You Can't Have Him

What Made Your Match Work in the First Place?

(Louvre, Amor and Psyche) You Can't Have Him—He's Mine

The Initial Mystical Fit

Let's consider the things that initially drew you and your mate together. For many couples, recalling when they first laid eyes on each other brings happy, nostalgic memories, no matter what shape the relationship might be in at the present. As you might guess, there are many psychological reasons—not to mention scientific ones—that explain what was going on in your brain, body, and psyche when you met your mate, and vice versa. So, let us explore what lies behind that magical, mysterious, romantic attraction that leads most couples to woo and wed. But, before we delve into the story of you and your beloved as a “couple,” everything we know about the human predilection for pairbonding demands that we first examine what was going on in your head because, after all, you chose him based upon your needs and your desires.

As you’ll come to understand after learning some of the theories on why we select the mates that we do, many of us choose our men not because we want to, or think that they’ll be good for us, or will lead to contentment, stability, or even “happily ever after.” To the contrary, much of the psychological evidence points towards something much more interesting and, if you think about it, pretty predictable. The experts believe that we choose our partners to meet our mental image of love, which is fairly well mapped out by the time we are eight (gasp!) years old. (So much for making mature decisions and weighing the pros and cons of loving an artist versus a lawyer.) If what the experts tell us is true, your parents (or primary caregivers), your siblings, the content and emotional tone of your home environment (collectively called your “family-of-origin”), as well as the culture you grew up in, leave an indelible mark on your psyche as far as who you will interest you romantically, and who will not.

Here, we'll briefly examine the theories to gain insight into why you choose your man—over all the others on the planet—to be your partner. Think about these theories as you consider how to keep your marriage alive through the challenges and changes that the passage of time can bring.

Family Systems and Boundaries

According to Murray Bowen, Ph.D., the way we love and relate to our mates stems from the way we related to our nuclear family. Bowen’s theory (dating from the 1960s) involves looking at how family systems affect individuals, particularly the person’s ability to differentiate (separate one’s own feelings and thoughts from parents’). Bowen believes that those who could not differentiate as individuals took on the emotional tones or deficiencies foisted upon them by their family role (i.e., sibling position or “birth order”) or assigned to them by other family members. In this way, Bowen considers the family to be a critical factor in how each person develops—or fails to—and, that the repercussions of being unable to differentiate oneself from one’s family will have lasting negative consequences, often throughout future generations. (Bowen calls this effect the “multigenerational transmission process.”)

Following Bowen’s theory, if a person is not “differentiated” from his family of origin, he or she will choose a mate to relieve the anxiety or tension caused by the role or emotions adopted in response to family “systems,” rather than choosing a mate based upon a person’s thoughtful, rational, and autonomic needs. For instance, if the youngest child in the family has been treated like a “baby” to whom much is given and not much is expected; without differentiation, she will assume the “baby” role for life and choose a mate to fulfill it. He will take care of her and make decisions for her: meanwhile, this woman will probably lack autonomy and personal responsibility and suffer from an unhealthy fusion (inability think and feel separately) with her mate, as opposed to enjoying healthy, thoughtful intimacy with appropriate personal boundaries intact. As you might guess, the more “differentiated” a person becomes, Dr. Bowen’s theory predicts that the better adjusted to life she will be. Plus, research has found a link between higher “differentiation” and marital satisfaction; as the more differentiated a person is, the less likely he or she will: (1) be emotionally reactive; (2) be “cut off” from family (this, too, is not good for most humans); (3) take responsibility for one’s own actions (not blame others); and (4) seek intimacy with a mate, as opposed to a needy “fusion” or icy avoidance.

The Map to Your Heart

If Dr. Bowen’s “family systems” approach seems foreign to you, consider that some experts believe that your “soul mate” (or, less dramatically, your choice of life partners) reflects requirements set forth in your proverbial “lovemap.” This phrase and concept came to us in the mid 1980s from world-famous sexologist/psychologist, John Money, Ph.D. Since then, the lovemap theory has been accepted by many other love professionals as a helpful and insightful tool to analyze why you love who you love. And since the same is true for your mate—as for all humans—knowing what a “lovemap” is might just help save someone you know—like your husband—from making a huge mistake in the future. For now though, your lovemap is the issue.

For Dr. Money, like Dr. Bowen, family of origin is critical to your love choices, but not for the same reasons. According to Money’s lovemap theory, from the time we are born—to about the age of eight (particularly ages five to eight)—our brains are developing tastes and preferences concerning what we like and what we don’t, e.g. chocolate, not strawberry ice cream. But more than that, our neural connections to particular characteristics and pleasure associations with erotic or sexual experiences are awakened as kids and we begin to form a pattern of what pleases us. (We are attracted to green eyes, red hair, slight build, and sharp tongue). This process of imprinting results in our lovemap. In his 1986 book of the same name, Dr. Money defined a lovemap as, “a developmental representation or template in the mind and in the brain depicting the idealized lover and the idealized program of sexuoerotic activity projected in imagery or actually engaged in with that lover.” Put more plainly, our sexual and erotic preferences become fairly well defined when we’re young and our brains and psyches are developing while our limbic attractors (that stuff in the lower brain that gives rise to primal mammalian urges to feed, fight, flee, and, uhm, make love) swing into full gear. As a result, though we may not—at age five or eight—be able to describe who we’ll marry when we’re older, we’ll have no problem knowing him when we see him by how he resonates with us due to how closely he resembles our lovemap.

Imago Me and You—I Do

Next on the list to explain why and how your mate met your image of true love, we’ll address the imago (Latin for “image”) theory. According to this theory (made almost ubiquitous by virtue of its founder’s 1988 bestseller, Getting the Love You Want), we choose mates who have both the positive and negative qualities of our parents (or caretakers). By choosing people who have personalities or characteristics that replicate what we saw in the households of our youth we do two things: we seek the familiar and we try to heal the wounds of our past through our current love. Though psychiatrist, Carl G. Jung, famously said, “The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed,” the same could be the credo for Dr. Harville Hendrix and his love choice theory. But, according to Hendrix, before a person can be transformed, each must be conscious of the wounds remaining from childhood that propelled that individual to pick the mate he or she did. Without this insight, the wounds are merely repeated, not healed, and the couple, once hotly attracted to each other, begins to disengage or fight, or worse, as they are constantly re-wounded by that which first attracted them.

Here is how Hendrix’s imago theory might apply to you. If your father withheld his approval or seemed aloof and unavailable to you as a child, you may have felt unworthy of your dad’s attention because try as you might to gain his interest, nothing you ever did as a youngster engaged, pleased, or delighted him. According to Imago theory, your image of love would be a withholding, aloof man, who repeats the familiar pattern of paternal—i.e., male—disinterest in you. (Meanwhile, by treating you this way, the partner you selected is acting out his own childhood wounds, and chose you as his mate specifically because you met the familiar pattern—imago—of his experience.) The goal under Imago therapy is to gain individual and marital transformation from the knowledge of how our negative childhood experiences have affected our behavior (and mate choice), allowing both partners to heal the wounds from the past and enjoy the positive elements of their relationship. This imago-induced transcendence is accomplished by therapist-led role reversals and engaging in couples’ dialogues based upon giving (and then getting) attention, validation, and empathy for the hurt place from which the partner is coming, and then, finally receiving from our partner whatever it was we needed, but didn’t receive from our parents. (Per Hendrix’s theory, no matter how good mom and dad were to you, they couldn’t be perfect, so we all carry the wounds resulting from some of our inescapably unmet childhood needs.)

Primal Urges Affecting Mate Selection

Having addressed one’s immediate family members and how they could have affected your mate selection, and, of course, your partner’s, now we’ll look to the ancient family of man to see how your primal urge to merge arose. First, some biology: we know that men and woman are built differently. Men’s sexual organs produce billions of sperm, on demand. For women, this is not the case. Instead of being able to manufacture eggs as the need arises, women are born with their entire allotment already in their ovaries at birth. So, already we can deduce that the genetic material of men is plentiful and can be wasted on many mates who normally wouldn’t be the type to bring home to mother in anticipation of a lasting (long term) intimate commitment. The woman’s egg, to the contrary is precious, as each woman has only a finite supply (about 500,000 to a million immature ova of which only 400,000 will remain by the time puberty occurs and from these only .1 percent will mature).

Approximately 27 percent of these viable eggs will be depleted by the time she reaches her twenty-third birthday. And what does this mean to you, a woman reading about protecting your mate and your marriage from would-be interlopers? Everything, because the adaptive traits and preferences our (yours and your mate’s) ancient ancestors (males and females) developed to deal with the basic differences between the sexes related to fertility, procreation, and child rearing continue to affect human behaviors today. Let’s take a look at those adaptive preferences to gain insight into why men and women often perceive and react to sexual cues and situations so differently—and how they can affect you and your mate.

One of the leading experts to study and write on the effects of evolution on modern mating behavior is evolutionary psychologist, David M. Buss, Ph.D. Across the globe, Buss and his colleagues have found certain characteristics of mating preferences that cross cultures, social strata, and geography. The summary is: men favor younger women with smooth, clear skin; a waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) of .70 (a 26 inch waist and 37 inch hips); bright eyes; and shiny hair. These universal male preferences (all visual and immediate, requiring neither reflection on character nor memory of a person’s history or behavior) signal that a potential mate is healthy, fecund, and able to bear children. Given his druthers, your typical human male will opt for a woman with these physical traits over a woman without. Remember, his basic urge (hard wired into his limbic system—the part of the brain that controls primal feelings and basic drives) is to spread his seed in as many women as possible, to bear as many children as possible, to push his strands of DNA into posterity. The male has little investment in her status, post coitus. He’s free to roam and can rely on his testes to replenish as much sperm as he needs for the next sexual encounter. So, it would seem that he has little to lose by seeking as many short term mating partners as he can possibly muster. Notice the words short term, as it’s a difference that makes a difference, especially for a wife (or long term mate) concerned about maintaining her relationship. But, before addressing the short term strategies versus the long term pairbonding of the human male, let’s consider what evolution dictates that women want from men. (Keep the following section in mind as you review what drew you to your partner.)

While men are highly (some would say, singularly) responsive to visual clues as to a woman’s youth, vigor, and heath (what we have, over millennia, come to consider “beautiful”); women are looking for something more. Evolutionarily speaking, women in general, lack strictly short term mating strategies (though some women employ them in an effort to ensnare the male and keep him as a long term mate). By virtue of how valuable her eggs are and how much personal investment is required to produce a child, a woman’s preference for a mate involves his being a good protector and an adequate provider of resources; an inclination to stick around with her and her offspring (at least long enough to rear a toddler to the age where he has some self sufficiency); and a propensity to continue sharing resources and alliances with her and the children for as long as possible.

On the other hand, short term mating that leads to conception and no pairbond (i.e., no commitment) is not beneficial to a woman or her child. In fact, from a historical perspective, it’s the women who not only attracted their mates, but also retained them, that had the best chances of survival and whose offspring had the advantages of security and sustenance made possible by long range paternal investment.

Natural Selection and Deceptive Conception: Human females have inherited two characteristics that some researchers say promote commitment between long term mates. The first trait, concealed ovulation, deters a man from selectively courting a women only when she’s fertile (he never knows when, unless she tells him); while it allows a woman to secretly mate with a genetically better or different male (in “extrapair copulation” EPC) to produce the best children possible. The second feature, continuous sexual receptivity (as opposed to reception limited to fertile times), retains her mate’s interest throughout her cycle, and the resulting sexual contact conduces to his continuing commitment to her and the children she bears (whomever they belong to!).

As a consequence of preferences for men with good genes who could and would stick around for the long haul and provide resources for the woman and her kids, females developed different ways to analyze what made a good mate. While women, too, like robustly healthy, strong mates signified by symmetrical facial features; a nicely proportioned—typically taller and bigger—adequately muscled body; good hair, teeth, and skin; and some believe, an odor (i.e., andostenone, a pheromone) that advertised his immune system would be a good match for hers; she also demanded information on how dependable he was, how well he kept his promises, and how much he could be trusted not to run off with another cave women when one arose on the scene.

Evolutionary psychologists suggest that these character-penetrating, female mating preferences required the woman to develop a reliable method for evaluating a potential mate’s ability to be what and who she would need in a long term mate. Nature responded by giving women the ability to store memories and recall facts about a man, to judge his ultimate desirability as a long term mating partner. For instance, did he return when he said he would? Would he share the boar he speared in the grasslands? Did he have a good reputation in the tribe for hunting and fishing and the like? Was he truthful, reliable, steady, and well-functioning? Could he work with a team? Could he defeat his adversaries?

Resolving these questions required women to note and evaluate what a man had said and done in the past and compare those things to what she saw in the present (thus, predicting what her future should hold, if she mated with him). In short, some professionals believe that women’s brains evolved to rely on data about mates to enable her to pick the best one based upon her dependence upon his resources, protection, and continued generosity. Marianne J. Legato, M.D., wrote a book in 2006, whose title captures the essence of the differences in how the male and female brain evolved. In, Why Men Never Remember and Women Never Forget, Legato explains how male and female differences in behaviors are based upon the differences—structurally, chemically, and electrically—in our brains, and how these differences affect and influence the ways men and women relate to each other and the world at large.

What does all this talk have to do with you? In addition to all those psychological theories about families of origin, projections of wounds on mates, and fulfillment of the lovemap: the evolutionary experts fill in other facets of the story of how you and your mate chose each other to be husband and wife or exclusive, long term intimate (“pairbonded”) partners. Don’t believe it? Okay, close your eyes and think back to the time that you and your partner courted and you, pragmatically and systematically, listened, remembered, tested, and compared your man’s talk to his walk (did he do what he promised, did he follow through?). Admit it; once he met your criteria for attractiveness and likeability, you were interested in his reliability, resource gathering, protection potential, and, in the end, you said yes.

So, now that we know the reasons why you wanted a long term mate, you might wonder what led your partner to take the plunge when, from a purely biological point of view, he’d be best served by spreading himself over all, instead of committing to one mate? It appears that the business of concealed conception gave women a certain advantage in the mating game. Before the advent of DNA testing in the late twentieth century, men had to depend on the veracity of their mates to know whether they actually sired the children they were raising. Dr. David Buss describes this situation by engaging the old saw, “momma’s baby, daddy’s maybe.”

Since our male ancestors didn’t want the responsibility of raising another man’s child, or to be cuckolded, they developed distinct preferences toward women with visual cues of health and fertility (read: young, healthy, and fecund) and from this desirable pool, selected long term partners that would be devoted, trustworthy, and nurturing. FYI: caveman long term mate turn offs included: sexual availability to many men (that paternity issue would always be a problem with her); dishonesty (a man couldn’t trust her to tell him the truth about paternity); and self-interest (a man couldn’t trust her to take care of him, the cave, and the kids). Though recent DNA testing has all but abolished the female’s ability to deceive a man about his paternity of a child, the long term mating preferences of today’s men have evolved over the courses of eons, not decades. Consequently, we are still largely ruled by what worked for our prehistoric ancestors. This is good news for you because many of the women who will be competing for your long term partner are notably selfish, deceptive, and have been sexual available to many. (Recall, caveman turnoffs?) When you are in the position to point this out to your mate, most will lose interest, as he uses his developed neocortex (the higher brain, associated with rational thought and logic) to weigh the consequences of indulging his taste for short term mating novelty outside the primary pairbond with loss of the highly prized long term mate (that would be you) in whom he’s invested his time, his energy, his resources, and, in many cases, future blood line. When confronted with the old brain’s impulses versus the modern cost of indulging in strategies that are not productive for anyone (i.e., short term mating), your spouse will often reconsider. (Stay tuned.)

And what of all this evolutionary pressure to mate well? Perhaps a final insight can be found in the “looking for love” personal ads studied by evolutionary psychologists, Robin Dunbar and Doug Kenrick. They found overall, desired mate traits boil down to: attractiveness, commitment, sexiness, social skills, and wealth. As you might expect, the women mate seekers highlighted their beauty, commitment, sexiness, and social skills, while the men mate seekers flaunted their position, power, and wealth. Nothing has changed. We select our mates using the same criteria that our ancestors did millennia ago, and so it goes, there really is nothing new under the mating sun.

Sex and the Chemistry of Love

Ambrose Bierce, a nineteenth century humorist wrote that the definition of love was a temporary insanity, curable by marriage. Well, marriage may or may not cure love, depending on a lot of factors we’ll cover; but as for the temporary insanity part, modern medicine has proved his description correct. You and your spouse might never have overindulged in alcohol, much less intoxicants of a more illicit variety; yet, science tells us if you and your partner fell “in love” when you first met (that is to say you had stars in your eyes, and butterflies in your stomachs, and endlessly obsessed over each other); you might as well have just done a shot of speed or a few lines of cocaine, as the very same reward systems in your brain were activated “in love” as “on coke.” No kidding. But before the actual chemistry lesson in love, let’s explore what we know about instant attraction, lust, and the madness we call romantic passion.

We know from the psychologists and the evolutionary experts that there are not only mental mechanisms at work when attraction is at issue, but also forces from the past based on deeply patterned human behaviors that make us prefer a certain kind of mate to another; but whether you selected your partner based on his likely good genes or because he met your imago projections or lovemap (or, for that matter, fit your mate mold due to family systems or attachment type), many—but not all (and we’ll read about them in the next section)—couples report having fallen in love soon after meeting. While we know what can trigger interest and attraction between people, here we’ll learn what was going on in your brain (and your mate’s) when you took the fall and fell in love. (Our book addresses how this process can be reignited, or, if he should fall for another, how to extinguish infatuation with the cold water of reality, before irreparable pain, betrayal, and disappointment result.)

Counting the Ways of Falling

First a look at limerence. No, it has nothing to do with Saint Patrick’s Day or being Irish. Rather, “limerence” or being “limerent” are terms coined in the 1960s by Dorothy Tennov, Ph.D., when she decided to study and write about that crazy state of human affairs when a person is consumed by thoughts of a beloved (regardless of whether the object of this ardor returns the interest).. Dr. Tennov decided to use a made up word like limerence to separate it from the commonly used (though often misunderstood) word love. Unlike love, which can refer to anything from the lustful to the honorable, limerence traffics in the purely illogical hold that another person can take over us. Here are the primary elements of limerence or being limerent according to Tennov, rephrased from her book, Love and Limerence:

  1. You will be unable to push thoughts of your target (limerent object) from your mind.
  2. You will intensely long for your target to feel as you do.
  3. How you feel will depend on your target’s actions.
  4. Generally, you will not be able to have these intense feelings for anyone else.
  5. You will be shy and act mindlessly when your target is present.
  6. Your feelings will intensify the more the target resists (at least for a while).
  7. You will interpret the target’s actions as unusually favorable (i.e., that he likes you too, when all he did was say “good morning”).
  8. Your longing can take on a physical sensation described as an aching or heaviness in the chest, or the heart, if you will.
  9. While limerent, you will feel ecstatic and without limitations.
  10. You feelings toward your target will push other concerns away. (So what if you can’t perform at work, you are crazy in limerence.)
  11. You will, to borrow from Johnny Mercer, accentuate the positive and eliminate any negative traits your target might have. In fact, limerence will blind you to a target’s faults, making you believe them to be pluses as well.

Though not everyone experiences limerence, per Tennov, those who are smitten never forget it. (In fact, limerence gone really bad—that is, unreciprocated—can lead to stalking and worse.) Over the last two decades, more social researchers and scientists have pursued study of people’s brains whilst they are in the throes of limerence or, now more commonly called, infatuation or the passionate phase of romantic love. (We’ll delve into the other types and phases of love and human commitment in the next bonus section.) Their findings are fascinating and underscore how and why this fiery time must come to an end. First, the evidence shows that different brain chemicals are involved in the various stages of human attraction and the pursuit of a loved one. Evolutionary anthropologist, Helen Fisher, Ph.D., has said that we humans were born to reproduce, not to be happy, and certainly not to remain in that euphoric, obsessive state of passion. Setting aside for now how to deal with the happiness factor of life, let’s consider Fisher’s point about being born to reproduce.

Decoding the Mental Magic

All the research to date confirms that when we are infatuated with a person our brains release chemicals and affect our brain reward systems much the way an amphetamine or a narcotic, like speed or cocaine, would. Here’s how Fisher and her colleagues explain what happens in the brain when you meet that special someone. First, there’s lust, driven by the sex hormones, primarily testosterone, which affects the hypothalamus and drives you to get out of the house and go out looking for a mate. Interestingly, once you find the one you want, testosterone levels fall in men (they’ll be less inclined to go looking for a new love) and rise in women (increasing her libido). When a human has set sight on “the one” (for all the reasons we’ve explained), the mind goes into full throttle bliss and your body becomes physiologically aroused (your heart races; palms sweat; sleeping and eating diminish; and your pupils dilate when looking at your beloved). This crazy, infatuated phase, ushered in by a cascade of neurotransmitters provides the sensations of ecstasy and purpose and desire for a certain outcome (for our beloved to be ours!).

Once you and your partner met and fell in love, your brains were awash in dopamine, norepinephrine, phenylethylamine (aka PEA—found in chocolate), and beta-endorphins (endogenous opioids—think ready-made, legal morphine or heroin). Interestingly, serotonin drops and the brain experiences a chemical cocktail similar to that seen in those suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), leading some to theorize that this drop in serotonin is what makes new lovers obsess over their beloved. All told, these chemicals work on various parts of the brain (the nucleus accumbens, a reward center, frontal and cingulate cortices, the nucleus accumbens, and the ventral tegmental area of the brain stem) contributing to the feeling that the beloved is the most wonderful thing to ever happen to us, and mankind, and that we must have him—or her. This infatuation or passionate stage is when must couples decide they should marry, and for good reason. Nature wants us to remain together long enough to mate and have children. The problem is, this chemically induced euphoria does not and cannot last. Most experts believe that at the most, this infatuation period lasts from two to four years, with three years the average, long enough for courtship, marriage, and enough time for a toddler to be less dependant on his caretakers. (By this time he can crawl or walk, and not have to be carried everywhere by mom or dad.) In fact, it’s the wearing off of the love chemicals that causes so much trouble in relationships, where one or both of the partners believes that their love has faded or that they are no longer “in love” with their mate. Once people understand that this phase must pass, and does pass—and why this is so—it should be easier to prevent them from jumping ship to search for the next “love high” from the next new beloved (stimulator of all those love chemicals). That kind of serial romantic searching (loving and leaving and always looking for the next love fix) is a recipe for disaster and ultimate disappointment because the so-called chemistry will not last with anyone—and it’s not meant to—which brings us to the last of Fisher’s phases of love: attachment to a partner, which can last forever.

The Literary Take on Love and Lunacy: "When two people are under the influence of the most violent, most insane, most delusive, and most transient of passions, they are required to swear that they will remain in that excited, abnormal, and exhausting condition continuously until death do them part." ~George Bernard Shaw

How Nature Nurtures Your Bond

The attachment stage of a romantic relationship (not to be confused with John Bowlby’s attachment theory of development covered in the next bonus section) is promoted by vasopressin in the male and oxytocin in the male and female. These hormones, released during orgasm in both sexes, and lactation in the female, have been called the cuddle chemicals as they promote tenderness, affection, and warmth between a couple, promoting their pairbond and providing the incentive to maintain the connection and the desire to stay put with a partner. Oxytocin and vasopressin are also credited with promoting a feeling of unity and calm serenity in the presence of one’s long term mate. This phase is enhanced whenever a couple touches or makes love that leads to orgasm. It is also promoted by the act of parenting.

If the attachment phase can grow between a pair through time and touch and is enhanced by raising a child together, why do some many bonded couples break up? Dr. Fisher believes it’s because these different phases of love are independent of each other, working on different premises and different chemicals on different parts of the brain. Unfortunately, this means you or your husband could be feeling each stage of love for a—gasp—different person. So, your husband can feel deeply attached to you (the long term pairbond); while feeling romantic toward a girlfriend or mistress; while overcome with lust for a total stranger he meets out of town on a business trip.

The Prognosis for a Pragmatic Union

Now that you know what happens (or happened to you and your spouse) when Cupid shot you with his bow, what becomes of the couplings that didn’t begin with the “butterflies in the stomach” feeling when they wed? The news is actually good. While much can be said about the lovers who can look back at their magical days of lustful sex or crazy infatuation, there is some data to suggest that the less love-struck the partners were when they wed, the more chance their marriage has of survival. It makes sense. Without the heady feelings of ardent passion (that will fade after time) or the expectations that the high-fevered pitch of infatuation will last forever (which it will not); those who married or embarked upon a long term, committed relationship based on more pragmatic reasons like proximity, shared interests, social compatibility, or family tradition have the facts and experience on their side

Though these couples might never have felt that rush of passionate emotion and physical arousal when they met, if they respect their partners, have their expectations met, and are treated in a warm, affectionate manner, these couplings can be very successful and satisfying. Commonly coming from a culture (Indian, Asian, Muslim, Chinese, and Hasidic Jews) where marriages are still arranged by families, what these “non romantic” partners lacked in neurotransmitters [good], they gained in community and family support that can help a couple through the initially trying newlywed years of adjustment. What’s more, along the same vein, Ted L. Huston, Ph.D. and his colleagues in Austin, at the University of Texas, found that the slow and steady, as opposed the quick and passionate, are the long term winners in love. What accounts for the slower the better result? Apparently, these pairs experience less dissatisfaction and less disappointment in their relationships. Also, this same team in Texas found that the more able a partner is to put a positive spin on her mate, the better the chance the marriage will survive. In this case, giving someone the benefit of your rose colored glasses (or “idealization”) can help a relationship last.

So, whether your courtship was slow and strenuous, fast and fervent, or somewhere in between, now that you have an idea of what, why, and how you became a couple to begin with, you can consider how love changes over the course of a relationship, and how to cope with those changes effectively.


  • Bauer, Carlene. “This Is Your Brain in Love,”, 27 January 2004.
  • Bowen, Murray. Family Therapy in Clinical Practice. (New York: Jason Aronson, 1978).
  • Buss, David, M. The Evolution of Desire: Strategies in Human Mating. New York: Basic Books, 1994).
  • Dunbar, R., L. Barrett, and J. Lycett, Evolutionary Psychology: A Beginners Guide. (2005).
  • Fisher, Helen. Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love. (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2004).
  • Gangestad, S.W. and A.J. Cousins, “Adaptive Design, Female Mate Preferences, and Shifts Across the Menstrual Cycle,” Annual Review of Sex Research, Vol. 12, 2001, pp. 145-85.
  • Hatfield, E. and S. Sprecher. “Measuring Passionate Love in Intimate Relations,” Journal of Adolescence, Vol. 9, 1986, pp. 383-410.
  • Huston, T. L. and A. Chorost, “Behavioral Buffers on the Effect of Negativity on Marital Satisfaction: A Longitudinal Study,” Personal Relationships, Vol. 1, 1994, pp. 223-239.
  • Huston, T. L. and A. Vangelisti, “Socioemotional Behavior and Satisfaction in Marital Relationships: A Longitudinal Study,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 41, pp. 1991, 721-733.
  • Legato, Marianne J., Why Men Never Remember and Women Never Forget, (London: Macmillan, 2006).
  • Lewis, Thomas, Richard Lannon, and Fari Amini, A General Theory of Love. (Vintage Books, USA: 2001).
  • Love, P., and S. Shulkin, “Imago Theory and the Psychology of Attraction.” The Family Journal, Vol. 9, no. 3, 2001, pp. 246-49.
  • Millet, E., “The Benefit of Group Hypnotherapy in the Treatment of Sex Addictions,” Journal of Heart Centered Therapies, Spring, 2005.
  • Money, John. Lovemaps: Clinical Concepts of Sexual/Erotic Health and Pathology, Paraphilia, and Gender Transposition of Childhood, Adolescence, and Maturity. (New York: Irvington Publishers, 1986).
  • Sandmaier, Marian. “Love for the Long Haul,” Family Therapy Networker, Sep/Oct 1997.
  • Span, Paula, “Marriage at First Sight,” Washington Post Magazine, 23 February 2003, p. W16.
  • “The Science of Love: I Get A Kick Out Of You,” The Economist, 12 February 2004.
  • Tennov, Dorothy. Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love. (Scarborough House, reprint ed., 1999).
  • Thornhill, R., and S.W. Gangestad, “The Scent of Symmetry: A Human Sex Pheromone that Signals Fitness?” Evolution & Human Behavior, Vol. 20, no. 3, 1999, pp. 175-201.
  • Weir, Kirsten, “Crazy in Love: Beyonce and Anthropologist Helen Fisher Agree: Love Is an Obsession,” Current Science, 11 February 2005.

©2007-2015. Marie H. Browne & Marlene M. Browne. All rights reserved.