It's that time of year again...the Texas Association of Marriage and Family Therapists Conference. This year the conference is in San Antonio and today I am attending Mona Fishbane's presentation "From Reactivity to Empowerment in Couple Therapy- the Neurobiological Approach." One of the first messages Mona shared inspired me to do a quick blog post for your reading enjoyment. One of the main neurological chemicals she shares is dopamine- dopamine has a huge impact on how we feel in relationships. You may be wanting to stop reading now because I am throwing out brain chemicals, but read on for a short bit longer and you will see how simple but impactful dopamine really is in relationships.
Why is dopamine important in relationships?
Dopamine is the "I want you" chemical in our brain. Dopamine helps us find that special someone. It gives us the spark from the start, the butterflies every time we see our special someone. So many couples desire the rush they had from the beginning when they first met each other. And, so many couples are upset as time goes on because those strong butterfly like feelings have gone away.
The butterflies are not supposed to last...your brain does not operate that way.
I think it can be challenging to be in a long term relationship and see other new couples or relationships on tv and wish you, too, also still felt the spark. I hear couples say, "I love him/her, but I am not in love with him/her anymore." This can be so damaging to the other partner and the partner experiencing this feeling as well. They might wonder why they are not in love anymore. They may ask themselves, "What happened to us, why are other couples so happy and in love around me, but I don't feel that high I once felt?" The answer could be dopamine.
Still loving your partner but not feeling in love = partner missing the dopamine high.
If you are relating to this take a deep breath and know you are not alone. The answer to the lack of the shiny and new feeling is normal in long term relationships. Know that dopamine helps us find our special someone by allowing us to feel the extreme high leading relationships into the honeymoon phase. Also know that dopamine drops off after the new love is no longer a new love. It takes effort in relationships to keep the spark alive- and that spark will likely feel different than what is once did based on how our brain simply operates.