Trying to Rediscover that Spark? How Puppies can Save Your Relationship

Couples face many hurdles and challenges, especially early on in their relationship. After marriage, trying to juggle jobs, kids, and financial stress can cause couples to lose their spark and personal connection to one another. Instead of falling out of “love” they often fall out of “liking” one another.

Researchers from Florida State University wanted to understand this phenomenon and learn what might help fix the problem other than simply going to couples counseling.

Automatic Associations

The researchers studied families of military personnel who were on deployment overseas.  They were especially interested in “automatic associations.” An automatic association occurs when our brain connects two unrelated things together simply by the fact that they happened at the same time. For example, if you see a nature scene and an image of your neighborhood, that connection could influence how you perceive your community. The FSU researchers hypothesized that our feelings about our partners can be influenced by simultaneously thinking about something else that makes us happy.

Breaking Down the Research

During the study, the researchers surveyed 144 military couples regarding their marital satisfaction and asked for quick replies about the attitudes each had for one another. Then, they began displaying images of puppies and bunny rabbits along with pictures of their partners. They also included affirming words with the images. For the control group, pictures of their partners were paired with neutral images. These pairings occurred for six weeks.

The Results

The results of this research are not surprising. People who saw pictures of their partners with positive reinforcing images saw an increase in the number of automatic reactions about their partners that were positive compared to the control group. In addition, the positive image group exhibited better results in the same marriage satisfaction questionnaire after the six-week session was complete.

What Does This Mean for Couples?

The bottom line is that this research suggests associating positive images along with partners can help improve how you perceive your loved one. You don’t have to buy puppies or bunny rabbits to do this, but you can work to better cultivate gratitude and positive connections with your partner at home. You can accomplish this by:

  • Having a date night each week with just the two of you.
  • Participating in activities that both of you enjoy.
  • Learning something new together by taking a class or seminar.
  • Exercising together.
  • Being intimate with each other.
  • Spending time in nature, such as taking a hike.
  • Laughing together.
  • Sharing your appreciations for one another regularly.
  • Visiting someplace new, whether it is a day trip in your area or a travel adventure.
  • Playing games together.
  • Writing each other affectionate notes.
  • Doing something kind for your partner.

There are lots of other ways that you can create positive associations with one another to strengthen the bonds of your relationship and facilitate positive feelings for one another.  Do some research into what is available in your area and reflect on what your partner would like to do too!

But What if You Are Still Struggling?

If you and your partner are still struggling with creating positive associations to have a more satisfying relationship, then it is time for couple’s counseling. A counselor can work with you to help you better understand each other. They can also develop strategies that improve your connection to one another. It does mean making a commitment to do the work, but the results can mean greater relationship satisfaction.

Having positive automatic associations is just another tool that couples can utilize to improve their perceptions of one another, and, in turn, strengthen their relationship. However, if you are still trying to rediscover that spark and finding that it isn’t working, consider options like couple’s counseling.

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