Love is perhaps the most studied – and yet, still the most confusing – of human emotions. It is not surprising that scientists have yet to concoct a love potion. However, one important thing that scientists have done is provide helpful tips, backed by scientific studies, to improve our chances of finding true love and build strong and lasting relationships.
It doesn’t matter if you are in a new relationship or if you consider yourself an expert in relationships, the following scientifically proven rules for building strong romantic relationships may come in handy.
Keep in mind that there is a distinction between romantic love, which can endure, and passionate or obsessive love, which often fades after the beginning of a relationship.
1. Cultivate positive thoughts about your partner
Scientists have found that having positive thoughts about your partner is vital in relationships. When you focus on the good in your partner’s personal qualities and character, it strengthens your relationship.
Bianca Acevedo, Ph.D. and author of a 2009 study conducted by researchers at the University of California in Santa Barbara, noted that couples in good relationships engage in “positive sentiment override.” That means they remember more of the favorable than the unfavorable experiences they’ve shared together, and also give each other the benefit of the doubt.
These couples seem to be able to resolve conflicts better because they don’t dwell on things that bother them. Ruminating about these things can only lead you to magnify the small foibles which will make your partner even more irritating to you.
2. Express your affection to your partner physically
Feeling love and affection toward your partner is important, but so is expressing that love and affection in physical ways. Studies suggest it’s not wise to play hard to get when your goal is to build the passion in your relationship.
Expressions of affection don’t have to be overly gushy or elaborate at all. A kiss on the cheek or touch on the shoulder is often enough to build intensity in your relationship. Similarly, in secure, long-term relationships, having more sex is often a positive expression of love’s intensity.
Researchers Michelle Russell and James McNulty of the University of Tennessee say frequent sex could be the answer to maintain feelings of love and happiness that endure over time.
Even if the sex isn’t good now, keep it up. Other studies indicate sex may get better with age, despite a lower sex drive.
3. Talk with your partner face-to-face
You probably already know that communication is a vital component that determines the quality of any relationship. But, did you know that the method in which you communicate is also critical to the quality of your relationship?
Scientists have found that couples who talk face-to-face are more likely to stay together. A 2007 study published in the Journal of Family Psychology found that women are generally happier the more they communicate with their partners face-to-face.
Calling, texting, Skyping, and the like are OK, but communicating via electronic means does not correlate with greater relationship satisfaction. For stronger and more satisfying relationships, have more face-to-face conversations with your partner.
4. Explore novel and challenging activities together
Spending time with your partner is important, but studies show it’s how you spend your time together that influences your relationship satisfaction most.
Psychologist Arthur Aron, Ph.D. and collaborator in a study reported in the prestigious journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, found that couples can improve their love for each other when they spend their time together exploring new and challenging activities. The study identified this factor as especially relevant for men.
So, if you’re going to go bungee jumping for the first time, researchers say your relationship will benefit when you and your partner face this challenge together. On the other hand, if you’re not up to bungee jumping, seek out mentally challenging ways to spice up your daily routines.
5. Give each other space — but not too much
No matter how much you adore each other, every couple needs a little elbow room. It’s best to understand each other and how much space you both require in a relationship, and to give each other that space.
Giving your partner too little space and smothering them in the relationship is just as bad as giving them too much space and coming across as distant. In fact, a 2013 study published in the journal Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin found that if a partner wants more closeness than what they get in a relationship, they are more likely to be unhappy. This leads them to think about breaking up more, and they tend to feel depressed.
6. Maintain other passions outside of the relationship
This may sound counterproductive, but don’t give up on your passions just yet. People who approach their daily lives with zest and strong emotion seem to carry these intense feelings over to their love life as well, according to the findings of the study collaborated by Arthur Aron.
Your brain’s reward centers respond similarly to love as to getting excited about your other interests and passions. So, if you want your relationship to have passion, put that emotional energy to work in your hobbies, interests, and even political activities. Getting “fired up” in these areas of life translates into firing up the feelings you have toward your partner. The study found this rule seems have more impact for men.
Remember, the formula for keeping love alive isn’t always straightforward. But, by making conscious changes in thought and behavior, you can boost your relationship and keep it fresh and vital for years.