything in life.
2. You see the other person's flaws.
One of the qualities of first falling in love is that we exaggerate the good and minimize the bad, automatically and without thinking about it. If we saw our lover's bad qualities from the start, we'd be hesitant to continue to battle the odds to be with him. Once the love cocktail wears off, we see our partner's flaws more clearly than ever.
3. Your partner suddenly won't be as tolerant of YOUR flaws.
Just as your love addiction wore off, so did his. He won't find it cute anymore that you just want to stay in every weekend, or that you wear sweatpants everywhere you go.
4. You may find yourself wondering if your values and lifestyles match up.
Does he smoke? Does she binge-drink on the weekends? Does he argue with his mom? You'll start to see your partner's lifestyle preferences more clearly than ever, and might seriously consider whether this person is someone you can live with. People have greater relationship success when they are with someone whose core values and lifestyle goals match their own.
5. You will start to fight a lot more… or not at all.
Is your conflict style the same or different? Do you like to talk about absolutely everything, so there are no secrets and nothing to dwell on, while your partner prefers icy silence? One is not better than the other, but we fare better with someone who has similar tendencies when it comes to handling conflict.
Your relationship will feel more natural because your style of conflict is being validated as normal. BUT if one of you likes to talk about every little thing and the other hates any kind of confrontation, it will take effort to overcome this difference in style and find a middle ground that suits you both.
Here are some traits that should REMAIN in your relationship, even after you've passed the stage of being desperately in love:
1. You respect each other.
Even though you realize your boyfriend or girlfriend, husband or wife is not perfect, you still respect him or her, and you can see that he or she respects you.
2. You genuinely like each other.
Your friendship is strong, and you can talk to this person about anything.
3. When you need this person, whether for something small or big, he or she is there for you.
Likewise, you show with actions that you are there for him or her too.
4. You feel heard.
When you feel scared or vulnerable, you can confide in your partner. He confides in you, too.
5. You feel seen.
Your partner makes you feel worthy and attractive to her, through words and actions.
6. You see the best in him.
It's sometimes called "love blindness." The happiest relationships are the ones in which the couple sees the best in each other, exaggerating the good and minimizing the bad.
7. You experience new things together.
You look forward to the adventures you'll have with this person, and to sharing your life together.
8. You practice love daily.
You show this person you love him not only with words but with kindness, consideration, and caring actions every day. He does the same for you. You remember that she loves her coffee with coconut milk, so you bring it to her in bed. You know he feels upset after dinners at his parents' house, so you rub his back and sit with him until he feels better.
9. You can sense that your partner would do anything for you, because he or she does everything for you.
You do the same for him or her.
These relationship traits don't come naturally to everyone. If you don't see them in your relationship, you can start implementing them on your own, with the help of a relationship coach.
However, if your love hangover leaves you realizing you simply don't LIKE who your partner is, that you don't feel respected, or that this person is not there when you need him, it may be time to evaluate what you've learned from this relationship and then set yourself free.
- Chemistry Doesn't Equal A Great Relationship
- 11 Things All Women Should Know About Real Relationships
- Want True Love? Here's The One Thing You Need To Know
Photo Credit: iStock Photo