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Tips and Suggestions From Scientific Studies To Make Love Grow and Flourish

 

The precursor to this article, "Does Love Last?", discussed how and why our bodies  and brains fall in love, and why that heady feeling eventually has to wear off - but only to make room for another kind of love, the kind that deepens and undulates seductively with time and focus. The thing is, most people want that rush of feel-good to continue, as they see it as the mechanism behind the "act" of falling in love. You know what I mean: your palms get sweaty, your heart races, food no longer nourishes you, and you feel almost addicted to this person. It's a high - literally! Sadly though, your body can only continue this rush for so long. So how can you move from what the Greeks called eros, or sexual passion, to something more like pragma, or longstanding love? 


Let's Start With the Newbies
In this case, I'm referring to new things instead of new people. In several studies, including one discussed in the New York Times article entitled, "Reinventing Date Night for Long-Married Couples," it's suggested that instead of doing the same old thing every day (or week, or month) with your partner, you both schedule time together to do something exciting, new and fun for the both of you.
 
Neuroscientist Michael Merzenich agrees; if you want to change how your brain processes information, start with throwing novel things at it. It only makes sense then, that if you want to change how you interact with your partner back to how things "used to be" in your relationship, it's time to reinvent date night.



Learn from the Love Lab
Dr. John Gottman, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Washington and where he founded what is still fondly referred to as "The Love Lab", has done extensive research with couples about what makes love last. From that research, he can now determine (with what he said is 91% accuracy) whether a couple's relationship will stay strong through your lifetime. One of his top markers? Trust. Ask yourself these questions to determine if your partner is someone you actually can have a lasting love with: 
  1. Is this person honest with you to a fault? With zero excuses for them or yourself, think if they've ever lied to you. If you've ever doubted their authenticity or honesty, it's best to move on. 
  2. Does this person offer you full-access to their life? You should know their friends, colleagues, and family members, as well as any of the big issues in their life.
  3. Have they demonstrated moral and ethical decisions in line with your own?
  4. Does your partner have your back no matter what, and do they support the things you love, talk about, and want to do? 
Of course, the reverse is true with all of these questions, once you've done a fair assessment of how your partner melds with you on these issues. If you're unable to offer the same, it's probably time to find someone that you do see eye-to-eye with regards to trust within a long term romantic partnership.


Play a Bit
In tandem with the above exercises, Robert Epstein takes falling and staying in love to a whole new level. Not only does he suggest staring into each other's eyes for two minutes straight while doing nothing else as a means to connect and feel more love for one another, he also has found that "doing scary things" and increasing your heart rate together can increase your connection.

In my own personal experiments at singles' events that I've run and organized, I too have found the exact same outcome. When people who had just met for the time were asked to perform an exercise that made both parties feel vulnerable, scared, and/or got their heart rate up significantly, attraction and - yes, even love - increased dramatically. Several couples in my experiments have gone from feeling 0 love with someone they've just met, to a 9 or a 10 on a scale of ten after having done one such exercise for no more than three minutes.

References:
  • Epstein, Robert. "Fall in Love and Stay That Way." Scientific American Mind. Jan 2010.
  • Fisher, H. (2000). “Lust, Attraction, Attachment: Biology and Evolution of the Three Primary Emotion Systems for Mating, Reproduction, and Parenting.” Journal of Sex Education and Therapy, 25:96-104.
  • John Gottman and Nan Silver, “What Makes Love Last?” (Simon & Schuster, 2012).
  • Johnson, Steven. (March 1, 2003). "Emotions and the Brain: Love". Discover.
  • Merzenich, Michael, perf. Growing evidence of brain plasticity. TED.com, 2004.



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Love Magazine: Tips and Suggestions From Scientific Studies To Make Love Grow and Flourish
Tips and Suggestions From Scientific Studies To Make Love Grow and Flourish
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