Tag Archives: improve relationships

Scientists: Love Lasts Longer Than Thought

Can romantic love last the test of time, or does it inevitably fade? A study published in the journal Review of General Psychology and reported by MSNBC says a surprisingly large number of couples retain a high level of romantic intensity. It’s important, because many couples resign themselves to eventually falling out of love, or falling into more of a companionship or friendship rather than a passionate love affair. But we need not settle.

Researchers found 13 percent of people in long-term relationships reported high levels of romance. Romantic love has the same intensity, engagement and sexual chemistry as passionate love has, but without the obsession found in new passionate love, researchers explain. Passionate love also includes the negative feelings of uncertainty and anxiety. In essence, it’s thought that the early stages of romantic love do not allow us to focus on the rest of our lives, while the long-lasting romantic love has the passionate feelings without the anxiety and obsession that could preclude us from being successful in the rest of our lives.

The good news is that long-term romantic love is not only possible, it may not be as rare as we think it is. Couples who were most successful were “very relationship focused.” They spend time on, work on, and care about the relationship. They tend to resolve conflicts fairly smoothly.  Experiencing new and challenging activities together can also stimulate the neurochemicals dopamine nad norepinephrine, which are also produced during the new love stage, says study author Bianca Acevedo, who completed the research while at Stony Brook University.

What are you doing to keep your romantic feelings alive and strong?

Photo credit: ©Janet Wall/PhotoXpress.com

Don’t Expect Your Spouse to Meet All Your Needs

How many close friends do you confide in? Half of Americans have just one person with whom they discuss important matters. For many married people, that person is their partner. In recent decades, the number of people we truly connect with and count on has dwindled. The problem is that one person—even your “soul-mate”—can’t be expected to meet all your needs.

In a Times of London article titled “How to Stay Married,” correspondent Stephanie Coontz argues that a strong network of friends is the best way to keep a marriage strong. She says that it is only in modern times have we expected so much from the marital relationship and so little from everyone else. This article was a reminder to me to rekindle some of my friendships, not just for my own benefit, but as a possible benefit to my marriage. Just because I consider my husband my best friend doesn’t mean he wants to go purse shopping with me or discuss hair styles. (I’ve asked my poor hubby to do both. He declined.)

Common advice tells couples not to let other relationships interfere with time together with our spouse. We are urged to “deepen” and “strengthen” our bonds. “But trying to be everything to one another is part of the problem, not part of the solution, to the tensions of modern marriage,” says Coontz.

She explains that until the middle of the 19th century, the word “love” was more often used to describe feelings for friends and neighbors than for spouses. Both women and men often had extremely strong bonds with friends and family members. It was during the postwar “Golden Age of Marriage,” when spouses began to expect their partner to meet more of their needs, Coontz says. However, she says housewives soon found “they could not find complete fulfillment in domesticity” while men also felt diminished in their less social roles.

In the modern era, we often see “happily ever after” as living in marital bliss and perfect harmony while meeting one another’s emotional and physical needs. Perhaps we are expecting a little too much from each other?

In addition, we are likely neglecting other relationships. Modern married couples are less likely to visit, call or offer support to their parents and siblings than are single individuals, according to a U.S. study from 1992 to 2004. When our children are young, we may spend time with other young families. However, with the exception of that time period married, people are less likely to socialize with friends and neighbors. This isolation can be unhealthy to the couple, and it also doesn’t allow us to reach out and help our neighbors when they need us.

Women and men today often have careers and hobbies, so why are we so weak at having multiple strong relationships? Coontz explains that “our speeded-up global economy has made balance harder and harder to attain, leading us to seek ever more meaning and satisfaction in love and marriage.” Sadly, that makes sense to me. We’re so busy rushing around seeking accomplishment that “obtain a great marriage” becomes yet something else on our to-do list.

I was relieved that Coontz does not recommend we try to lower our expectations of intimacy and friendship within marriage. Instead, she suggests we raise our expectations of other relationships and invest in those relationships. “The happiest couples are those who have interests, confidants and support networks extending beyond the twosome,” she says.

Stephanie Coontz is the author of Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage. She is also the director of research at the Council on Contemporary Families.

How much do you rely on your spouse for friendship, problem solving and socialization? How strong are your relationships with friends, coworkers, neighbors and family members?

Are Grudges Holding Your Marriage Back?

You may harbor grudges inside or outside of your marriage. Both can be harmful. One of the most common grudges outside of a marriage is being angry with your parents for past hurts, for a lousy upbringing or for breaking up their marriage and family.  Another common grudge is against a friend who wronged us, and who we feel has never made amends. It eats away at us, and we complain to our spouse whenever we get the chance.

When we focus our energies on these past wrongs, they affect all our relationships, including our marriage. They sap our energy, our thoughts become negative, and our time is wasted. It’s time to move on.

Perhaps more harmful are grudges within our own marriage. Often, they are unexpressed, but closely held. They cloud our interactions and cause defensiveness or an inability to fully celebrate life with our partner. Maybe the grudges are based on old hurts your spouse has long forgotten about.

Rather than burying these grudges, if they are affecting you, bring them into the open. Communicate your hurts with “I” language. Ask the other person for what you need, and begin the process of forgiving them. Forgiveness is a gift you are giving yourself, not just the other person.

Alisa Bowman (who went from wishing her husband would die already to renewing her wedding vows and writing about what she’s learned) offers four steps to get over marital grudges in her e-book, Project Happily Ever After:

  1. Commit to releasing the old grudges.
  2. Remind yourself that you’re part of the problem. (Neither of you are perfect, but you each deserve forgiveness.)
  3. List all your old grudges on a piece of paper, reliving every drop of anger and hurt. When you are both calm, go over your list sharing how these incidences made you feel. Tell him or her you really want to move on, and it would really help to share these old wounds and to hear an apology.
  4. Be patient, as forgiveness takes time.

 Consider that what you are being asked to forgive may not be as difficult as you think. I have a wonderful friend who spent years learning to forgive the man who murdered her sister—his own wife. I’ve interviewed couples who have forgiven everything from infidelity to drug and alcohol abuse. In some of these more challenging cases, professional counseling may be helpful.

The first step is to recognize the need to forgive. Maybe forgiving old grudges will be the decision that allows your marriage to blossom.

Do you find it difficult to move on past old hurts? How do you handle feeling wronged?