Passionate love is like a drug, and it wears off like a drug. Companionate love, however can last a lifetime. Here are my thoughts on the subject with advice from Jonathan Haidt’s book, Happiness Hypothesis (2006).
Some conclusions in a summery by me, of a chapter in Jonathan Haidt’s book, the Happiness Hypothesis (2006).
Passionate love is a drug.
It’s symptoms overlap with those of heroin (euphoric well-being, sometimes described in sexual terms) and cocaine (euphoria combined with giddiness and energy) [according to Julien, 1998.] And [Bartels and Zeki, 2000 with Fisher, 2004 describe how] parts of the brain are altered, with passionate love, including those parts which are involved with the release of dopamine. This is like drugs that artificially raise dopamine levels. Therefore love is like a drug, and if you take it once a month you do not become addicted, whereas if you take it everyday, you will. However the brain reacts to a chronic surplus of dopamine and develops neurochemical reactions that oppose it and restores its own equilibrium. Like drugs, when withdrawn the brain becomes unbalanced in the opposite direction; pain, lethargy and despair follow withdrawal from cocaine or from passionate love.
Does this mean nobody can stay in love forever? Well, there is the other type of love, companionate love. Passionate love doesn’t turn into companionate love- they are 2 different processes and have different time courses. There are 2 danger points in passionate love, one when you can’t think straight and it burns at it’s maximum temperature- this is when people can get married during the first few weeks or months of madness. The other point is when the brain has rebalanced from this crazy obsessional high. This usually happens in one of the lovers, the fire has calmed and they can now see all the faults in their partners they couldn’t before. The other lover becomes confused. One of the lovers may decide the game is up, and they made decide to break up. This could be a mistake however as they would never have given companionate love a chance to grow. True love, the love that is behind strong marriages, is simply strong companionate love, with added passion, between two people who are firmly committed to eachother [These are 3 components of Sternberg’s (1986) triangular theory of love]. Two graphs here (quick drawn up in MacDraft) describe the differences in the two types of love. In the 1st graph we can see that companionate love looks weak. Taken over a longer period of time however, it’s the compasionate love that looks like a flash in the pan, trivial affair, and companionate love that lasts a lifetime.