Love might appear to be a process that is unpredictable but research by Dr. John Gottman and his colleagues have found that the opposite is true. In Principia Amoris: The New Science of Love, he explains the three natural phases of love and how couples can progress from one to the next.
Phase 1: Falling in Love – Limerence
A cascade of hormones and neurotransmitters are activated when you meet the Right One: the person who smells right, feels right, and looks right. You feel flushed; you tremble; and your heart skips and beat (or two) as a result. All these are typical off the first stage of love that Dorothy Tennov calls ‘limerence’. During this time, your judgement is usually clouded. You wish that this feeling would last forever, and believe that it will, and so you do not prepare yourself for what’s to come.
Phase 2: Building Trust
According to Dr Gottman, the majority of fighting in a relationship happens in the first two years. “Will you be there for me? Can I trust you? Can I count on you to have my back?” are the basis of all conflicts newlyweds.
The key to building trust is to have your partner’s best interest in mind and heart. It is listening to your partner’s pain and giving it the attention it deserves. Dr Gottman uses the acronym “ATTUNE” to guide couples to do just that.
A is for Awareness of one’s partner’s pain
T is for Tolerance that there are always two valid viewpoints in any negative emotions
T is for Turning Toward one’s partner’s need
U is for trying to Understand your partner
N is for Non-defensive listening
E is for Empathy
Phase 3: Building Commitment and Loyalty
In Phase 3, the couple can either be building true commitment and loyalty or they can be nurturing resentment for what they think is missing.
An important metric in Phase 3 of love is what Dr Gottman calls the fairness metric. Couples need to have the sense that power is fairly distributed in a relationship. It is very difficult to establish a deep and lasting trust in a relationship where the distribution of power feels unfair to at least one person.
Understanding the 3 Phases of love will enable you to progress and develop a deeper and lasting love for your partner.