Marriage Myth Busters Myth #1: Falling In Love Is Enough

falling in loveThis “falling in love” myth is the Disney promise, right? The one we cut our romantic teeth on when we were young.

It goes something like this:

There is a One True Love out there for everyone, so I will find mine and, after falling in love with each other (obviously) and outsmarting the modern-day equivalent of a wicked witch or two, we will live happily every after in wedded bliss.


I have good news and bad news here.

First the bad news . . .

I hate to break it to all of you romantics out there (because I’m a member of the tribe), but the truth is there are several special someones, multiple True Loves, out there for each of us. In fact, you will likely feel that same “falling in love” feeling with more than one person in your lifetime. (This will be a little startling if you’re married to a different person when it happens.)

Because it’s all about the biology, baby. Hormones and neurotransmitters.

Dr. Julie Holland, a psychiatrist in private practice in New York City, puts it this way in her book Moody Bitches: “Falling in love is the neural mechanism of mate selection.”

Super romantic, right?

But she’s spot on. Attraction is as much a physical process as an emotional one. As Holland goes on to explain, multiple neurotransmitters and hormones (like dopamine, norepinephrine, oxytocin and testosterone) all collude in the beginning of a relationship to create both the sensation of initial attraction and that euphoric “falling in love” feeling.

But eventually, as Holland notes, the chemistry of attraction changes over time, becoming calmer and less intense, because “the reward circuitry isn’t firing, and the frontal lobes are fully online, so rational thought wins out over emotional upheaval, due to normalized serotonin levels.”

Which is science-speak for “I’ve lost that lovin’ feeling.”

So, wait. There are actually tons of people out there that you could be happily married to, and your initial passion will most likely eventually wane, regardless of which handsome prince or beautiful princess you choose. So what’s the good news?

Falling in loveIt’s this. Once we have chosen a One True Love, we are given the delightful opportunity to choose this same person again and again and again. And it’s this rechoosing – this reclaiming of our love day after day, spat after spat, through sleepless baby nights and meno/manopausal changes – that is, in and of itself, True Love at work.

And this True Love is the type of love that doesn’t depend on, and so is not at the mercy of, high dopamine and norepinephrine levels.

So the falling in love part is easy. It’s the staying in love part that takes work.

In the end, long-term committed love is, as Stephen Covey coined and John Mayer croons, a verb. Not an emotional state. A verb that will, in fact, conquer all.

(By the way, another marriage myth is that the first years are the best. I’ll bust that myth in a future post!)

All of you happily married (or committed) people out there – let us know in your comments below all the ways you’ve rechosen your partner over time. And check out a few more of my Hitch Fix blog posts if you’re interested in reading about both the challenges and awesome gifts of long-term committed partnerships.

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4 Responses to Marriage Myth Busters Myth #1: Falling In Love Is Enough

  1. Anne Barker! I’m so glad you back into blogging! I’ve missed you!

    And, thank you for tackling this particular topic. It’s so true! And, while I’m not one to go spouting off Bible verses, I have to add that I first learned that “love is a verb” as a child while going to Sunday School!

    And, decades later read (two of my favorite books) A Spirituality Named Compassion by Matthew Fox and Facing the Extreme: Moral Life in the Concentration Camps by Tzvetan Todorov that also address similar ideas.

    Your post speaks not only to the choice we have to choose and re-choose every single minute of every single day . . . .

    It also speaks to the choices we have when we lose the “love of our lives.”

    My first partner and I were together for 10 years when she died unexpectedly.

    It would have been easy to wither up and hole up somewhere and live a smaller life.

    But, fortunately, at 33 years of age, I was able to see that one of the many choices in front of me was to stand up again, learn what I needed to learn, and to choose to love again.

    The two most important things I learned were (1) Sometimes gifts come in ugly packages and (2) love is always present if you choose it.

    • Anne Barker says:

      Thank you, Tamara, for your thoughtful and personal observation. I am so sorry to know that you had to face such a tragedy, but agree with you that the learning was important and spot on. We are faced with the choice to turn toward or away from love at so many points in our lives, and I’m so very glad that you turned toward after experiencing an event that could have left you permanently in retreat.

  2. Ivy Tulin says:

    Spot on Annie! It’s a choice you make everyday!

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