Falling in love, although a complicated thing to explain, has a simple base. We, as human beings, are attracted by the ones that can help us take care of a better future generation – stronger, healthier kids. And even thought love starts from the heart, it is a matter that mostly affects the brain. So, what happens with “they lived happily ever after”, when love expectancy is only 3 years? Do people fall out of love that easily?
Why 3 years?
If we take it from the biological point of view, love is a combination of oxytocin, dopamine, prolactin, noradrenaline and luliberin. Those substances change in time and, automatically, change our perspectives on our partners.
One explanation for why we think love lasts only for three years is that this is the time it takes for women to bear, give birth and raise a child. It takes 3 years for a kid to become semi-independent, which affects the common aspect in a relationship that both parents focused their attention on. When this ends, they are able to see themselves and their partner as they really are, a fact that can lead to a breakup. This simple procreation system is considered to be completed after those 3 years, and the level of hormones produced gradually stops, this leading to the feeling of love that is fading away.
Scientists say that it is not love that ends after three years, but the “falling in love”. They state that it is the passion of couples that fades away, usually after 3 or 4 years; we see our partners as they are, with all their flaws. In this part of their journey, most people chose to give up the relationship instead of trying to find solutions for the problems that appear.
Dr. Fred Nour, a neurologist in Mission Viejo, California, and author of the book “True Love: How to Use Science to Understand Love” states that the love-journey people take, can be divided in, and usually follows, four big stages:
- Mate selection
We look and fall for the one that will help with bringing stronger future generations in this world. How do we do that? By smell. Our brains will sense the opposite hormones that best combine with ours. This is why we like the smell of the one we love. It’s our bodies telling us he/she is the best partner for our reproducing. This is the love driven by lust and basic human desires.
2. Romance and falling in love
“In this phase, we don’t see reality – love is blind. We see people as we want them to be, not as they are. Brain chemicals called monoamines create that familiar heady rush when you’re with your loved one, or just think of him,” says Dr. Fred. He also states that this phase is the most important, as it creates the proper strong base for the last one.
3. Falling out of romantic love
This is the phase when we actually start seeing our partners as they are, not as we desire them to be. Dr. Fred says that this is a normal and needed step in a relationship because here we see clearly if we are truly compatible with our partner. “This is a re-evaluation phase. If you feel that, overall, you made a pretty good choice… hang in there.
4. True love
This is the mature love. One that is not based on lust and desire, but on finding a trusty partner in life – the other half of a balanced relationship. “Driven by chemicals called nonapeptides, this stage ensures a deep bond between you and your partner – nature’s way of keeping you together to take care of your kids until they’re grown up. The result is a happier, stronger and longer-lasting relationship. This is the ultimate love,” Dr. Fred said.
Over the years, the number of people getting a divorce in the EU has more than doubled in the last 50 years, from 0.8 divorces per 1 000 persons, to 2.0 divorces per 1 000 persons.
In Romania, according to Romania Insider, more and more people are getting married, while the rate of divorce is quite low, compared to the rest of the world, having the second-highest marriage rate in E.U. For example, around 22.06% of marriages end in divorce in Romania, while in Spain, around 56%. This may be due to the fact that people today wait more before they decide to get married. Studies show that, for women, the average age for marriage is between 25 and 29 years, while for men is 32.5 years. When it comes to divorce, Romanian men usually divorce at the age of 35, while women decide to get a divorce between the ages of 30 and 40.
Marcela (57) and her husband Canut (64) have been married for more than 37 years. They share two kids together, and now, two grandkids. Their marriage was arranged and hasn’t been always easy. The two of them got divorced in 2009, but got back together in 2011. When asked about what made them try again and give another chance to their relationship, Marcela said clearly, as the answer was in the back of her head long before: “After a while you understand that it is not about the love I have for you or for myself. It’s about a common love that we share, stronger than what we have as individuals. For us, it was our two boys, and what they brought to us. They were our common ground. The result of our shared love, a common ground and goal.” After a long pause, as if she was shaping her thoughts, she finished with: “Love… doesn’t come in one form as young people expect and try to find today. Love has so many shades and it expresses itself through so many things, that I can’t even count. You just need patience.”
Mihai is 24 year-old and says that love is not hard to find nowadays, but it is hard to keep it. He managed to find love during the lockdown, when his girlfriend had to come back to her home village because of the restrictions. They have been dating for 8 months now, and when asked about what he thinks is the key of a strong relationship, his answer came fast and concise: “Communication. Even though I didn’t do it properly at the beginning because I was afraid. Our relation is based on communication, as this will bring friendship and understanding, and with those, what is most important of them all, trust. If you communicate, you can understand; if you understand, you can love.”
For Mihai, his grandparents are the perfect example of love, so, when asked about what he thinks regarding the concept of love lasting 3 years, he did not agree: “No, love doesn’t last 3 years. It can last 60 years if you take proper care of it. I’m looking at my grandparents, they are my example of love in life. They were married for more than 64 years.” He then continued with the reason he thinks they shared the same love for so many years: “They understood each other, first of all. They took their time and listened. They managed somehow to perfectly complete each other, as they had completely different temperaments. And they loved in the simplest form of this feeling. My grandfather passed away last year, and since then my grandmother fades away with every day that goes by…”
When asked how you know you find the right one, Mihai’s answer came after a long pause, but really confident: “You don’t know. You can’t, but you find out on the way. You go forward because, even if we like to admit it or not, we need the comfort and reassurance the other one provides. You can’t even figure out if this decision was made by the heart or by the brain, but what is love if not a combination game between these two? If you only use one, you can love blindly, and if you use the other, you can miss the most beautiful things that a relationship brings.”
Florin and Viorica have been married for 23 years. During this time, Florin spent 17 years in Germany, being home only for 3 months a year. When asked what made everything work for them, while one being in a foreign country, and the other one at home, with two kids to raise, Viorica answered shortly: “Trust. It was the unconditional trust. Respect for the other one and continuous support”.
Regarding the young generations, Viorica thinks they don’t have as much patience with each other as they should. They want something serious and they want it fast, without investing as they should. “Everyone thinks they are flawless. You and I have taken each other the way we are. Do not always blame the other when maybe there’s something to change about you.” She stopped for a second, as if she remembered something, then continued on an emotional tone: “A few days ago an elderly lady came to me and sighed with tears in her eyes. She lost her husband a short time ago and told me: believe me, if I stop and take a moment to think, I can’t remember a single bad thing in everything we had”.
They got married after only 6 months. So when asked how she knew he was the one she will spend her whole life with, after only 6 months, she answered with complete sincerity: “You don’t know if he’s the chosen one. He wasn’t well-minded at the time. But sometimes you just feel it. It wasn’t easy for us at all, but I think if he wasn’t the way he is, we wouldn’t have gotten this far”.
Viorica thinks that equal respect is one of the strongest pillars a relationship can have. “He does not run away from household chores; he understands when I need help, but of course there are times when we get angry and argue over small things, but what would marriage be without them? There were many difficulties. I think that’s why he respects me in his own way”. Viorica then continued after a short moment of silence, laughing briefly: “I remember that he once told me that he was a lucky one, that if there was another woman next to him, she would have left him a long time ago”.
So… does love last 3 years?
Most people break up when they reach the term of 3 years, but that does not mean love ends after this time, but the “falling in love”, and the passion. For people that have the patience and desire to continue, the 3-year step is just the beginning of a new chapter. They discover a different kind of love; one that doesn’t come from, and it is not shadowed nor changed, by lust and desire to perpetuate the species. So the answer to the question “Does love really last only 3 years?” is „No”. The true love that people seek for needs at least 3 years to make itself felt and understood perfectly. Sometimes even less than that. There is no perfect formula for this, and even scientists are trying, to this day, to understand and explain the complex way a human mind works when in love, because, as much as it starts from the heart, love mostly affects the brain.