Portland Marriage Counseler: What Your Brain Does When You’re in Love

January 8, 2014 by

It doesn’t take a Portland marriage counselor to tell you that the way we feel when we first fall in love with someone is different than the way we feel after we’ve been with them for many years. However, just because the initial head-over-heels sensation is replaced by a more stable long-term attachment doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong or that you and your partner necessarily need relationship help.

This week I’m going to take a look at how our experience of love changes over time and talk about how you can keep your relationship strong when you shift from initial attraction to long-term attachment.

A Portland Marriage Counselor Looks at the Brain Chemistry of Love

Initial attraction. Beginning a new relationship is exciting. Your mind is almost constantly on your significant other, and you experience a physical rush every time they’re with you. During this stage, your levels of adrenaline and cortisol spike, causing the physical feeling of being newly in love. You also have higher than normal dopamine levels, which causes intense rushes of pleasure when you’re with your new partner. Meanwhile, the hormone responsible for feelings of calmness and contentedness, serotonin, is dampened. This is why being newly in love can feel like such an emotional roller coaster.

Many couples think that when this “honeymoon phase” ends, things are falling apart and they need help from a Portland marriage counselor like me. The truth is, the way you experience love naturally evolves over time and isn’t indicative of any kind of problem. In fact, there are advantages to the more stable long-term attachment phase.

Long-term attachment.  Once you’ve been in a relationship for a longer period of time, your brain begins to produce more serotonin, which promotes a sense of contentedness and togetherness. You also produce more oxytocin. Oxytocin is released during sex (and other times of connectedness) and deepens the feelings of attachment between two people. The combination of oxytocin and the chemical vasopressin promotes a feeling of faithfulness.

This allows for greater stability, but some couples bemoan the loss of that initial excitement or “spark” and rush out to see a Portland marriage counselor. The good news is that it is possible to retrigger some of those initial attraction chemicals by doing novel activities with your partner, such as learning a new skill or taking up a sport together. It’s also important to remain inquisitive about your partner in order to continue learning new things about one another and deepening your understanding of each other as a whole person.

Portland Marriage Counselor: Sometimes More Help Is Needed

Of course, rationally knowing how to “fix” things and actually doing it are very different, and asking for relationship help when you need it is never a bad thing. If you’d like to learn more about getting the spark back into a long-term relationship, you can always talk to a Portland marriage counselor.