A recent study was released in the Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience journalthat showed that even after 20-plus years of marriage, couples can be as in love with their significant others as they were when they first met and fell in love. The researchers examined the brains of 17 people who claim to still be head over heels for their partners when they were shown a photo of their significant other and found that the pleasure and reward centers activated when compared with the brains of 17 people who had recently fallen in love. What this demonstrates is that people can stay madly in love with their spouses after 20 years, which seems contrary to some people’s opinions. What great news! This research demonstrates that love really can last forever! It’s not an unattainable dream. While the sample size is obviously small, it still is a hopeful outcome.
The scans also depict less anxiety and fear in longer-in-love couples as compared to those newly in love. We all can remember how it feels to be freshly in love, right? When relationships are new, there is a lot of anxiety (positive and negative) and excitement. All of the quintessential new love behaviors exist: worry that it may not be “right”, pining for the next time you will be together. One of the key differences between these two groups is the lack of this anxiety and worry in the longterm relationships. I think that a significant part of this is that you enter into a pattern and ease with your partner that allows you to feel more grounded and stable. The relationship does stabilize. While the excitement and passion for your partner still exists, the worry that it will fall apart decreases. You develop into partners and confidants, much of which is lacking in new relationships.
One very striking thing noted in this study is the different kinds of love that can occur within couples, especially longer-in-love couples. According to the researchers, there are two types of love: romantic love and companionate love. Companionate love is a more regulated, affection between two people that is influenced by shared history and interests. Although to many that may sound bland, the attachment that is created between people is what binds them and creates an ongoing sense of connection, love and intimacy. And why can’t both exist simultaneously? Why can’t people be both friends and lovers? People often become lovers first and then develop into friends…can’t the same thing happen in reverse?
It’s it great news that in a time when so many couples are getting divorced later in life, that so many couples are still in love and still enjoying one another every day? Couples that have longevity most likely have healthy relationships based on communication, honesty, trust, and intimacy. They also involve ongoing interest in one another and one another’s lives and activities. These couples also probably have ways to continue to keep the love going.
We certainly can’t forget about the importance of sex in relationships as well. Sex is very important in a healthy relationship and does have a lot of positive side effects, not the least of which is making you feel more connected to your partner. The amount of sex you have may depend on your age, but having sex a few times a month, or once a week, is a good hallmark.
It’s one thing to know that you CAN be in love for 20+ years, and another thing to know HOW to help make sure this happens. Below are some tips to help:Keep communicating: One of the foundations for long-term relationships is the ability to communicate openly and honestly. If this is a basic tenet of your relationships, it can only help build the attachment with your partner.Find common interests, and keep your individuality: It’s important to find things that you enjoy doing together and can do for “date nights” or other occasions. Additionally, it’s important to have separate things you like to do, as it give you time away to appreciate one another.Surprise one another: Don’t be afraid to have the element of surprise: a trip, flowers, a special gift, extra time together. This can also keep the spark alive.
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE KEY TO LASTING LOVE?
Here’s the link to the segment with Jeff Glor: