Post-Romantic Stress Disorder

When the process of falling in love ends, many couples enter an anguished state. They think that their love is over or that, perhaps, they've chosen the wrong partner. In most cases, this isn't the case. In fact, it's a state known as post-romantic stress disorder.
Post-Romantic Stress Disorder
Sergio De Dios González

Written and verified by the psychologist Sergio De Dios González.

Last update: 06 May, 2022

Post-romantic stress disorder is a rather critical situation that a couple goes through when the romantic phase of their relationship ends. It’s a colloquial term since the condition doesn’t appear in any list of disorders. However, it’s at the base of many break-ups that perhaps should never have happened.

The first person to talk about post-romantic stress disorder was psychologist, John Bradshaw, in his book, Post-Romantic Stress Disorder: What to Do When the Honeymoon Is Over. In this, he points out how those chemical surges that come with romantic love can later end in unnecessary storms.

As a matter of fact, it was the psychologist, Robert Sternberg, who spoke of the different phases a couple in love goes through. In his theory, he pointed out that there comes a point when infatuation ends and the so-called ‘companionate love’ begins, which is calmer and more stable. Later, this transit was coined as post-romantic stress syndrome by Bradshaw, due to the great difficulties that it usually causes.

The important thing is to work to recover lost intimacy, and this does not start with sex, but with caresses, hugs, and, in general, affection.”

-Miguel Ayuso-

The act of falling in love

When two people fall in love, a real revolution occurs, both in their hormones and in their emotions and thoughts. Suddenly, it’s as if everything makes sense, thus producing feelings of satisfaction and enthusiasm.

In effect, it’s a fantastic form of madness. A state that gives rise to ideas without much reasoning behind them. For example, believing that their new partner suits them perfectly or that they only have to look into each other’s eyes to understand each other. It’s also usual for the idea to arise that the love of their life has finally appeared and that this love will never end.

At these times, the chemistry of the brain changes in a remarkable way, and an intense desire to be with the loved one appears all the time. They want to make love all the time. To take care of each other and fuss over them. At best, this wonderful state usually lasts between 12 and 18 months. What follows is a kind of ‘recovery’ process when they emerge from that intitial wonderful madness.

Couple in love
Limerence is the initial state that people experience when falling in love with one another.

Post romantic stress disorder

In about a year or a year and a half, brain chemistry begins to return to normal. Consequently, what was once extraordinary begins to become ‘normal’. This is an evolutionary and positive process. That’s because the human being couldn’t remain in that state forever which, in many ways, renders them useless for many other functions.

Furthermore, if a couple continued like this, they wouldn’t be able to create an emotional space for the presence of children. In short, it’s the arrival of a new stage in the relationship. However, it can cause deep bewilderment in some people, and even great frustration. This is post-romantic stress disorder.

It’s common for couples to experience this stage as something that’s suddenly no longer working. In fact, they tend to equate these changes with a deterioration in the relationship, when this actually isn’t the case at all. In some, this causes fear or even despair. After all, not so long ago they were over the moon and now everything is so ordinary…

Some couples decide to break up at this stage. Others continue in their relationships with a certain air of resignation. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Indeed, this feeling of disappointment has nothing to do with the partner, nor with themselves, but it’s a process that’s perfectly natural. This is a fact that’s really worth knowing so as not to ruin valuable relationships.

couple talking
The transition from infatuation to love can generate some confusion and stress in the couple’s relationship.

How to tackle it?

The most important thing is to be aware that this disappointment isn’t negative, but completely normal. Things won’t go back to the way they were before, but that doesn’t mean that they’ve been devalued. It’s simply time to start a new stage in which the partner is no longer a prince charming or an enchanted princess, but another human being with whom sharing life could well prove to be a great idea.

If you think you’re suffering from post-romantic stress disorder, here’s some advice.

  • Accept the reduction of passion.
  • Don’t attack your partner for not having lived up to your fantasies.
  • Avoid defensive behaviors.
  • Don’t distance yourself from your partner.
  • Cultivate dialogue and express yourself fully.
  • Learn to discuss your differences.
  • Avoid indifference.
  • Don’t neglect sex, even if it’s no longer so passionate.
  • Take care of your feelings of intimacy and nurture complicity.

Post-romantic stress disorder tends to more intensely affect people who are extremely dependent or insecure. That’s because moving to the next phase in a relationship requires maturity and realism. Those who succeed will find a new perspective on love. One that’s calmer, deeper, and more rewarding.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Aguiar, E., Mendilaharzu, G. B. D., & Lamovsky, C. (1987). Del enamoramiento al amor: una tipología de los funcionamientos vinculares. In Primer congreso argentino de psicoanálisis de familia y pareja: trabajos libres-work shops (pp. 9-20).
  • Canet Vallés, J. L. (1992). El proceso del enamoramiento como elemento estructurante de la ficción sentimental.
  • Hernández, A. H., Terrazas, N. A. I., Pérez, M. I. M., Teodoro, I. G. M., Flores, K. D. G., & López, C. D. H. (2015). Química del amor. Logos Boletín Científico de la Escuela Preparatoria No. 22(4).
  • Martín López-Andrade, L. (2009). Erotomanía, amor y enamoramiento: Contradicciones. Revista de la Asociación Española de Neuropsiquiatría29(1), 157-169.
  • Mora Montes, J. M. (2007). Comprensión del enamoramiento. Cauriensia.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.