From Whirlwind Romance To Long Term Love3 Min Read
One of the most sought-after feelings in the world is that of being madly — and mutually — in love. The sexual and emotional excitement that accompanies these experiences has often been described as a “high,” and you can thank a cascade of hormones for that.
This whirlwind of emotion has also been called “NRE,” (new relationship energy) or the state of limerence. While it’s normal to revel in the feeling, and wish for it to never leave you, it inevitability will…
But don’t worry. This is a good thing.
In short, while some of these feelings are temporarily amazing, it’s smart to allow other passions and loves to fill your life. Expert Esther Perel argues that falling out of the NRE is when love really begins. Let’s take a deeper look at both the timeframe, and the benefits of finding long-term, balanced love.
The Average Timeframe
The NRE/ state of limerence may hit you upon first meeting your partner(/s), or it might feel more like a growing entrancement. Or, as Hazel Grace Lancaster says in John Green’s “The Fault in Our Stars,” “I fell in love the way you fall asleep. Slowly…and then all at once.”
The first stage of love usually lasts between 18-36 months. When the peak of emotion starts to return to normal, people often feel a sense of loss or confusion given that they typically experience changes such as their sexual desire returning to a baseline after many months of spiked curiosity and sexual activity. However, many experts view losing this intense feeling of love as a net positive, not a negative.
The Benefits of Returning to Baseline
The problem with the high of a new relationship is that chemicals are running your life and guiding your decisions. In her book In The Flo, Alissa Viti notes that “norepinephrine acts as a stimulant that revs up your energy” which heightens your focus and attention. “You'll feel more alive, think obsessively about your new love, and experience feelings of euphoria,” she explains (4). The downside of this new feeling is that it can make you think you are logical when you are anything but.
Or as Esther Perel puts it, what if people constantly ran around in the state of being madly in love, remaining at that peak? She urges us to think of a world where people stayed in an obsessive state over their partner(/s) at all times. How little would get done?
“We’d lose our interests and level of passion in not only other areas of life, but in uncovering different ways life has to offer us happiness and fulfillment,” she explains in her seminal book, “Mating in Captivity.” Accepting that the drop is inevitable, normal and honestly, a positive is a helpful way to reframe your mind” (5).
This is Where Love Begins
Esther Perel notes that at the end of those 18-36 months, you begin actually feeling love, and not your spiking hormones alone. This stage of the relationship is where you get to choose to prioritize each other and to make your experiences worthwhile (5).
Of course, not everyone is lucky enough to get to this stage. Some people form addictions to the highs, and abandon their partner when they start to feel things settle back down. This is yet another reason to revel in the positives of a healthy, long-term partnership. And while longevity isn’t easy, it’s worth cultivating a new and uplifting perspective on the inevitable loss of the butterflies. You can begin to appreciate it as a new, multidimensional chapter, rather than a sad ending to a beautiful whirlwind.
- Wise, Nan. Why Good Sex Matters: Understanding the Neuroscience of Pleasure for a Smarter, Happier, and More Purpose-filled Life. Houghton Mifflin, 2020.
- “Why a New Partner Boosts Your Sex Life | Psychology Today.” Psychology Today, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/slightly-blighty/201508/why-new-partner-boosts-your-sex-life.
- Gottman, John, et al. The Man's Guide to Women: Scientifically Proven Secrets from the" Love Lab" about what Women Really Want. Rodale, 2016.
- Vitti, Alisa. In the Flo: Unlock Your Hormonal Advantage and Revolutionize Your Life. HarperOne, an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2021.
- Perel, Esther. Mating in Captivity. HarperCollins, 2006.