There may be more questions than answers at this point, but we do know that both being in love and being married are good for your physical and mental health. And psychologists who study love, marriage and relationships have pinpointed a number of factors that contribute to long-lasting romantic love.
Here are six science-backed secrets of couples that keep intense romantic love alive for decades and entire lifetimes. Despite high rates of divorce, infidelity and marital dissatisfaction, it's not all hopeless -- far from it, in fact. A study of couples who had been married for a decade, published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science , found that 40 percent of them said they were "very intensely in love.
But don't be convinced solely by what these couples reported -- research in neuroscience has also proven that intense romantic love can last a lifetime. A study published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience looked the brain regions activated in individuals in long-term romantic partnerships who had been married an average of 21 years , and compared them with individuals who had recently fallen in love.
The results revealed similar brain activity in both groups, with high activity in the reward and motivation centers of the brain, predominantly in the high-dopamine ventral tegmental area VTA. The findings suggest that couples can not only love each for long periods of time -- they can stay in love with each other. Sustaining romantic love over the course of many years, then, has a positive function in the brain, which understands and continues to pursue romantic love as a behavior that reaps cognitive rewards, according to positive psychology researcher Adoree Durayappah.
Rewards can include the reduction of anxiety and stress, feelings of security, a state of calmness, and a union with another. When we first fall in love with someone, we tend to worship the ground they walk on and see them as the most attractive, smartest and accomplished person in the room. And while we might eventually take our partner off of this pedestal after months and years of being together, maintaining a sense of "love blindness" is actually critical to long-lasting passionate love.
A University of Geneva review of nearly studies on compatibility couldn't pinpoint any combination of two personality traits in a relationship that predicted long-term romantic love -- except for one. One's ability to idealize and maintain positive illusions about their partner -- seeing them as good-looking, intelligent, funny and caring, or generally as a "catch" -- remained happy with each other on nearly all measures over time.
Boredom can be a major obstacle to lasting romantic or companionate love, and successful couples find ways to keep things interesting.
Read this South Source article about the emotional reaction to love and Valentine's Day. In this comprehensive guide we will explore different theories of the psychology of love. We also discover what you can do to love and be loved.
Neediness is the enemy of long-lasting desire an important component of romantic love , according to psychologist and Mating in Captivity author Esther Perel. Neediness and caretaking in long-term partnerships -- which can easily result from looking to the partnership for safety, security and stability -- damper the erotic spark, Perel explains.
But if couples can maintain independence and witness each other participating in individual activities at which they're skilled, they can continue to see their partner in an ever-new light. What is most interesting is that there is no neediness in desire. There is no caretaking in desire.
So if you're looking to keep that spark going, give your partner the space to do what they're good at -- and make sure to take the opportunity to observe them in their element, when they are "radiant and confident," says Perel.
Psychologists have found that a strong passion for life can help to sustain passion in a life-long romantic relationship. The Stony Brook University study examining personality qualities that predicted long-term passionate love found that individuals who exhibit excitement for all that life has to offer are more likely to find success in their romantic partnerships.
Whereas individuals used to be more likely to look to marriage for safety and security, the societal standard has shifted such that more men and women enter into marriage looking for self-actualization and personal fulfillment. Such a marriage can be more satisfying for both partners, but requires each partner to invest more time and energy into the partnership for it to be successful.
Finkel, a professor of social psychology at Northwestern University wrote in a New York Times op-ed, describing this shift from companionate to self-expressive marriages. Rather than looking to marriage to serve our basic needs for survival and companionship, we're now seeing marriage as a vehicle for self-fulfillment.
If you are newly smitten with your partner, you may see the person as doing no wrong or you might idealize your partner and neglect to see his or her flaws or negative traits. Attachments are strengthened because of the release of oxytocin and vasopressin during intimacy and other affectionate behaviors, the same neuropeptides that are released when we are children and help us form a bond with our mother or primary caregiver.
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