Why We Don’t Fall in Love As Often or As Intensely as We Age. (It’s Actually a Good Thing!)

Psychology
month ago

Do you remember how intensely we experienced love in our youth? It seems that as we age, the ability to experience such emotions diminishes. We decided to figure out why at 30, a person falls in love less often and vividly than at 20.

The Twenty-something lovescapes

Ah, the twenties. A time when life unfolds like a messy yet vibrant collage. You stumble through crowded house parties, each new face a potential spark. The guy with the ironic band T-shirt across the room? Crush-worthy. The barista who remembers your latte order? Major heart eyes. Your dating life is a whirlwind of fleeting infatuations, a constant state of low-grade butterflies. Every encounter feels electric, charged with the possibility of a meet-cute fairytale.

Sure, some crushes may fizzle faster than a damp firework. Maybe your «interesting» clothing choices were a tad too...unique. But hey, who cares? The beauty lies in the sheer volume of potential. The world feels like a boundless expanse of romantic possibilities, brimming with hidden connections waiting to be discovered. Every weekend is a blank canvas, ripe for the next grand love story.

Then, as if a switch is flipped, the landscape of your thirties emerges. The once-frequent flutter of crushes slows to a trickle. You can still feel that spark, the one that ignites sleepless nights and frantic message-checking. But it’s become a rare phenomenon, a unicorn sighting in the dating jungle.

Gone are the days of effortless connection at every turn. Now, genuine infatuation feels like a precious gem, unearthed after months of sifting through the ordinary. Conversations might still hold the potential for a deep connection, but the initial butterflies seem to have migrated south for the winter.

Is it a decline in romanticism, or simply a shift in priorities? Perhaps it’s a culmination of life experiences, a refined sense of self that demands a higher bar for potential partners. Whatever the reason, the landscape of love in your thirties is a different one. It’s a terrain where quality trumps quantity, and genuine connection holds more weight than fleeting infatuation.

The frequency of crushes might decline with age, but the underlying capacity for passionate love appears to remain.

But there’s another layer to the story, as captured by a Quora user: «Crushes are less common with age because as you grow older, you conclude that the person you have idolized is someone you don’t even know, or if you know them, you don’t know them well. So you are basing their worth to you on the qualities that you project onto them, the likable qualities that you want them to have. Who you think they are is rarely the person your imagination has created.» In our youth, crushes are often fueled by projections and fantasies. We create an idealized version of someone based on limited information, like the carefully crafted image of a celebrity. As we mature, we learn the value of genuine connection and the importance of knowing someone for who they truly are.

However, another Quora user offers a different perspective: «No. Getting older hasn’t prevented me from getting crushes at all.» She acknowledges that crushes might feel less dramatic with experience, but the core emotional intensity remains, «I’m wiser about them now than I used to be. I recognize them for what they are. When I was younger, I would get a crush and be all like „OMG this is amazing it must be True Love watch as I uproot my life to pursue this thing because I will never feel anything this amazing again we must have been brought together by Destiny!“»

Research suggests a complex interplay that shapes how we approach love in different decades.

One study, titled «Getting Older, Feeling Less?», surveyed over 2,500 Germans and found that older adults generally reported lower emotional intensity overall, including positive emotions associated with crushes. Perhaps this emotional dampening explains why we don’t get as swept away by fleeting attractions with age.

However, biological anthropologist Helen Fisher argues that the physiological experience of falling in love remains constant. «The basic brain region and pathways linked with feelings of intense romantic love were just as active in people over 50 as they were among the people... who were in their twenties,» Fisher explained to The Washington Post of one study she conducted. «This is a basic drive, and it doesn’t really change.» This suggests that the core drive for romantic connection might not weaken with age.

So why the shift in how often we experience crushes?

It could be due to increased selectivity. As we accumulate life experiences and relationships, we develop a clearer sense of what we value in a partner. A study from the University of Queensland found that older women, particularly those between 35 and 50, were pickier when choosing romantic partners. Interestingly, research on dating apps suggests a similar trend for men, with pickiness increasing after 40.

So, the frequency of crushes might decline with age, but the underlying capacity for passionate love appears to remain. This shift may reflect a maturing sense of self and a desire for partners who truly complement our lives.

This evolving self-actualization isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

The «crush crash» does not inherently signify negative outcomes. It reflects a maturing sense of who we are and what we want in a partner. While the giddiness of fleeting infatuation might lessen, the potential for deeper, more meaningful connections increases. So, while we may not be falling for every person with a shared appreciation for a cheesy Christmas sweater anymore, the connections we do form have the potential to be all the stronger for it.

Moreover, we maximize our chances of finding the perfect partner after age 27.

Math tells us that the chances of finding true love with the people we know during the first 37% of your romantic life are very low. Let’s say you want to get married before the age of 40, and you first started dating at age 15. It means you’re unlikely to find your happy ending with the people you date from age 15 to 27.

Between 27 and 35 is a window that allows you to pick someone who is better for you than everybody that you’ve dated before. That’s because you can now look back at all that past 37% and compare.

Building strong relationships is not easy at any age. Here are 9 signs that your relationship is as solid as a rock

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