Have you ever questioned whether you still love your partner because the butterflies are missing? This is completely normal, says couples therapist Sharon Brimm.
Because the love hormones like dopamine, adrenaline, and oxytocin have waned over time, leaving a certain hormonal void.
This void must be filled with a form of love that also feels like bonding, security, and lust.
Have you been in a long term relationship? Then you will know that this comes with changes. Starting with the fact that after about a year pink glasses and butterflies have receded into your stomach – and you find yourself facing the challenge of working as a couple in everyday life. Now is the time to come to terms with each other’s quirks, make concessions and endure suspicion. The common doubt is: Do I still love my partner (enough)? In an interview, couples therapist Sharon Brimm explained to us that due to dwindling hormones, it’s perfectly normal to ask yourself this question — and that the butterflies in your stomach don’t last forever.
Suspicion in a relationship is perfectly normal – according to Sharon Prem
Doubts can always arise in relationships. Despite the overflowing happiness, you may have asked yourself at first if everything is going too fast, whether you don’t spend a lot of time together or if the other person suits you at all. In the context of the relationship, these doubts may have been replaced by another: does this have a future with us? Is he or she “the one”?
Couples therapist Sharon Brehm, who helps couples find more intimacy and emotional bonding at her Munich clinic, knows all too well such relationship uncertainties. She says, “Even in the most beautiful and best relationship, doubts can arise. This can be confusing, especially when nothing bad ever happens. As a result, you may think that something is wrong. These doubts are in no way a cause for concern.”
An elite partner poll from 2017 also showed that skepticism is a taboo topic, but it’s still perfectly normal. 23 percent of those surveyed said they sometimes doubt whether the other person is the right person. In marriage, these doubts tend to be lower: here, only one in five doubts the relationship now and then.
Prem even sees skepticism as a profitable thing. “It should be seen as an opportunity to develop the relationship,” she says. After all, they can show what the partnership is lacking and what can be worked on. But what about skepticism about what many consider to be the basis of a relationship? What if you doubt whether you still love the other person (enough)?
Do I love the other enough to be in a relationship with him or her?
What will help you with this doubt in the first place is sober thinking about the facts. Prem explains that at the beginning of the relationship, a hormonal cocktail consisting of dopamine, serotonin, adrenaline and oxytocin acts. All of these are hormones that make you happy, give you energy, and make you want to cuddle. However, in the long run, all these hormones disappear – and that’s a good thing.
“It’s precisely these hormones that trigger the butterflies feeling in the stomach at first,” Brim says. But if the level of adrenaline is still high, it will stress us and make us anxious. “In the first stage of falling in love, you don’t need to sleep, but you’re not particularly productive either. After all, you can hardly focus because of all the butterflies and your thoughts constantly on the other person. If you stay in that state permanently, you’ll fall by the wayside. For the rest of your life, no one is made to be in love forever.
Love: a biochemical process
Love is not magic, because Disney movies are very fond of making you believe. Instead, it is a biochemical process that takes place in your brain. How and where love originates in the brain was examined in a study by anthropologist Helen Fisher, among others. She took 2,500 MRI scans of the newlyweds to find out exactly what was going on in their brains. To do this, people were shown photos of their partners and completely strangers.
The result? Two brain regions were particularly active in the images of loved ones: the nucleus of the reward center and the ventral tegmental area responsible for pleasure. Dopamine is produced in both areas, which ensures, among other things, that we always crave the other.
However, this fascination with hormones also turns out to be over after a maximum of three years. Only the messenger oxytocin comes to the fore at this point in the relationship, promoting feelings of contentment, serenity, and security – the ideal prerequisites for a stable relationship. Colloquially, this messenger substance is also referred to as the cuddle hormone because it is increasingly released during this and during orgasm. However, in the context of a relationship, oxytocin can also decrease.
Why is it okay if the butterflies go away
After the initial rush of emotions, you have to come to terms with a certain hormonal void in your relationship. And that’s exactly where the crux of the problem lies, according to Sharon Brihm. The media and stories would have told you that tingling in your stomach is the same feeling as being in love. If the tingling is not caused by this hormonal void, you may quickly feel that you are not in love at all. Only the “uncertainty factor” has been eliminated. Punishment? Doubts can arise.
“This is why it makes sense to develop some form of relationship or a form of love that’s similar to bonding, security, and lust without blinding your hormones,” Brehm says. How can this work? First and foremost, you ask yourself why you are in the relationship at all.
According to Brehm, there are different reasons for this: some simply love their partner, some do not want to be alone, and some simply need a partner to father children – and sometimes there are many reasons at the same time. “If I’m in a relationship because I want to share my life with someone, it’s okay not to feel like butterflies,” Prem says.
Love means more than a few butterflies
This shows that a happy relationship cannot depend solely on hormones. Above all, it means one thing: hard work. So if you want to be together for a long time and no longer doubt whether you still love the other, you have to invest a lot in order to feel affection, affection and emotional closeness.
The only hopeful thing is a 2011 study at Stony Brook University that revealed that you can still stay in love after decades in a relationship. Here, MRI scans showed that dopamine-rich areas of the brain were just as active as couples who had just fallen in love. So, even if the cravings and butterflies in your stomach subside, it doesn’t mean that your love is dead.