Human development professor offers advice on how to make love actually last forever

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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WFXR) — Despite the promises and poems in every Valentine’s Day card, romantic feelings actually have an expiration date, according to Virginia Tech research, but that research also reveals how couples can keep their hearts fluttering and their love intact.

Rose Wesche, an assistant professor in Virginia Tech’s Department of Human Development and Family Science, conducts research focusing on the impact of diverse interpersonal relationships — including platonic friendships, casual flings, and intimate romances — on the well-being of young adults.

According to Wesche, those warm and fuzzy sensations associated with the early and intense stages of romantic attraction are the result of limerence. The telltale signs of limerence include the inability to stop thinking about a certain person and a need for reciprocation combined with a fear of rejection.

Wesche says that limerence has a biological basis. In other words, the intense and involuntary attraction experienced during the first stages of a romantic relationship causes the brain to release chemicals like norepinephrine and dopamine that make us feel happy and fluttery.

However, whether limerence lasts for weeks or for decades, those chemically-induced emotions of the honeymoon stage eventually start to fade. According to Wesche, most people start to feel limerence decline within a year or two of starting a romantic relationship as the hormones associated with early attraction are replaced by hormones associated with social bonding, such as oxytocin.

“In the first stages of a romantic relationship, the brain reacts to your partner as if they’re a drug,” Wesche explains. “As your relationship deepens, the brain reacts to your partner as it would to a loving companion — with feelings of calm, warmth, and security.”

While Wesche says that the fading of intense romantic feelings is only natural, there are still ways for couples to maintain intimacy in long-term romantic commitments.

  • Attend to your partner by eliminating distractions and offering your undivided attention as much as possible.
  • Set goals for continual growth in your relationship and decide on the best plan to achieve those goals.
  • Express your gratitude for your partner.
  • Make decisions that are consistent with your desires when you enter a relationship, but since a relationship involves two people, don’t forget to communicate with your partner every step of the way.

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