People seem to lose their cool at Yule, even jeopardising long-term relationships for a bit of seasonable “fun” beneath the mistletoe.
But confusing lust with love and believing the former to be more important than the latter are things we human beings do too often and too readily.
Many marriages founder because couples become disenchanted when the honeymoon period is over, thinking that if they don’t have fancy the pants off each other anymore, the relationship must be failing.
But as John Bradshaw points out in his new book, Post-Romantic Stress Disorder: What to do when the honeymoon is over, several scientific studies have discovered that the first flush of love – lust, in other words, when your brain is flooded with chemicals that make you want to make love all the time – generally wears off after a year to 18 months.
“This is often the moment the rot sets in,” says John in an adaptation of his book, published recently in the Daily Mail. “Without realising it, couples start to suffer from what I call Post-Romantic Stress Disorder, which can fester at the heart of their relationship for many years.
“In my view, it’s the main reason why 42 per cent of marriages in Britain end in divorce and why many more of us are unhappy in our marriages (often secretly), with husbands and wives claiming in surveys that they are disappointed and unfulfilled.”
John believes the “tragedy of modern life” is that couples fail to make an effort to adjust to the next stage of their relationship, which is “a mature and fulfilling love, with a ‘good enough’ sex life”. Instead, he says, they “throw away perfectly good marriages”.
At Benussi & Co, we have seen just about every reason for divorce you could possibly imagine, but it is certainly the case that a lot of people are dissatisfied with marriages that aren’t violent, abusive or even boring – just less-than-sizzling-with-passion.
While some couples enjoy a physically fizzing relationship for decades, some find that sex becomes a lot less important as time goes on. And that is natural. But as lust wanes, love grows – the kind of love that accepts the other person’s faults and idiosyncrasies; that feels comfortable and secure without the need for hearts and flowers, and that doesn’t need the earth to move to feel cherished.
There are lots of ways to be intimate other than romping in the bedroom, as John points out in his book. “Take up a joint hobby or sport – excitement can boost the feel-good hormones that strengthen attachment. Sit down and talk about the life you’ve shared together. Memories of bringing up children or coping with bereavement are times of deep sharing that should bring couples together rather than push them apart.”
Lust is possibly the most exciting feeling of all, but like most exciting emotions, it doesn’t last. Love, on the other hand, can – and often does – last a lifetime. If you are able to distinguish between the two and appreciate one more than the other, you might find your marriage is good enough after all.