7 Steps To More Love In Your Relationship

7 Steps To More Love In Your Relationship

Love is an emotion that seems wonderful, joyful and elusive all at the same time. We associate love with feelings of happiness, support and strength, yet it can be the hardest thing to keep alive in a relationship. Simply put, love takes hard work in every relationship.

Social psychologists and neuroscientists have longed tried to understand this emotion. Here are insights from the world of science to navigate the world of love.

1. Celebrate the differences

It’s natural to think we might enjoy the company of a person with tastes and likes similar to our own. Yet, studies show the opposite. The book, A Book About Love, features a 2010 study of twenty-three thousand married couples. The study showed that matching people who have the same likes and preferences hardly accounted for 0.5 percent of spousal satisfaction. In short, having a spouse with tastes different than yours made no difference at all.


2. How you handle those differences makes a difference

John Gottman, the world’s foremost expert in the study of relationships suggests that differences in our styles of handling emotions play a very important part in the relationship. If you believe in venting, but he believes in letting it cool off without ever raising the topic, it is an indication of trouble.

3. Give out gold stars generously

The thing about relationships is that, after a while, they pervade our lives so much that we stop noticing even important things. Appreciation is a fundamental human need and the lack of it can gradually lead to a decline in the quality of the relationship simply because everything seems taken for granted.

Also, women seem to seek more of it. Gretchen Rubin, in her book, Happier at Home, points out that the opposite is true. Men also seek approval and appreciation, and while women draw support from a larger community, men are often left with only the spouse to appreciate their efforts. Which means, the gold stars need to come out more, especially from women.


4. Snuggle up

It is an irrefutable fact that a good sex life helps in keeping the relationship alive. However, the honeymoon phase in relationships does not last forever because, well, life happens. Having kids and managing work can be big contributors to stress which doesn’t take too long to start showing its effects on the relationship. Taking time every day to hug and snuggle can release happy hormones that can help in keeping the relationship alive through the tough times.

5.  Use Real Facetime

It might be tempting to plonk yourself in front of the television to wind down after a hectic day. However, 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.

It kindles connection and understanding, which leads to planning your days better since we know more about each other’s work and schedules.


6. Stare into each other’s eyes

Vulnerability is scary, but if it mutual, it fosters closeness. In a study by Arthur Aron (and others), the psychologists issued a set of 36 questions that were designed to accelerate intimacy between a couple. The questions were designed to open up both partners in the most difficult areas of their lives.  “One key pattern associated with the development of a close relationship among peers is sustained, escalating, reciprocal, personal self-disclosure.” This is an exercise that forces openness and vulnerability.

7. Put in the hard work

Just like everything else, relationships take work too. Working out differences with mutual respect, doing chores, wading through everyday life requires the deliberation of intention and the ability to sift through the mundane stuff.

Angela Duckworth, the world’s leading researcher on grit demonstrated that relationships that had gritty individuals (especially men) were about 17% more likely to last in a marriage.


Featured photo credit: Alice Donovan Rouse via Unsplash via

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Devishobha Chandramouli

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Overcoming The Pain Of A Breakup: 3 Suggestions Based On Science

Overcoming The Pain Of A Breakup: 3 Suggestions Based On Science

We thought that the expression ‘broken heart’ was just a metaphor, but science is telling us that it is not: breakups and rejections do cause physical pain. When a group of psychologists asked research participants to look at images of their ex-partners who broke up with them, researchers found that the same brain areas that are activated by physical pain are also activated by looking at images of ex-partners. Looking at images of our ex is a painful experience, literally.[1].

Given that the effect of rejections and breakups is the same as the effect of physical pain, scientists have speculated on whether the practices that reduce physical pain could be used to reduce the emotional pain that follows from breakups and rejections. In a study on whether painkillers reduce the emotional pain caused by a breakup, researchers found that painkillers did help. Individuals who took painkillers were better able to deal with their breakup. Tamar Cohen wrote that “A simple dose of paracetamol could help ease the pain of a broken heart.”[2]


Just like painkillers can be used to ease the pain of a broken heart, other practices that ease physical pain can also be used to ease the pain of rejections and breakups. Three of these scientifically validated practices are presented in this article.

Looking at images of loved ones

While images of ex-partners stimulate the pain neuro-circuitry in our brain, images of loved ones activate a different circuitry. Looking at images of people who care about us increases the release of oxytocin in our body. Oxytocin, or the “cuddle hormone,” is the hormone that our body relies on to induce in us a soothing feeling of tranquility, even when we are under high stress and pain.


In fact, oxytocin was found to have a crucial role as a mother is giving birth to her baby. Despite the extreme pain that a mother has to endure during delivery, the high level of oxytocin secreted by her body transforms pain into pleasure. Mariem Melainine notes that, “Oxytocin levels are usually at their peak during delivery, which promotes a sense of euphoria in the mother and helps her develop a stronger bond with her baby.”[3]

Whenever you feel tempted to look at images of your ex-partner, log into your Facebook page and start browsing images of your loved ones. As Eva Ritvo, M.D. notes, “Facebook fools our brain into believing that loved ones surround us, which historically was essential to our survival. The human brain, because it evolved thousands of years before photography, fails on many levels to recognize the difference between pictures and people”[4]



Endorphins are neurotransmitters that reduce our perception of pain. When our body is high on endorphins, painful sensations are kept outside of conscious awareness. It was found that exercise causes endorphins to be secreted in the brain and as a result produce a feeling of power, as psychologist Alex Korb noted in his book: “Exercise causes your brain to release endorphins, neurotransmitters that act on your neurons like opiates (such as morphine or Vicodin) by sending a neural signal to reduce pain and provide anxiety relief.”[5] By inhibiting pain from being transmitted to our brain, exercise acts as a powerful antidote to the pain caused by rejections and breakups.


Jon Kabat Zinn, a doctor who pioneered the use of mindfulness meditation therapy for patients with chronic pain, has argued that it is not pain itself that is harmful to our mental health, rather, it is the way we react to pain. When we react to pain with irritation, frustration, and self-pity, more pain is generated, and we enter a never ending spiral of painful thoughts and sensations.


In order to disrupt the domino effect caused by reacting to pain with pain, Kabat Zinn and other proponents of mindfulness meditation therapy have suggested reacting to pain through nonjudgmental contemplation and acceptance. By practicing meditation on a daily basis and getting used to the habit of paying attention to the sensations generated by our body (including the painful ones and by observing these sensations nonjudgmentally and with compassion) our brain develops the habit of reacting to pain with grace and patience.

When you find yourself thinking about a recent breakup or a recent rejection, close your eyes and pay attention to the sensations produced by your body. Take deep breaths and as you are feeling the sensations produced by your body, distance yourself from them, and observe them without judgment and with compassion. If your brain starts wandering and gets distracted, gently bring back your compassionate nonjudgmental attention to your body. Try to do this exercise for one minute and gradually increase its duration.


With consistent practice, nonjudgmental acceptance will become our default reaction to breakups, rejections, and other disappointments that we experience in life. Every rejection and every breakup teaches us great lessons about relationships and about ourselves.

Featured photo credit: condesign via


[1] US National Library of Medicine: Social rejection shares somatosensory representations with physical pain
[2] Daily Mail: Nursing a broken heart? How taking a paracetamol could dull the pain of rejection
[3] Mother For Life: Oxytocin’s Role
[4] Psychology Today: Facebook and Your Brain
[5] Alex Korb: The Upward Spiral

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