Timeline of a Love Affair
Something keeps people together after the thrill wears off, however. "At
a certain point there's a crossover from passion to intimacy," Bartell
says, although, "that's not to say there's no passion in a relationship
after that." People keep loving each other in a special way, and they keep
It seems likely that hormones are involved in intimacy, which psychologists
also call attachment. Some research points to oxytocin and vasopressin,
hormones thought to give us the "warm fuzzies." These hormones may also
play a role in bonding between human mothers and babies. Studies of small
rodents called prairie voles show oxytocin hastens attachment in mating voles
and may even have the power to make non-monogamous voles act monogamously. But
it isn't clear if what's known about voles applies to the love affairs of adult
If people were simple creatures, the hormonal process of romantic attachment
would keep all love affairs going strong after passing through the
"limerence" stage. People are not simple, and many couples who were
perfectly, blissfully in love a year ago have split up and are seeing other
Love affairs that start with falling in love may be set up to fail.
Initially the lovers are in denial about any faults their beloved may have, and
they're impervious to logic should anyone else suggest that the relationship
may be a bad idea. After "limerence" wears off, certain things become
So-called "fatal attraction" is another reason why love affairs end.
In fatal attraction, a quality that one initially finds attractive in a lover
is the same quality that sinks the relationship. For example, we may fall for a
person's delightful sense of humor, but then come to see it as flakiness.
Attractive qualities are usually two-sided. If a sexy and charming partner
cheats, it's because he or she is charming and sexy to other people, too. A
thrilling person may actually be dangerous. A doting, attentive lover may be
Researchers studying the love affairs of college students found that fatal
attraction was involved in one-third of breakups. Extreme qualities were most
likely to be "fatal." Lovers who were attracted to partners who were
very different from them were also more likely to split up.