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Relationships

How to Extend the Newness of a Romantic Relationship

Limerence is the secret ingredient of romance.

Key points

  • People experiencing limerence release norepinephrine, dopamine, phenylethylamine, estrogen, and testosterone, creating romantic euphoria.
  • Limerence can last up to three years if nurtured; however, limerence usually only lasts about six months.
  • The shelf-life of limerence can be extended, keeping romantic relationships new and exciting.
Wendy Wei/Pixeles
Source: Wendy Wei/Pixeles

When you first meet a person of interest, you feel like it’s the Fourth of July, Christmas, and your birthday all at once. Wow, you found the perfect mate. They can do no wrong. Dorthy Tennov, in her 1979 book Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love, coined the term limerence to describe this euphoric feeling. Tennov described limerence as "an involuntary interpersonal state that involves an acute longing for emotional reciprocation, obsessive-compulsive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and emotional dependence on another person."

Limerence is biological

Limerence is biologically based. At the onset of limerence, the pituitary gland releases norepinephrine, dopamine, phenylethylamine, estrogen, and testosterone. This chemical concoction creates romantic euphoria.

Limerence bridges the gap from the time you first meet someone until the relationship is more firmly bonded by the attachment hormones vasopressin and oxytocin. Vasopressin stimulates vigilance and behaviors required for guarding a partner or territory. Oxytocin creates bonds of trust between two people in a romantic relationship. Vasopressin and oxytocin are typically released anywhere from six months to two years into a romantic relationship.

How limerence progresses

Limerence can last up to three years if nurtured; however, limerence usually only lasts about six months. Once the effects of limerence dissipate, the romantic couple will either enter into a more permanent relationship or break off the relationship. More permanent relationships are typically less exciting than the euphoric feeling of meeting someone for the first time.

In order to experience the same blissful feeling, some people choose to break off relationships and seek new and more exhilarating interpersonal experiences. Like drug addicts, romance addicts go from one new relationship to another new relationship in their quixotic search for the perfect romantic high, which cannot be achieved. Instead, they leave broken hearts and disillusionment in their wake. Limerence can blindly drive people to excess in their pursuit of unrequited romantic exuberance.

Extending limerence

A key part of limerence is the joy of discovery. Limerence can be extended by allowing your person of interest to actively discover who you are over a long period of time.

When meeting a person of interest for the first time, people tend to "data dump" personal information and accomplishments in an effort to impress the other person. This practice can be dangerous. Once you have nothing new to share, the excitement of discovery morphs into ennui, which is a relationship killer.

A better approach is to gradually reveal personal information and accomplishments over a period of many months or even years. When the relationship ebbs, you can always offer new and intriguing titbits to give the relationship an emotional boost. In this way, your person of interest is constantly discovering something new about you, thus extending the joy of discovery.

Introducing new experiences into relationships can also extend limerence. New experiences do not always have to cost a lot of money. Sometimes, the simplest experiences are the most memorable and the most emotionally satisfying. Trying things that you and your person of interest have never done can generate interesting conversations. Something as simple as making a homemade pizza for each other can be enlightening. You will learn what types of food your person of interest likes and dislikes. You can also share the experience of shopping for the pizza ingredients at a local supermarket, and, of course, you can both enjoy your new food creations.

With a little effort, the shelf-life of limerence can be extended, keeping romantic relationships new and exciting for an extended period of time. Limerence is the secret ingredient that bridges the gap between love at first sight and love everlasting.

References

Tennov, D. (1979). Limerence: The experience of being in love. New York: Stern and Day Publishers.

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