What characteristics does modern romantic love have? Firstly, a huge amount of energy, which falls on you unexpectedly: you feel yourself complete, divine, and have a strong connection to your partner, and possible to the whole world around you. In a state of romantic love, we, as usual, also idealize the object of our love, attribute to him or her illusionary characteristics, which do not always match with the reality. And of course, in this state sexual connection only enhances our feelings and illusions. Even if there was a conflict, sex brings back peace, reconciliation, takes away dissatisfactions and disappointments. During this stage sexual attraction works on its own, no need to put any efforts in order to feel sexual energy. It becomes like a pain killer for all wounds and pains in a relationship, and also provides hope for the future. Hope that it will be all different and new this time, hope that this uplifting feeling will last forever.
What happens next?
After 18−36 months our hormonal system stops to arouse from small triggers, instead we get some kind of physiological and biological habituation, and the level of excitement decreases. Basically our nature turns off a magnetic mechanism which was connecting us at the beginning. It is bad news, but there are good ones as well.
By compensating the loss, we gain another mechanism — attachment. It is an emotional bond, which forms in 12−18 months, and is more secure than sexual attraction. Emotional bond is when partners get to know each other, find common values, have positive experiences together, even if conflict arises, there is enough motivation to restore the harmony. As time goes by, such bonds become stronger, due to the fact that nature finds it crucial to have secure connections to prolong the existence of humans. But it is not all easy.
In these times it can happen that sexual attraction weakens, illusions and hopes regarding partner crash, and it is not as easy to restore the connection through sex as before. Moreover, over the period there might be big arguments, offenses or dissatisfactions, which are hard to resolve, and in some cases they can lead to emotional traumas.
As a result, relationships become emotionally insecure and partners may start to distance. It is not simple on your own to become aware of what is happening with us, because everything comes at once from all the directions: children, work, relations with others, and fatigue.
When I do not feel well and do not know the reason for my emotional disturbance, it is easier to blame the other for the wrong behavior. I cannot understand what is happening with me, and this helplessness pushes me to conflicts, demands or to distance from my partner. In both scenarios, insecurity increases, which means emotional bond weakens as well. Often we may fail to notice this for years. However, what we notice is that we have low attraction to the partner, reluctance to body contact. At this moment the easiest thing is to decide that absence of sex is the actual problem in itself and needs to be solved. But it seems hard or even impossible to solve it only physiologically.
While working with couples, I help them to find out the reasons for distancing. We gently unpack offenses and traumas, which are still in our body memory. This defense mechanism prevents us from getting close to the source of traumatization — our partner. We learn to create emotional bonds again, which results in the re-awakening body connection as well. It is biologically proven that sexual attraction between two loving partners can last at least 18 years, the period for maturing of children. It means in most marriages there is a hope for satisfactory sexual life for many years.
The article is inspired by the book "Hold my tight" by Sue Johnson. Highly recommended.