|Morgan James Publishing
|Barnes & Noble
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If you are in a long term relationship and have noticed that the love you feel for your partner is different from when you first got together, you’re experiencing something absolutely normal that comes with the changes you encounter as a relationship ages and evolves. Anthropologists and researchers have identified three stages of love in humans (Fisher 1998; 2005): Lust, attraction, and attachment. It’s believed that love evolves for mating and reproductive purposes, which allows us to live in long term relationships as we get older. Think about this: as our bodies age, even with the help of erectile dysfunction drugs, estrogen supplements, testosterone therapy, and hip replacements sex is not eternal. Let’s examine these stages and their characteristics more closely.
Lust is mainly characterized by the craving for sexual gratification. Think about when you first started dating your partner, and even a kiss could fire up intense sexual feelings and desires. You probably experienced these same feelings with other individuals you dated in the past, even if you did not enter into long term relationships with them. Individuals experience this desire for sexual gratification without specific selection of a partner, anyone could do. Many times, the drive to seek this sexual gratification is responsible for affairs, confusions about love, commitment, and more importantly unhappiness and self-doubt.
This stage of love is temporary, and it often doesn’t last long. It may come and go in your relationship, but it’s unfair to you and your partner to expect this stage to be permanent in your relationship. I have seen much doubt and questioning from individuals who seek to maintain this stage. They usually end up moving from one relationship to the next hoping that they can maintain this feeling, inevitably ending the relationship once lust endswhich could range from 6 months to 3 years depending on the individual.
Attraction is characterized by increased energy and focused attention on one or more potential mates, accompanied by feelings of exhilaration, intrusive thinking (obsession-like) about a mate, and the craving for emotional union with this mate or potential mate. When you’re madly in love with someone, the person becomes the center of your world, and they take a special meaning in your life.
The attraction stage helps you be more selective than the earlier lust, since childhood experiences, cultural forces, and individual choice can influence it. This attraction leads you to visualize yourself with your partner in the future, and you may ask yourself “Do we have the same values or goals in life?” or “Are we a good match for a life together?” This stage helps you decide if this person will be a good father or mother for future children, or life partner if children are not in your future.
Attachment is characterized by the maintenance of close social contact, accompanied by feelings of calm, security, comfort, and emotional union with a mate. Love evolves from lust to attraction, and later to attachment in order to help you focus and concentrate your attention in one partner and tolerate him or her at least long enough to get through child rearing years. This attachment is what most people desire when they think of a long term relationship. Feeling safe and secure is the motivation.
Love is a complex experience of excitement when things go well, but also of sadness and hurt when things fall apart. Therefore, love can bring great joy or great sorrow to your life. If you’re experiencing a hard time in your relationship, you could identify with the pain that relationships can cause. However, your desire and motivation to work on this relationship is probably based on the happiness and joy you once experienced. Some researchers believe that love is not an emotion (Fisher 2006), but a powerful brain system that drives and motivates people to act. Think of what love has motivated you to do in the past and maybe the present. Whether in times of joy or sorrow, it’s clear that love can have a great impact on your motivations and influence your actions. More so, studies show that falling in love affects intellectual areas of the brain and triggers the same sensation of euphoria experienced by people when they take cocaine (Ortigue, Bianchi-Demicheli, Patel, Frum, & Lewis 2010). You may be thinking that his helps to explain a few particularly poor choices from the past.