Tag Archives: scientific studies about love

4 Proven Secrets to Long Marriage Part IV: Cultivate Healthy Passion

Wrapping up our 4 secrets to long marriage is maintaining a healthy passion. What’s an unhealthy passion, you ask? Funnily enough, psychologist Robert Vallerand of the University of Quebec says, “Obsessive passion—a type that seems to control you—is as detrimental to the relationship, making it less satisfying sexually and otherwise, as having no passion.”

A healthy passion, on the other hand, means “a voluntary inclination toward an activity or person that we love or value.” It helps us relate better and increases our intimacy while retaining our own identity.

You can cultivate healthy passion by participating in an activity you and your partner both enjoy, says Vallerand. While exhilarating activities are ideal, competitive ones are not. (The object is not winning, it’s bonding.) Go sledding. Share a boat ride. Take a run. Have sex. You get the idea.

Another way to boost passion: write the reasons why you love your spouse and why the relationship is important to you. Bonus points if you read it aloud to him or her.

To summarize the 4 Secrets to a Long Marriage as shared in Scientific American’s article “The Happy Couple”: Share Joy, Stay Positive, Express Gratitude, and Cultivate a Healthy Passion.

So what’s your big secret to a successful marriage? Did any of the four resonate with you as strengths or weaknesses in your relationship?

4 Proven Secrets to Long Marriage Part III: Express Gratitude

The 10 most frequent positive emotions include: joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe and love, according to psychologist and author Barbara L. Fredrickson of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. In her book, Positivity, she says the most important of these emotions to a relationship may be gratitude.

Why? Because expressing gratitude regularly helps us appreciate our partner and not take one another for granted. For example, when you tell your spouse you appreciate the great dinner, it makes you aware that s/he put effort into preparing that dinner for you, and more appreciate of having them in your life. And it makes your partner feel appreciated. So, expressing gratitude benefits both partners in the relationshipthe recipient and the giver.

One researcher found on days when couples felt more gratitude toward their partner, they felt more connected to him or her and more satisfied even the following day. Recipients of gratitude also increased their relationship satisfaction on days when it was expressed. Researchers refer to gratitude as a booster shot for romantic relationships.

“Each unit of improvement in expressed appreciation decreased by half the odds of the couple breaking up in six months,” according to Scientific American’s December 2009 article, “The Happy Couple: Secrets to a Long Marriage.”

What makes you feel the most gratitude from your spouse? When are you most likely to express it?

Read Part I, Part II and Part IV.

4 Proven Secrets to Long Marriage Part II: Stay Positive

In the Part I, we learned how important it is to respond positively to our partner’s good news. We also learned that individuals in successful, happy relationships each experience a higher ratio of positive to negative emotions than do those in unsuccessful relationships. Positive emotions—even fleeting ones—have the power to help us connect with others.

Having an upbeat outlook enables people to see the big picture and avoid getting hung up on small annoyances,” says psychologist Barbara L. Fredrickson of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. “This wide-angle view often brings to new light new possibilities and offers solutions to difficult problems, making individuals better at handling adversity in relationships and other parts of life. It also tends to dismantle boundaries between “me” and “you,” creating stronger emotional attachments. (Remember the Power of We in Relationships?)

We’ve heard about Dr. Gottman’s 5:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions in a relationship, but Fredrickson studied positive emotions by each individual and found even when the ratio is 3:1 it helps them become more resilient in life and love.

How can we help boost positive emotions? Try to schedule activities often in places that exude positive energy for you, such as a nature hike or meetings in a restaurant you love. Surround yourself with scents and sounds that make you happy. Keep a collage of photos that make you smile on your desk, next to your bed, or wherever you spend time. Keep upbeat music on your ipod or stereo playing positive lyrics. Spend a few minutes hugging your spouse (and children) at the end of the day. Play with your pet.

Scientific American’s December 2009 article, “The Happy Couple: Secrets to a Long Marriage” provides more details.

What do you do to maintain a positive, upbeat attitude, or is this a struggle for you? I know when I’m not feeling well, or the weather has been cold or dreary for a long time, I struggle to be positive. Music helps change my mood.

Read Part I, Part III and Part IV for the other three secrets.

4 Proven Secrets to Long Marriage Part I: Share Joy

Everyone thinks romantic partners are supposed to support you when you’re sick or down, and help you through tough times, but how we treat each other during the good times may matter even more to the relationship. Scientific American’s December 2009 article “The Happy Couple: Secrets to a Long Marriage” delves into how happy couples stay happy and successful. Here are some of key findings from researchers:

  • Couples in stronger relationships react more positively to one another’s good news, while less happy couples respond in a neutral or negative way. Buoying one another’s joy during happy times may help cement feelings of satisfaction and commitment.
  • Individuals in successful, happy relationships each experience a higher ratio of positive to negative emotions than do those in unsuccessful relationships.

Think back to the last time your spouse told you s/he had a good presentation at work or shared some other tidbit of good news. If you merely nodded your head and said, “That’s nice, honey,” while returning to your email or TV show, it turns out that’s almost as bad as making a negative comment. More positive reactions include expressing enthusiasm, holding eye contact, leaning in, and asking questions. These behaviors show you “get” what makes your partner happy, and it makes you happy, too.

Even if you have reservations, for example about your partner’s job promotion, express positive feedback and save the concerns for a later conversation.

Researchers say positive events happen three times as often as negative ones, so we should be able to get more practice on good days than bad. If that’s not the case for you, you need to engage in more enjoyable activities together—taking a walk in the park or watching a favorite movie or show together.

Read three more proven secrets: Part II, Part III, and Part IV.

Love-Building Exercises Part II

I hope you had a chance to try the three love-building techniques  from the last post, used to help increase emotional intimacy with your partner. Here are some other suggestions by Robert Epstein, PhD, psychologist and researcher. For more information on Epstein’s upcoming book, visit Making Love Book.

4. “Fall” in love or the trust exercise. Let yourself fall into the arms of your partner. Trade places. Repeat a few times. This activity helps increase feelings of vulnerability, even in strangers.

5. Share Secrets. You and your partner write down a deep secret then swap and discuss. Repeat if you like. Sharing secrets also increases vulnerable feelings and leads to a heightened sense of intimacy.

6. Mind-Reading Game. Think about a thought you want to convey, and write it down. Then, try to convey it silently while he or she guesses. If she can’t guess, reveal the answer, then switch.

7. Let Me In. This is an exercise of invading the other’s personal space, starting about four feet away, and moving closer every 10 seconds or so for a few minutes. Get as close as you can without touching. (I say, at the end of the exercise, if you feel like touching, go for it.)

8. Love Aura. Place your palms close together—but not touching—for several minutes. Feel the heat and energy.

As you can tell, all these exercises make a couple feel physically or emotionally closer (or both). I would add that any discussion that shares your deepest dreams or fears would also fall into this category. I think the reason these are successful is that we spend so much of our day simply accomplishing tasks and perhaps sharing an activity, such as watching a TV show. How often do we truly interact in a new and different way?

Plan an adventure, even if it’s just a treasure hunt in your own house with clues at each step. Learn a skill together. I think it would be fun to learn a language together then visit the country that speaks that language. You could even get kids involved in this activity. If you can’t afford to travel, plan an “Italian Night” or “Parisian Night” at home with decorations and food, and speak only that language.

One of the couples I interviewed shared when their kids are at summer camp, they like to go on long bike rides where they purposely get lost together. They also enjoy board games in the back yard. This has helped keep their relationship fresh after overcoming a life-threatening cancer (her) and an early drug addiction (him). Some couples may prefer reading a book together or taking a cooking class together.

What was your favorite technique, or were you too uncomfortable to try them? What activity are you planning to increase that loving feeling?

Love-Building Exercises Part I

Is it possible to increase your closeness or feelings of love by using scientifically tested techniques? Robert Epstein, PhD, thinks so. “There is a definite fix for our poor performance in romantic relationships,” he says. The psychologist and longtime researcher is writing a book on how people can learn to love. He recently shared some proven techniques for deliberately building emotional intimacy in a January/February 2010 magazine article for Scientific American.

Epstein says so many marriages fail in large part because we have poor skills for maintaining relationships and “highly unrealistic expectations.” He warns that physical attraction is sometimes confused with love, creating unsuitable unions. So, be careful with whom you share these techniques!

Epstein studied other researchers’ results on love builders and carried out some of his own. He plans to teach others how to use what is known about how people learn to love one another. The key to many of his recommended strategies is that they increase feelings of vulnerability, and that increases intimacy levels. Other intimacy builders include sharing adventures, secrets, personal space and jokes.

Here are the first three techniques. I’ll try them if you will. Maybe plan one of these activities on a date night, and let me know how it works for you. Keep an open mind. I’ll provide some of his other suggestions in a future post.

1. Two as One. Embrace each other gently. Begin to sense your partner’s breathing and gradually try to synchronize your breathing with his or hers. Epstein says after a few minutes, you may start to feel as if you have merged.

2. Soul Gazing. He reports excellent results with this technique, even with perfect strangers. One caveat is it must be mutual gazing; staring at someone doesn’t count! Stand or sit about two feet apart. Look deeply into each other’s eyes, trying to look at the very core of your beings. Do this for about two minutes, and discuss what you saw.

3. Monkey Love. Sit or stand fairly close to one another, then start moving your hands, arms, and legs any way you like—but in a fashion that perfectly imitates your partner. Epstein calls this fun and challenging.

See Part II with more techniques.

Share your experience if you are brave enough to try these. What do you think about using psychological techniques to increase your love and intimacy? Do you believe they work? Have you tried them?