Even if you’re not a Houston relationship counselor, you probably know a few things about the initial symptoms of being in love: sweaty palms, speeding heartbeat, trouble sleeping. These symptoms aren’t just the invention of pop music or romance novels—you really experience this physical craving for another person when you first fall in love.

You may have also noticed, though, that after a few years in a relationship, those passionate feelings fade and troublesome marriage issues may take their place. So what is it that changes over time, and how do you keep your relationship strong after the initial attraction stage?

Houston Relationship Counselor: How Initial Attraction and Attachment Work

When we first become attracted to someone, our brains release dopamine, which is considered the “pleasure chemical,” and norepinephrine, which increases our heart rate and level of excitement. Testosterone, the sexual desire hormone, also spikes in both partners before returning to normal levels after a longer period of time. This is why we experience feelings of elation, increased energy, craving, and sleeplessness when we think about the person we’re attracted to.

After about 2 or 3 years, the passionate love we felt at the beginning of our relationship has mostly faded, but if we have successfully bonded, this initial passion is replaced by long-term attachment. Endorphins and the hormone oxytocin—both of which are released during sex—help strengthen long-term relationships. Oxytocin strengthens the bond between two people, and endorphins create a general sense of well-being and security.

Houston Relationship Counselor: Work With Your Partner to Get Past Issues

Here are a few things you can try if you are having marriage issues in your long-term relationship:

  •  Set aside time to spend with your partner. Even if it’s just a date night once a week or watching TV together after dinner, spending more time together will strengthen your bond.
  • Do novel activities together. Finding a new activity that you can both try or a new skill that you can learn together can increase the sense of excitement in your relationship.
  • Don’t neglect physical intimacy. Since oxytocin and endorphins are released during sex, it’s important not to neglect the physical side of your relationship. While sex is not the most important part of committed love and marriage, it is nonetheless very important!
  • Tell your partner how you feel about them. By regularly verbalizing your affection for your partner, you can strengthen your bond and remind each other what you love about one another.

If you and your partner would like to talk more about how to strengthen a long-term relationship that seems to have lost its spark, don’t hesitate to come talk to the Houston relationship counselor.