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Wednesday May 25, 2022

John Gottman, through his research on couples, has identified three phases of love. The success or failure of a relationship is determined by how a couple moves through these phases.

Phase 1

Love and limerence. Helen Fisher suggests that once physical and emotional attraction begins, “in love” chemicals like Oxcytocin (known as the “cuddle hormone”) and dopamine (the pleasure hormone) are released. The good news is that these hormones help to “seal the deal;” however, these hormones can also influence poor judgment, which leads to ignoring the red flags that are generally identified in Phase Two.

Phase 2

Building Trust. Once the “initial glow” begins to diminish, feelings like frustration and disappointment begin to create arguments or disagreements. The success or failure of a relationship in Phase 2 depends on how a couple argues. For example, will you listen to my pain and will you have my back and support how I feel?  Couples who are able to validate and empathize with each other are the success stories. Those who engage with criticism and judgment will probably find it much more difficult to have marital satisfaction and will not be able to achieve Phase Three.

Phase 3

Gratitude and Commitment. In Phase 3, if a couple is able to attune to each other’s needs and turn towards each other with love and understanding, a state of gratitude and commitment will develop. When couples cherish each other, love grows deeper and lasts a lifetime. However, when couples nurture resentment and apathy, love and connection is lost. Gottman suggests that “the fairness metric” will influence feelings like resentment and apathy. It’s important that both partners experience a balance of power in their relationship. For example, I can give my partner what he or she longs for or needs  as well as receive it.   Power imbalances make it very difficult to establish deep and lasting trust.

Most people who seek couples therapy long for the feelings they enjoyed during Phase 1. This is probably an unrealistic expectation; mostly because we are human and not perfect. So therefore, it’s impossible to continue to mirror each other’s perfection. The good news is that couples can achieve a deeper level of love and commitment. It’s never too late. All that is needed is motivation to change and commitment to the process!

Dr. Laura Richter is a licensed Marriage and Family therapist who works with individuals, couples, and families. Her specialties include: surviving infidelity, improving communication, beginning again after divorce and effective co-parenting after divorce. She is also a trained mediator, qualified parenting coordinator and collaborative law mental health professional. For more information, please call or text us today at 561-715-6404 to schedule a consultation to see how we can help.