Relationships

'I Fall in Love Fast and Without Measuring Risks'

On the problematic nature of serial lovers.

Posted Nov 11, 2020

There are people who fall in love quickly, easily, and frequently. Does this way of falling in love promote an enduring, profound love?

Loving and being in love

“I had a really nice time with Alex, but it paled next to how I felt with Steve. Don't get me wrong, Alex was considerate, kind to me, generous, and a good lover. It's just that the world didn't stop for me as it did with Steve." –Ellen

“I have a history of making decisions very quickly about men. I have always fallen in love fast and without measuring risks. I have fallen in love more times than I care to count. Many times in romance I have been a victim of my own optimism.” –Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

Being in love is an intense emotional upheaval involving intense sexual desire and mutual dependence, occurring within a relatively brief time. Falling in love creates a high, similar to that of taking drugs. Profound love also involves moments of intense desire, somewhat similar to infatuation, but typically, it does not exist continuously. With infatuation, the focus is merely on the lover’s positive traits, whereas profound love also acknowledges the negative ones, which are often revealed in time. Infatuation is common at the beginning of a relationship (Ben-Ze’ev, 2019).

Chemistry and compatibility

“It has been my experience that men who give their hearts away quickly are not only emotionally available to their lover but also sexually assertive in pleasing their new partner. It appears to me that ‘slow to love’ is equivalent to ‘slow in bed.’” –Leah

The difference between love and being in love can be clarified when differentiating between chemistry and compatibility. Chemistry expresses intense and momentary attraction associated with increased cerebral activities. Compatibility refers to a more comprehensive and longer-lasting set of behaviors.

Mark Manson discerns four central types of relationships: low chemistry—low compatibility; low chemistry—high compatibility; high chemistry—low compatibility; high chemistry—high compatibility. The best and most long-lasting romantic relationship is that of profound love, consisting of high chemistry and compatibility.

The worst, and typically the shortest, relationship is that of low chemistry and compatibility. The relationship of low chemistry and high compatibility is commonly present in enduring marriages, where chemistry is increasingly reduced, and high compatibility is further enhanced. People who quickly fall in love tend to have relationships of high chemistry and high short-term compatibility, but low long-term compatibility. Since there is a continuum of chemistry and compatibility, there are intermediate types of relationships within the above categories.

There are married couples who have high chemistry and compatibility. Bianca Acevedo and colleagues (20120) examined 10 women and seven men who had been married for an average of 21 years and reported being intensely in love with their spouses. The pictures of the spouses were shown to them while scanning their brains with fMRI. The scans revealed a significant activation in key reward centers of the brain—much like the pattern found in those experiencing fresh love, but vastly different from those in companionate relationships.

Sometimes, the passion underlying falling in love, typical of the beginning of the relationship, can also grow as the relationship develops. In such cases, the initial attraction was average (and certainly not repulsion), and gradually increased as the partners became familiar with their lover’s other positive traits.

Serial lovers and falling in love quickly

“When I love, I do it without counting. I give myself entirely. And each time, it is the grand love of my life.” –Brigitte Bardot

Here are several viewpoints from women about their experience of falling in love quickly.

 “I am a critical person, so finding a potential man is a process that takes time. Once I find this man, I fall in love with him after a short time—despite his obvious shortcomings. Unfortunately, I fall in love easily.” –Anat

“I’ve asked my new lover to replace the couch and mattress in his apartment. I am pretty sure many other women have been there before my time. He smiled and said OK.” –Rebecca

“I do not fall in love quickly. I do respond very quickly to the courting of men who seem ‘worthy’ to me and usually flirt back with them.” –Limor

“I am happy for people who remain in love with the same partner for a long time. Would I want to be in love with the same man all my life? The answer is 'no.' I really need more than one love in my whole life.” –Marianne

“I’ve been in love five times. My most intensive romances were with the last three men who had a vast bed history with many women. And when I say many, this includes no less than 50 women and no greater than 750. As intimidating as this may be to fresh eyes, the benefits of being sexually accomplished and exciting bedmates clearly outweigh the dull prudent men who dare not seek sexual adventure.” –Rosalyn

“When I was young, I fell in love many times, mainly with hot men, as this was at the top of my list. As we get older, the intellect becomes more important, and immediate cases of infatuation disappear.” –Hanna

The tendency to fall in love quickly and often is termed “emophilia.” Serial lovers tend to be in high-chemistry relationships, which blurs their perception of reality. As one love song nicely puts it: “When your heart's on fire, smoke gets in your eyes.” The high chemistry relationship provides a superficial impression of compatibility in the short term, overshadowing red flags that warn of the feasibility of long-term compatibility. Hence, when chemistry fades, the brief superficial compatibility also disappears and serial lovers cannot stay within that relationship and must move to a new one, where chemistry is high—at least at the beginning.

Serial lovers search for immediate satisfaction, which does not require an investment of many resources. Hence, their idea of satisfaction mostly remains on the superficial level of sexual orgasm. In serial relationships, there is repetition with no development and no opening of new horizons—accordingly, such love is very brief. Serial lovers typically lack the ability to establish and deepen a relationship and the maturity needed for being happy with your lot; such lovers express greediness for adding something else to their collection, without actually improving their romantic lot.

Since love is very important in our life, the ability to fall in love quickly and easily could seem quite positive. However, infatuation has a price: the lover ignores red flags that indicate problematic traits of the partner, which reduces compatibility.

Recent studies have found that many serial lovers are attracted to people with significant negative traits, such as narcissism and psychopathic tendencies, expressed in manipulation, insensitivity, talking frequently, and inflated self-image and confidence (Lechuga & Jones, 2021; Lehmiller, 2020). These traits are often attractive in the short term but are essentially poisonous. Serial lovers are attracted to all people regardless of their good or bad nature, generating the cliché of “good” women who fall in love with “bad” men.

In summary, the experience of being in love is valuable in setting a high starting point for enduring high-quality relationships. But this starting point, which is mainly based on high chemistry, is not sufficient for maintaining high-quality relationships that are based on the compatibility of basic traits. It is encouraging to realize that there are people who succeed in being in love with their partner for many years. For them, time stops, or rather continues to wildly beat; in their case, there is no romantic fatigue.

References

Acevedo, B.P., Aron, A., Fisher, H., & Brown, L. L. (2012). Neural correlates of long-term intense romantic love. Social Cognition and Affective Neuroscience, 7, 145-159.

Ben-Ze’ev, A. (2019). The arc of love: How our romantic lives change over time. University of Chicago Press.

Lechuga, J., & Jones, D. N. (2021). Emophilia and other predictors of attraction to individuals with Dark Triad traits. Personality and Individual Differences168, 110318.

Lehmiller, J. J. (2020). Do you fall in love fast, easily, and often? Psychology Today, October 05, 2020.