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How to Improve Your Relationship Using Science

How to Improve Your Relationship Using Science

If you are in a long-term relationship, have you ever wondered about what really makes it work? Is there actual scientific evidence showing that honesty, commitment, and romantic feelings all contribute in a positive way to a relationship? The answer is that there is a lot of psychological research which backs all this up. Here are 9 scientific finding that can help improve your relationships. Science to the rescue again!

1. How committed are you?

How many times have you heard your friends say there was no commitment from the other partner? This is a very common explanation as to why relationships end.

What does commitment mean in real terms? It means that you and your partner will be able to weather any storm,  are in it for the long haul, and will support each other, come what may. It is the true mark of a great team where the health of the relationship is put first and the individual partner in second place.

There is a very interesting article in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin which backs this up. The researchers, Arriaga and Agnew, found that the idea of being in it for the long term was an essential element to a stable and lasting relationship.

2. Is a kiss just a kiss?

Research on our nearest animal relatives, the chimpanzees, shows that kissing is a much more powerful bonding element than we may have thought. There are powerful physical changes which take place. For example, a passionate kiss can set off a whole chain of chemical reactions which involve hormones and neurotransmitters which start rushing through us. Dopamine is one of the most powerful neurotransmitters set off by a kiss and can put you on a very natural high. Adrenaline and serotonin are also triggered into action.

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Studies have shown that there is a definite correlation between the frequency of kissing and the quality of the relationship. The more the merrier.

3. Viewing your partner as an attachment figure

The supreme example of an attachment figure for a child is a loving parent. That is the figure to whom s/he turns to seek validation and support. Siblings and friends can also be important attachment figures. A similar process happens when you form a romantic relationship with someone. It is made stronger by physical intimacy and bonding. These figures fill the spaces in our lives and they are the first we seek out to celebrate our successes and console us in our failures. The stronger the attachment, the better the chances are of the relationship being a stable and a happy one.

4. Do you have positive illusions about your partner?

 “Love is not blind-It sees more and not less, but because it sees more it is willing to see less.” – Will Moss

Most people would say that if you have any illusions about your partner this might prove to be negative in the long run. But science has shown that the opposite may be true. Romantic love is full of positive illusions which makes you see an idealized version of your partner. But is this healthy and wise?

A positive image is typical at the beginning of a relationship but time will reveal your partner’s defects, bad habits, and other negative features. Studies show that the more you know, the less you are likely to stay in love. Certainly, this is true for divorcees who shudder when they think how on earth they could have fallen head over heels in love with him or her.

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Research is now favoring the view that certain positive illusions can help the relationship to last the longest. Studies show that these couples argue less and are happier.

“Happiness is good health and a bad memory.” – Ingrid Bergman

5. How independent are you?

Most relationships seem to function better when there is a certain amount of autonomy in the relationship and the couple feel they do not have to act in tandem all the time. There is no feeling of coercion in making choices. You may want time and space to pursue a hobby or interest or even meet with friends.

Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want makes it very clear in her book how autonomy can lead to less stress and greater happiness.

“To find yourself, think for yourself.”- Socrates

6. Have you told any lies today?

Normally, lying is considered toxic for any relationship, as it can erode any trust you may have built up. Psychologists, however, draw a distinction between two types of lying.

The first is anti-social lying and here you can lie to manipulate a situation in your favor or simply to deceive your partner. This is always regarded as a betrayal of trust and can destroy a relationship

The second type is called pro-social lying and this is where you lie to avoid breaking bad news at the wrong time or simply to avert a nasty situation or not to hurt your partner’s feelings. This is regarded with tolerance and is often known as a ‘white lie.’ Sometimes these lies can help to protect a relationship from breaking up. This was the conclusion reached by researchers led by Robin Dunbar at Oxford University.

7. Never underestimate the power of physical affection

Did you know that a calming hormone called oxytocin is released when we kiss, hold hands, or simply hug each other, and also when orgasm is reached during sex? The physical benefits can only enhance feelings of well-being and will be an important element in helping to build a happy and more stable relationship. It is also important in reinforcing a sense of trust which is crucial for any long-term liaison. Physical contact is a boon. Studies show that there is a very strong link between high-quality relationships and frequent physical contact.

8. A great investment for your health

Experts are now telling us that it is well worth your while to dedicate time and effort in building a stable and long-lasting relationship such as marriage or other type of civil partnership. Why? The physical and mental health benefits are so great that they will positively affect your quality of life and help you live longer

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Researchers at Cardiff University say that women benefit from better mental health while men seem to be physically healthier. They regard it as a sound investment and well worth the effort.

9. Learn how to grow the relationship

Probably the biggest threat to any stable relationship is the risk of getting into a rut. Following the same old routine in going out, in lovemaking, and in eating guarantees that boredom will set in. Boredom is like a virus and often takes a hold resulting in dissatisfaction and conflict.

The statistics do not lie on this one. Relationships are more relaxed and happier when new things are explored together. Simple things like having a regular date night may appeal to some couples or taking up a new hobby together can set the tone for discovering new and wonderful things in your life.

Let us know in the comments how you manage to improve your relationships.

Featured photo credit: couple in love in autumn via shutterstock.com

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More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on December 3, 2019

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

There are so many lessons I wish I had learned while I was young enough to appreciate and apply them. The thing with wisdom, and often with life lessons in general, is that they’re learned in retrospect, long after we needed them. The good news is that other people can benefit from our experiences and the lessons we’ve learned.

Here’re 10 important life lessons you should learn early on:

1. Money Will Never Solve Your Real Problems

Money is a tool; a commodity that buys you necessities and some nice “wants,” but it is not the panacea to your problems.

There are a great many people who are living on very little, yet have wonderfully full and happy lives… and there are sadly a great many people are living on quite a lot, yet have terribly miserable lives.

Money can buy a nice home, a great car, fabulous shoes, even a bit of security and some creature comforts, but it cannot fix a broken relationship, or cure loneliness, and the “happiness” it brings is only fleeting and not the kind that really and truly matters. Happiness is not for sale. If you’re expecting the “stuff” you can buy to “make it better,” you will never be happy.

2. Pace Yourself

Often when we’re young, just beginning our adult journey we feel as though we have to do everything at once. We need to decide everything, plan out our lives, experience everything, get to the top, find true love, figure out our life’s purpose, and do it all at the same time.

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Slow down—don’t rush into things. Let your life unfold. Wait a bit to see where it takes you, and take time to weigh your options. Enjoy every bite of food, take time to look around you, let the other person finish their side of the conversation. Allow yourself time to think, to mull a bit.

Taking action is critical. Working towards your goals and making plans for the future is commendable and often very useful, but rushing full-speed ahead towards anything is a one-way ticket to burnout and a good way to miss your life as it passes you by.

3. You Can’t Please Everyone

“I don’t know the secret to success, but the secret to failure is trying to please everyone” – Bill Cosby.

You don’t need everyone to agree with you or even like you. It’s human nature to want to belong, to be liked, respected and valued, but not at the expense of your integrity and happiness. Other people cannot give you the validation you seek. That has to come from inside.

Speak up, stick to your guns, assert yourself when you need to, demand respect, stay true to your values.

4. Your Health Is Your Most Valuable Asset

Health is an invaluable treasure—always appreciate, nurture, and protect it. Good health is often wasted on the young before they have a chance to appreciate it for what it’s worth.

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We tend to take our good health for granted, because it’s just there. We don’t have to worry about it, so we don’t really pay attention to it… until we have to.

Heart disease, bone density, stroke, many cancers—the list of many largely preventable diseases is long, so take care of your health now, or you’ll regret it later on.

5. You Don’t Always Get What You Want

“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

No matter how carefully you plan and how hard you work, sometimes things just don’t work out the way you want them to… and that’s okay.

We have all of these expectations; predetermined visions of what our “ideal” life will look like, but all too often, that’s not the reality of the life we end up with. Sometimes our dreams fail and sometimes we just change our minds mid-course. Sometimes we have to flop to find the right course and sometimes we just have to try a few things before we find the right direction.

6. It’s Not All About You

You are not the epicenter of the universe. It’s very difficult to view the world from a perspective outside of your own, since we are always so focused on what’s happening in our own lives. What do I have to do today? What will this mean for me, for my career, for my life? What do I want?

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It’s normal to be intensely aware of everything that’s going on in your own life, but you need to pay as much attention to what’s happening around you, and how things affect other people in the world as you do to your own life. It helps to keep things in perspective.

7. There’s No Shame in Not Knowing

No one has it all figured out. Nobody has all the answers. There’s no shame in saying “I don’t know.” Pretending to be perfect doesn’t make you perfect. It just makes you neurotic to keep up the pretense of manufactured perfection.

We have this idea that there is some kind of stigma or shame in admitting our limitations or uncertainly, but we can’t possibly know everything. We all make mistakes and mess up occasionally. We learn as we go, that’s life.

Besides—nobody likes a know-it-all. A little vulnerability makes you human and oh so much more relatable.

8. Love Is More Than a Feeling; It’s a Choice

That burst of initial exhilaration, pulse quickening love and passion does not last long. But that doesn’t mean long-lasting love is not possible.

Love is not just a feeling; it’s a choice that you make every day. We have to choose to let annoyances pass, to forgive, to be kind, to respect, to support, to be faithful.

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Relationships take work. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s incredibly hard. It is up to us to choose how we want to act, think and speak in a relationship.

9. Perspective Is a Beautiful Thing

Typically, when we’re worried or upset, it’s because we’ve lost perspective. Everything that is happening in our lives seems so big, so important, so do or die, but in the grand picture, this single hiccup often means next to nothing.

The fight we’re having, the job we didn’t get, the real or imagined slight, the unexpected need to shift course, the thing we wanted, but didn’t get. Most of it won’t matter 20, 30, 40 years from now. It’s hard to see long term when all you know is short term, but unless it’s life-threatening, let it go, and move on.

10. Don’t Take Anything for Granted

We often don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone: that includes your health, your family and friends, your job, the money you have or think you will have tomorrow.

When you’re young, it seems that your parents will always be there, but they won’t. You think you have plenty of time to get back in touch with your old friends or spend time with new ones, but you don’t. You have the money to spend, or you think you’ll have it next month, but you might not.

Nothing in your life is not guaranteed to be there tomorrow, including those you love.

This is a hard life lesson to learn, but it may be the most important of all: Life can change in an instant. Make sure you appreciate what you have, while you still have it.

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Featured photo credit: Ben Eaton via unsplash.com

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