As Lieberman previously mentioned, dopamine is what gives us passion. Passionate love, in particular, is a dopaminergic experience. It’s a wonderful thing, but it doesn’t last forever—and that’s OK. “On average, it lasts about 12 months, and then no matter what we do, it starts to fade,” Lieberman says. “A lot of people make the mistake of confusing the end of passionate love with the end of the relationship, and they say, ‘Oh my God, I’ve fallen out of love with this person. I need to find someone else.’” Then they hop aboard what’s known as the “hedonic treadmill,” where they are constantly searching for passionate love.
“That’s not a recipe for happiness,” adds Lieberman. See, passionate love doesn’t exactly fade. It just transforms into something else: companionate love. “It’s not a dopaminergic thrill of excitement and anticipation,” says Lieberman. “It’s more of a here and now phenomenon of fulfillment, satisfaction, and contentment. It’s just that deep feeling of being happy and content with someone whose life is intertwined with your own, and you know that they’ve always got your back. And in some ways, that’s a more enjoyable kind of love than the [intensity] of passionate love.”
Understanding how passionate love shifts over time is crucial for a healthy, successful relationship; on the flip-side, always chasing the dopamine that comes with passionate love won’t result in true companionship.