Variety Is the Spice of Marriage
Research indicates that in human relationships, the initial period of passionate love really only lasts for about one to two years. This time is characterized by strong feelings of love and desire, excitement and novelty. It is driven, in part, by a rush of various neurotransmitters and hormones, such as dopamine, oxytocin, and phenylethylamine. Passionate love is what begins the bond between most romantically-involved couples, married or not... but for a lot of reasons, it is not sustainable at that level of intensity over the longer term.
After the initial period of passionate love begins to slow, there is a shift toward what is called companionate love, which is characterized by mutual understanding, care for one another, intimacy, and commitment. What is often missing is that intense spark of passion. Unfortunately, and Hollywood isn't doing us any favors here, people often mistake the shift toward companionate love as "falling out of love" with one's partner. Companionate love is a different kind of love, but it is still love. It is the form of love that has kept our grandparents together all these years and sustains them as they drink coffee on the porch in their rocking chairs each morning. There is not as much excitement in companionate love, but there is beauty in it.
And the real problem, perhaps, is that as the passion component fades to a dull roar (few relationships become totally without passion), the intimacy component also starts to fail. When intimacy and passion are both slipping, commitment isn't far behind.
So...what is the answer? If these are normal, natural stages in all relationships (successful and unsuccessful), and the science tells us that they absolutely are, then why are some couples able to stay together while others fall apart?
It turns out that part of the reason passionate love fades to companionate love is that the newness of a relationship eventually wears off. What is at first a novelty, a surprise, becomes simply routine after awhile. This is why couples might spend hours on the phone each night in the first year of the relationship but barely say a few sentences to one another daily by year 20. There is the sense that the spouses have learned all there is to know about one another. Familiarity, as they say, breeds contempt.
You can combat familiarity by doing new and exciting things with your spouse. Try a new restaurant, go on vacation, talk about something besides money, work, and the kids once in a while. Be unpredictable. Break the routine. Discover new things about each other and about the world. It will go a long way toward injecting variety, novelty, and passion into your relationship...and someday, it may even save your marriage.