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Divorce Resources for Women

When Limerence Fades In Your New Marriage

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I can’t say that this is one of the most common questions that I receive as a relationship coach, but it does come up enough that it needs to be addressed.

The question is from someone who has a basic knowledge of the concept known as Limerence. Here is my definition of Limerence: 

Limerence is a mental state that many people think of as “true love” or being “in love.” It is a scientific phenomenon and chemically-influenced state, primarily fueled by the chemical dopamine that is released by neurons in the human brain and plays a major role in the motivational component of reward-motivated behavior. (Coach Lee, “What is Limerence”)

Limerence is a type of love and the first type that most of us experience with someone. Some people call it the “honeymoon phase,” of a relationship and it paves the way for commitment, companionship, friendship, and a “feeling of family” with the other person.  

It’s certainly an exciting phase and people who are experiencing often believe and even say that they have, “never felt this way before.” 

When a marriage begins to fail or when a spouse leaves the marriage, both parties are capable of experiencing Limerence with another person. The new relationship is easily better than the state of the marriage when it fell apart and that contrast can often bolster and hasten the limerent experience.

That often results in a marriage once the divorce is final in the previous one. As in all cases of Limerence, the intensity of this experience will fade. The dopamine produced in the limerent’s bloodstream will not be able to be produced in high enough levels to match the experiences of the past. Similar to a drug addiction, people who are experiencing such a fade will chase the high that can never be reached again.

Now what? If you are in this situation, you likely still love this person and don’t want another marriage to fail. If you have children and stepchildren, you don’t want them to go through another one as well. That can certainly be encouragement to work to keep the fires of this relationship strong and that often starts with understanding that a dip in the romantic intensity of your new marriage is normal and doesn’t mean that the two of you aren’t great for each other.

What is does mean is that it is time for your relationship to take a step toward a more “mature,” and “sophisticated,” type of love that is based more on commitment and being family together. Passion should still be there and should be nurtured, but the relationship should no longer be based on passion and romance alone. 

Paying bills, guiding children, taking care of each other in sickness, and other partnered tasks of co-parenting pave the way for layers of your relationship that actually make it stronger rather than only being one-dimensional as is the case of a Limerence-only relationship. Such development in a relationship is necessary for its survival or else the sparkle of a new, unexplored relationship with another becomes too tempting. If your relationship were to remain Limerence-only, once chemical production weakens due to increased familiarity and intimacy, you and your spouse would become vulnerable to new a experience.

Embracing traditions, as Dr. Jeanette Lofas discusses in The Dynamics of Step-families, along with new experiences such as trips and sexual novelty together can retain some of the highs of Limerence. Anything that can be done to keep growing together and exploring each other emotionally (and physically) can keep much of that sparkle and intensity alive.

Just know that it’s best not to chase the spark by itself. In other words, there are people who some say become “addicted” to the chemical highs of Limerence to the point that they leave a relationship when those chemicals fade and chase them through the vehicle of another relationship. We might even say that those people are addicted to love. In this case, a shallow form of love.

Don’t fall for that. Nurture, cherish, and dedicate yourself to your marriage. It will require the understanding that the relationship will be ever evolving and will require effort whereas new relationships fueled by the aforementioned chemicals deceptively appear effortless. Your marriage is valuable and worth being fed, protected, and intentional as it goes forward without the sugar high of the concept known to relationship educators as Limerence. Don’t become another step family statistic.

Lee Wilson is a relationship expert who has been interviewed by Cosmopolitan, The Today Show Australia, Bravo TV, The Sun, and others. He helps couples get their ex back after a breakup and to save a marriage in danger of separation and divorce.

 

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