Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
Relationships sometimes feel this way. They start in bright bursts of color – all gold and flowers, new creation, sunrises, poetry. And then leaf subsides to leaf: the color fades a little, the original flower falls and a new one, perhaps slightly less vibrant, replaces it.
It could be really depressing, if you didn’t know to expect it. Relationships mature just as surely as spring follows summer. And while the gold of spring may be beautiful, summer and fall deserve appreciation too.
I’ll abandon the poetic language here, and get to the science.
Here’s a vocab word: limerence. It’s the springtime of a relationship. Limerence is that stage of a relationship where you cannot prevent yourself from thinking of your new partner. It’s that stage where you find yourself with a T0urettes-like need to shout his name, to reference her in every conversation, to check your phone for text messages at 3 a.m., just in case. It is, literally, a hormonally-induced time of bonding that is thrilling and beautiful and exhausting.
And this is the important part: it ends. It cannot be maintained, at least not by mere mortals.
If you’re lucky, limerence fades over time, decreasing minimally each day so a distinct absence isn’t felt dramatically. You trade it in for comfort, for finishing each others sentences, for knowing he’ll pick up a gallon of milk on the way home. You trade it for a pint of ice cream while watching Colbert quote Robert Frost. You trade it for kids and a social life that does not always have to revolve around your partner.
Here’s where we run into trouble: Once you’ve known limerence, you know how to miss it. You can start thinking that perhaps your relationship is in trouble because you don’t feel that way any more. That perhaps your lack of emotional peaks is a troubling indicator.
So hear this reassurance: there’s probably no problem at all. Sure, your marriage could use a little excitement. Sure, it takes work to keep things fresh. But your relationship isn’t in trouble: it’s just a new, beautiful-in-a-different-way season. Limerence can’t be maintained because it was never meant to last forever. Celebrate the new season.