Does true love or romantic love have an “expiry date”?

By | August 2, 2017

Do you remember the first time you fell in love? How about your first true love? Do you still remember him/her? Do you remember how you reacted to being in love—butterflies in the stomach, racing heart, sweaty palms, askance glances, sleeplessness, anxiety, panic, euphoria, etc. Well, you know the signs, right?

It is a wonderful feeling being in love, to want to be with your lover all the time, to talk to that person all the time, to spend dreaming about a life together all the time, to think how blissful married life would be, to revel in the thought of living happily-ever-after… all the time.


Remember hours and hours of phone calls? Do you remember all those “You hang up first…”? Remember your first fight, the making up and getting-back-together again. When you were together, the days seemed like hours, hours like minutes and the minutes like seconds. Time used to fly when you were together and used to drag when you were apart. Yes, it is a great feeling to be in love!

However, have you wondered how long do those feelings last once you are in a relationship? How long does romantic love last? Does it last a lifetime, or does romantic love or true love have an “expiry date”?

Psychologists have determined that a crush last for only four months. However, what does science say about romantic love or true love? It seems, based on research by a team of Italian scientists, romantic love doesn’t last a lifetime for most mortals. Matter of fact, romantic love “expires” after a certain period. The researchers determined that romantic love lasts little more than a year.

True love/romantic love has expired

So, even true love is transitory and ephemeral for most mortals? I didn’t see that coming. No, really, I didn’t. Eye roll!

Nerve Growth Factor (NGF)

According to researchers from the University of Pavia, Italy, the chemical messenger responsible for triggering feelings of romance in humans ebbs after a year or so. In a study involving men and women between the ages of 18 to 31, the researchers discovered that those who had just fallen in love showed a higher level of a protein, known as the Nerve Growth Factor (NGF), than those who had been together for one year or more.  The protein NGF is responsible for all those telltale signs of love—racing heart, butterflies in the stomach, panic, euphoria, etc.

Tests conducted on the research subjects, during the study, showed that the level of NGF in those who had just fallen in love was 227 units whereas it was 123 units in those who were together for a year or more, or those who were single.

A little over a year later, the researchers went back and tested the level of NGF in couples from the initial “just fallen in love” group, who had remained committed in a relationship since the inception of the study. Interestingly, the test result showed that the NGF level in those couples has reduced to the level seen in couples in a long-standing relationship or individuals who were single.

Love molecules

According to another study conducted by a team of researchers from University of Pisa, Italy, bodily chemistry responsible for sexual attraction between new partners lasts two years, at the most. When the relationship becomes more stable, other hormones of the body gradually take over.

According to the article, the concentration of chemical messengers, which they termed as “love molecules“, were higher in couples who had just gotten romantically involved. In cupid-struck couples, women were found to have an elevated level of testosterone whereas testosterone was reduced in men in love. Here too, interestingly, the scientists discovered that the “love molecules” were non-existent in couples who were in a committed relations for two years or more. In those couples, the so-called “love molecules” were replaced by a so-called “cuddle hormone”, oxytocin.

True love

However, this doesn’t mean that true love is not possible between couples. A study conducted by Arthur Aron has shown that romantic love can last a lifetime for at least 5-12% of the couples. But to be a part of that élite group, you have to do a lot of work. Marriage requires a lot of work. You have to set and meet expectations.

Most couples do not communicate their expectations of each other and quickly get disillusioned with their marriage and relationship. A few of them will step into a relationship with really unrealistic expectations of each other.  And, when those expectations cannot be met, everything comes crashing down.

Then, there are some who leave everything to fate, destiny and karma. That, in my opinion, is the easiest thing to do. Because if the relationship or the marriage does not work because of a lack of effort, then, it is very easy to put the blame on someone or something else, which, in this case, will be fate, destiny or karma. “It was not meant to be” will be the excuse. Who can argue with that?

Secret sauce

It is oft said that “Anything worth having is difficult to get“. I have always felt that the particular maxim is incomplete. We should probably add the following phrase to complete that maxim, “And, anything achieved with great difficulty requires a lot of hard work to nurture“. Most people don’t get the second half of the “equation” right. Hence, they don’t put any effort to nurture their relationship. Consequently, their relationship becomes layered with disappointments after disappointments and failures after failures. They slowly drift apart, and then one day decide to end it all and go their own way.

According to science, true love or romantic love does have an expiry date. However, a true relationship based on trust, respect, communicated expectations, commitment, gratitude, appreciation, love, etc., can indeed last a lifetime. Maybe the remaining 88% of the couples should give this a try.

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