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The Two to Four Year Itch
The Chemical High of Love

While most people refer to the infamous movie called the "Seven Year Itch" to describe the dip of emotional intensity in a relationship, you may wonder if there is really such a thing in a relationship. Turns out there is, except it isn't seven years it is two to four years.

Psychiatrists divide romantic love into two fundamental stages: the attraction phase and the attachment phase. During the attraction phase, infatuation engulfs lovers with giddiness, euphoria, optimism, and energy. These feelings are influenced by increased activity in the brain of such chemicals as phenylethylamin and other natural brain stimulants. In stage two, the attachment stage, there is often a peaceful, secure, comfortable love.

Lisa Lawless
By Lisa S. Lawless, Ph.D.
Psychotherapist & Sexuality Expert

CEO & Founder of
Holistic Wisdom, Inc. & NAASAS

Copyright: Holistic Wisdom- Do NOT Copy Warning

Copyright © Holistic Wisdom, Inc.


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In the infatuation stage, often referred to as the 'Honeymoon Period' of a relationship, there is a virtual explosion of adrenaline-like nuerochemicals such as PEA or phenylethylamine; a chemical that speeds up the flow of information between nerve cells. Also, involved in 'love chemistry' are dopamine and norepinephrine, chemical cousins of amphetamines. Dopamine makes us feel good and norepinephrine stimulates the production of adrenaline.

These three chemicals combined with changes in hormones, give us infatuation (chemistry). It is why new lovers feel euphoric and energized, and 'float on air'. It is also why new lovers can make love for hours and talk all night for weeks on end. This is certainly the kind of chemistry of love we all seek.

Because love is fueled by chemicals and chemistry you can see lovers trying to increase this affect in their partner by giving chocolates, which have a similar affect on the brain in a less intense manner. That is why Valentine's day chocolates are so popular.

Another chemical, oxytocin, has been referred to as the cuddling chemical. Linked to milk production in women, oxytocin makes women and men calmer and more sensitive to the feelings of others. It plays an important role in romantic love as a sexual arousal hormone that signals orgasm and prompts cuddling between lovers before, during, and after lovemaking. Oxytocin production is derived from both emotional and physical cues. A lover's voice, his/her certain look, or even a sexual fantasy can trigger the release of oxytocin.

What Happens when the Chemical Honeymoon comes to an End?

After the honeymoon period, the brain stops producing as much of these chemicals and a tolerance to them builds. This is when most relationships begin to see intensification of conflicts. Because many people do not have the communication skills they need to work through these challenges that provide growth opportunities, they will seek out the chemical high through an affair or terminating their relationship and looking for it in someone else.

However, these same people will often find that they have similar issues that challenge them in their next relationship after the next honeymoon period comes to a chemical end. Thus, being aware of this allows us to understand that it is normal and that it is a sign we are moving into the stage of a relationship that may allow us the most emotional growth. This knowledge may also encourage couples to stick it out as there are not only emotional benefits but different chemical bonuses that occur after the intensity dies down.

Another important aspect is emotional intelligence, which is an important part of our evolution. To ignore the opportunity to evolve by working through our emotional challenges is neglecting the advancement of our emotional intelligence and keeps us immature.

This applies to monogamous and open relationships and is not contingent upon one being married. Regardless of one's style of commitment to someone. It is after the honeymoon period where we can learn the most about our partner(s), ourselves and experience a deeper more profound love than ever before.

However, it requires effort and in this fast paced, impatient society that we live in, avoidance of this is common. It is why we see such a large divorce rate and the desire to numb ourselves with unhealthy coping skills to avoid the emotional work that it requires.

The Chemical Bonus to Long Term Relationships

When infatuation subsides, a new group of chemicals takes over. This new type of chemical reward is created by endorphins. These morphine-like opiates calm and reassure with intimacy, dependability, warmth, and shared experiences. In combination with other chemical reactions associated with love in the body, people through a variety of studies have shown increased productivity of the immune system, and better health and a longer life. It is why some studies show that happily married people have better health and live longer.

While long term love chemicals are not as exciting or as stressful as PEA, they are steadier and more addictive. The longer two people have been together, the more likely it is that they'll stay together. In part, they become addicted to the endorphins and relationship serenity.

It is the absence of endorphins that make long-time partners yearn for each other when apart. Absent endorphins also play a part in grief from the death of a spouse. It is why in old age once a significant other dies the other often dies within a year of the other.

Getting through Infatuation Withdrawal

It seems that long term relationships are not only good for one's emotional health but also for your physical health. Again, these relationships don't have to be in a traditional marriage. Any romantic relationship whether in heterosexual, same sex relationships, open relationships as well as monogamous relationships can experience long term intimacy. It is more a matter of determining what type of relationship is right for you and finding a partner that has a similar vision. Then make the effort to communicate effectively with one another as well as invest effort into maintaining the relationship to go the distance.

Having Fun!

That is one of the reasons why we at Holistic Wisdom look for ways to provide relationship and sexual education so that you and your partner(s) can be empowered to live life fully and passionately! So whether you have been with your partner for many years or even if you are single, you can embrace loving yourself and your sexuality for a healthier, longer life.

 

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