Keeping Love Alive for Decades

Keeping Love Alive For DecadesHere’s some good news for a change! There is now scientific research actually supporting the notion that long, happy marriages are possible – and occurring.

Humans are born to love, but because of the escalating divorce rate in our society, we have become cynical. The assumption has been that long-term love, while desirable, is unrealistic and hence next to impossible to obtain, not to mention lasting for decades. The news media and entertainment industries don’t focus on good, high-quality relationships, but love can and does last. We are wired to do this, to be monogamous.

Published research in the Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Journal found that specific brainwave activity in couples who had been married an average of 21 years was similar to people who had recently fallen in love. Proven with brain MRIs, both groups revealed high activity in the reward and motivation centers of the brain, suggesting that not only can we love for long periods of time, but we can stay in love with our long-time partners.

Sustained romantic love has cognitive rewards, including “the reduction of anxiety and stress, feelings of security, a state of calmness, and a union with another,” stated Adoree Durayappah, psychological researcher, in Psychology Today. There’s no surprise then that our lifespan is longer if we’re in a (loving) relationship!

Another study conducted by the University of Geneva came to the interesting conclusion that only one personality trait predicted long-term romantic passion: “love blindness.” At first, it’s easy to worship the ground your lover walks on. But, as we become familiar with their habits and other traits, holding the same high opinion can be difficult. Being able to maintain positive illusions about your partner, despite knowing all their negative attributes, helps couples remain happy with each other over time.

Other research has shown that if a potential partner has every single desired quality you’d want in a mate, with the exception of being in love, we are not inclined to marry them (91% of women and 86% of men would not marry if not in love).

In summary, some good points to remember include:

1. It is advisable to maintain a sense of awe about your partner, and focus on the positive traits, instead of the little things that bother you.

2. Keep your relationship fresh and interesting by trying new things together, and by going to new places. Self-expanding activities will make life more enjoyable for both of you over the long term.

3. Maintain some individual independence in order to avoid suffocating or stifling each other. There is no neediness or caretaking in desire. Watching your partner do something he or she excels at can definitely add to the spark and mystery. Encouraging and sharing in each other’s success (and failures) increases intimacy and keeps you connected.

4. Having a passion for life in general will carry over into your relationships, and can help sustain them in the long run.

5. Try to think of your marriage as a life journey together, and use this intimate partnership as your vehicle for self-fulfillment.

Our generation actually has a better chance of finding, and keeping, long-term love than couples in the past. Research today also supports this theory, finding today’s long-term marriages to be stronger and happier, compared to those years ago.

Perhaps the social mores of past generations, as well as gender role expectations, kept relationships intact, but today’s marriages are about more than meeting basic needs for survival. We want them to be satisfying and contribute to our personal sense of well-being and fulfillment. However, maintaining a long-term passionate relationship still requires a sufficient time and energy commitment by both partners to live happily ever after.

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