Romantic love is widely misunderstood, especially if you’re younger than 40.
This is because children are typically raised believing in very idealistic views of romance, always searching for “the one.” And if, and when, we find “the one” we assume that we will marry in bliss and live happily ever after.
We go through life clinging to many false ideas about love and marriage, but reality doesn’t always coincide with these beliefs. Pain, Irritation, and loss contrast with the usual romantic notions we all have of love.
To understand love we have to first understand that there are two types of love: Passionate and Companionate.
Passionate love is the love you quickly fall into.
Love researchers Ellen Berscheid and Elaine Walster define passionate love as a “wildly emotional state in which tender and sexual feelings, elation and pain, anxiety and relief, altruism and jealousy coexist in a confusion of feelings.”
Companionate love, on the other hand, is the love that grows slowly over time as two people begin to care for and trust one another.
Bersheid and Walster define companionate love as “the affection we feel for those with whom our lives are deeply intertwined with.”
Companioate love is less exciting than passionate love, but it’s longer lasting.
In many universities around the world, professors will actually tell you that love is a social construction, but the inherent need to be with someone is part of our genetic makeup.
Being with someone special is so important that the brain even has its own mechanism for forming and regulating relationships called the attachment system.
Our attachment system is trying to make sure we remain close to our loved ones by inducing us to feel certain emotions and by making us behave in certain ways.
When your partner stays out late and doesn’t check in, you may begin to feel anxious. This is your attachment system trying to reestablish contact with your partner by inducing you to feel anxious.
Your partner’s actions may also make you feel jealous, worried, and maybe obsessive, but when you begin consistently feeling like this, you start equating the anxiety, the preoccupation, and the bursts of joy with love.
However, what you’re really doing is mistaking an activated attachment system with passion.
People will reason to themselves that this must be what love is, “I feel jealous when my partner stays out late at night, so that must mean I’m in love with this person,” but this is NOT true love.
In order to thrive and develop as human beings, we need a secure base to derive strength and comfort from. We have to feel calm in our relationship because true love really means peace of mind.
As the old saying goes,
“Still waters run deep.”
This is companionate love.
If you’re someone who defines true love as eternal passion, then you will never find it because this is biologically impossible.
Anything that you do that you find pleasurable releases dopamine in your brain. So when you take drugs for example, you get huge surges of dopamine, but your brain will naturally build a tolerance to it. As a result, you have to take more drugs to stay elated.
Love works the same way.
Passionate love is a drug, meaning it has to wear off eventually because nobody can stay high forever.
If passionate love runs its course, there will be a day when it weakens. Usually one person in the relationship will feel the change first. This is where break ups tend to happen.
Love is, without question, life’s greatest experience. True love exists, but it is not passion that lasts forever.
True love, the love that under grids strong marriages, is simply strong companionate love, with some added passion, between two people who choose to be committed to each other and who choose to love one another each and every single day when they wake up and when they go to sleep.
In the long run passionate love is fleeting, while companionate love can last a lifetime.