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.
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