How to make Love last?

Posted on May 14, 2014

Occasionally you meet them, couples who've been together forever who profess to be as smitten with each other now as when they first met. They may even be telling the truth.

In a study done several years ago, researchers scanned the brains of such folk as they gazed at a photo of their sweetheart. Most were in their 50s and had been married an average of 21 years. Turns out their brains showed much the same activity as brains of those individuals in the first flush of romantic love.

For most of us the flame of love doesn't last very long. Indeed 60 percent of marriages end in divorce. The problem is we humans often get so used to positive circumstances we eventually stop appreciating them. Think how blasé you become living with a magnificent ocean view if you have one. It's the same thing with your other half. Psychologists even have a name for this tendency: 'hedonic adaptation'.

All too often perfectly tenable relationships end because couples lack the maturity to realise that sustaining love demands sacrifice, commitment and hard work. They also lack the wherewithal when it comes to knowing which measures to adopt to avert, or at least slow down, the habituation that can lead to boredom and dissatisfaction with a partner.

Compatibility studies reveal that the one thing many long-lasting relationships have in common is 'positive illusions', the favourable attitude that you have towards your partner. This isn't hard to cultivate in the first romantic, giddy life-of-its-own stage of love when your dearest can do no wrong.

But when the lustre of those early days wears off, even if you really do believe your Romeo/Juliet is the right one for you, you can end up focussing more on their flaws and shortcomings, especially if you're busy, or under a lot of stress; in fact, it's not uncommon for the person closest to us to serve as a scapegoat when we're feeling lousy.

If this sounds like you and you definitely don't want to jeopardise your relationship, make a conscious effort to refocus on your lover's positive qualities. Appreciate what you've got, count your blessings, don't take anything for granted.

So every day, look at your sweetheart with fresh eyes and remind yourself why it was you fell in love with them in the first place. Men and women who consistently feel that their partner is attractive, funny and kind, in other words their perfect match, are far more likely to remain content with each other.

If you must fight, try to communicate with humour, affection and acceptance (and resist throwing things!). That means avoiding statements that begin: 'You never' or 'You always'. These place your beau on the defensive and achieve nothing; they’re a losing start. Better to say: 'You know what would be really great' or 'It would really help me if you could ...' Also, talk to your partner like an equal. Use 'I' statements such as 'I would appreciate it if we ...' instead of 'you' statements such as 'You need to ...' That way, the problem becomes 'our problem', not 'yours'.

Of course, some altercations escalate to such an extent it's not actually possible to hold your tongue. His Holiness the Dalai Lama's advise at a keynote at Happiness and Its Causes and Young Minds in June, is to remain like a block of wood in such circumstances.

But if you can't, take a break–20 minutes is usually enough time to simmer down–as long as you promise to revisit your bone of contention within a day or two.

Even a relationship that's been battered by negative, angry or hurtful exchanges can be salvaged by ensuring you fill any subsequent time you spend together with words and actions that elicit positive emotions.

According to Dr Barbara Fredrickson, a flourishing relationship needs three times as many positive emotions as negative ones.

Happily ensconced couples average a ratio of five positive interactions to every negative one. Conversely, very unhappy couples display ratios of less than one to one. In other words, your ratio is a key indicator of how long your relationship will last.

Any negativity, if allowed to run rampant, can sound the death knell to even what was once the strongest of connections. Criticism, contempt (condescension), defensiveness and stonewalling are some of its worst manifestations.

Check in with yourself: Do you dismiss and reject the other's attempt at discussion? Or do you let them truly express how they feel? Are you a good listener? Or do you always jump in and interrupt when they are trying to tell you something? Do you try with compassion to understand their feelings? Or are you too caught up in your own ideas and opinions?

Finally, there are many brain chemicals associated with love and attachment including oxytocin, the so-called love/bonding/trust/cuddle hormone produced by touching. It's why watching romantic movies, holding hands, hugging and massage are so enjoyable. And because the hormone is also released during orgasm, it's why sex can bust stress and lower blood pressure.

But oxytocin does more than just make you feel good, it's also addictive meaning the more you and your partner touch, the more you'll want to touch which is definitely what you want in a supposedly physically intimate relationship.

Category(s):Relationships & Marriage

Source material from Think