When Passion Fizzles: Is It Normal or a Reason to Run?

Jack and Lisa have been dating for a little over two years. Each had been in a few relationships before, but never anything this passionate, and it seemed like this was meant to be. It was only natural to move in together. The Ikea furniture and the cat might not have been necessary, but hey– they say that shopping at the giant Swedish retailer is the ultimate proving ground for couples. And taking care of a pet together is like a practice run for having kids one day, right?Sometimes they argue over the dishes or the cap on the toothpaste, but nothing major, nothing too exciting. …Nothing too exciting. Sure, they’re still happy to see each other when they come home from work, but kissing on the couch has turned into fiddling with their iPhones, while relaxing in sweatpants. Jack leaves his coffee mug in the sink when he rushes out the door, sometimes without giving Lisa a peck on the lips —because she’s busy putting out fresh water for the cat or grabbing the recycling.

“What’s wrong with us?” they wonder. “Where did the spark go? Should we be worried about our future together?”

Probably no need to worry, Jack and Lisa. Though many people worry when the initial excitement of a relationship wears off, as long as you’re not feeling bored or unsatisfied in the relationship, the feeling of passion fizzling isn’t necessarily a warning sign. Here’s why:

The science of love

As love becomes long term, science explains that over time, we perceive our relationships be to less passionate than at first.

Scientists did a brain scan of couples who had been dating for a week and those who had been together for at least a year. Those who had been together for a year showed brain activity in the area of the organ responsible for long-term attachment.

According to this and similar scientific studies, the initial “infatuation” stage of love is supposed to give you the impetus to spend as much time as possible with the other person, so that by the time that stage fades, you’ve developed long-term attachment. How does this work? During the infatuation stage, the bonding hormone oxytocin is released. That means physical contact, even just holding hands, feels like a “spark” as this hormone, and the neurotransmitter dopamine, work like a drug on our brain’s reward center.

Fizzle and pop

Let’s talk for a minute about one of the words used above: “perceive.”

Fairy tales and popular media encourage us to think of love as being something passionate, like a fire that ignites with every kiss. Movies and pop songs are mostly about this stage. They don’t dwell on the lovely parts of long-term, companionate love: comfort, trust, deep connection and affection.

After the initial “excitement” stage of the relationship is over, we think there’s something wrong with us because we’re not feeling the intense longing we used to experience. While human beings are arguably hardwired to want variety and to take things for granted, the joys of a loving, long-term relationship are achievable, if you stop worrying when your love life doesn’t exactly sound like a romance novel.

Still worried?

Maybe you and your partner are taking each other for granted. Just a little bit. Make an extra effort to “court” him or her like you did when you first started dating. A surprise kiss and some flirting can be a lot of fun.