Linda Carroll (@Lovecycleslinda), therapist and author of Love Cycles: The Five Essential Stages of Lasting Love, revisits the show to discuss how we can maintain strong romantic relationships for years beyond the initial hormones of early love.
The Cheat Sheet:
- Like seasons, tides, and other natural processes, love goes through very distinct, predictable cycles through which we can weather and thrive over the long term with preparation. Romance is based on science, not superstition.
- Why does falling in love make us crazy? Because we’re experiencing the Merge — the first of these love cycles — governed by body chemistry (hormones) that intoxicates us to operate outside our “normal” parameters of behavior.
- The bad news: the Merge — so named because it elates us with a feeling of unity with another person where our boundaries are merged together — is temporary. The chemicals wear off.
- The good news: we can rekindle the chemistry of the Merge with our current partner if we overcome the cycles of Doubt and Denial, Disillusionment, and Decision to reach Wholehearted Love — instead of engaging in a string of ultimately failing serial relationships to maintain the high of the Merge.
- Learn how to defend yourself against making poor choices when you’re under the influence of the Merge.
- And so much more…
Falling in what we think of as love with someone we find attractive is easy. But the initial rush of hormones that makes us do sometimes stupid things in its name just to be with that special someone is fleeting. By the time the brain chemistry settles down a bit, we may find ourselves in a committed relationship and begin to worry that maybe we’ve fallen out of love. Doubt sets in and maybe our eye starts to wander in search of someone else to fall in love with.
It’s not an uncommon cycle; if we haven’t experienced it before, we know others who have. But understanding that this is a cycle — and not the end game — makes all the difference. Linda Carroll, therapist and author of Love Cycles: The Five Essential Stages of Lasting Love revisits the show to explain what happens during this falling in love stage (the Merge), the recurring problems (Loops) that tend to follow when the chemicals wear off, and how we can endure these cycles to reach wholehearted, lasting love.
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Who hasn’t experienced the adrenalin surge, quickened pulse, and urgent longing for another upon enduring what society has charmingly called falling in love? In the throes of its influence, even the level-headed among us act out of character to ensure proximity to someone we feel such a strong connection toward. But fast forward a few days, a few months, or even a few years down the road, and this initial euphoria fades. Once-happy couples begin to doubt they’ve been properly matched according to some grand design, and further cycles ensue to test the durability of the relationship.
In her book Love Cycles: The Five Essential Stages of Lasting Love, therapist Linda Carroll maps out these cycles (explained in her last appearance on AoC) in a way that helps couples understand that they’re perfectly natural and chart a course that allows them to endure the road ahead to reach the desired destination: Wholehearted Love.
But it’s that first cycle, the Merge, that disorients our journey on this road the most. “When we fall in love,” says Linda, “think about what that is — it’s falling. We don’t choose it! We see somebody and we’re carried away and think that’s it…we have been trained to see [this] as romantic; it’s actually a whole set of biological chemicals going off.”
As much as we may feel like we’re walking on air during the Merge, the chemistry we’re experiencing is more like a drug-induced euphoria than a sign of relationship compatibility from some higher power. “It’s the Hollywood story,” Linda says. “‘I saw them; I knew it was for me. We went off into the sunset.’ Those stories don’t talk about what happened after the sunset.”
During the next cycle, Doubt and Denial, the chemicals that blinded us to the quirks and imperfections of our significant other begin to wear off and we may find the very qualities that attracted us to them in the first place beginning to annoy us. We start to wonder if our earlier perceptions were somehow misguided and see the diminishing high of being around this person as an indication of the relationship’s failure. It’s at this point the eye starts to wander and we wonder if maybe we’re with the wrong person. Many begin to actively seek out a new partner — The mythical Mr. or Ms. “Right” — who will renew those magical, fuzzy feelings associated with the Merge.
From a scientific standpoint, it makes perfect sense: nature breeds diversity, and it’s only concerned with bringing us together for the purely biological purpose of reproduction. Nature doesn’t care about how we feel about the process. Stability and Wholehearted Love don’t figure into its equation. It’s up to us to use our human brains to work the problem from our perspective in a way that brings us to a more controlled conclusion.
Linda estimates the chemicals from the Merge can last about three years, depending on the people involved. This explains how some relationships nipped in the bud in high school or college are sometimes rekindled years or even decades later at the expense of their current relationship — even with people who have never otherwise strayed.
“In my work — I coach people from all over the world and I’m a therapist as well — I see so many couples who come in,” says Linda. “and someone has gone to their college reunion. Someone who has never, ever strayed. They go to their college reunion or they go on Facebook and look up their high school boyfriend and the whole relationship at their end collapses. Because they want that feeling back — but it’s not the person they want back. It’s the feeling of that first time you fall in love and how incredible it is to have our boundaries merge and to feel like we’re not alone in this world.”
Listen to this episode of The Art of Charm to learn more about what we can do to defend ourselves against making poor choices when we’re under the influence of the Merge, the difference between limerence and love (and falling and choosing), why we should (and how we can) get over ourselves, how to deal with the recurring problems (aka Loops) that inevitably happen after the Merge, what we can do to remind ourselves about the good cycles when we’re in the middle of a bad one, and lots more. And if you didn’t catch it the first time or you just want to review the details, don’t forget to check out Linda’s last appearance on the show: Episode 480: Love Cycles.
THANKS, LINDA CARROLL!
If you enjoyed this session with Linda Carroll, let her know by clicking on the link below and sending her a quick shout out on Twitter:
Resources from this episode:
- Love Cycles: The Five Essential Stages of Lasting Love by Linda Carroll
- Episode 480: Love Cycles (Linda’s previous appearance on AoC)
- Why Falling In Love Makes People Crazy by Linda Carroll (via mindbodygreen)
- Linda Carroll’s website
- Linda Carroll at Facebook
- Linda Carroll at Twitter
- Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love by Dorothy Tennov
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