The Science of Love?

Written By John Richards on Sunday, August 12, 2012 | 12:59 PM

The Science of Love? Is love an exact science?
So, TomKat is no more.  Not so surprising when the divorce rate for celebrities is astronomical.  But concerning, nonetheless, to the rest of us who hope never to contribute to the 46% of overall marriages that end in divorce.
What keeps us from ending up like Tom and Katie (besides our average looks and lack of acting skills)? While there may be a science (more accurately a Scientology) to breaking up a marriage, is there is a science to keeping a marriage intact? Yes, there actually may be…

Dr. Arthur Aron, social psychologist at Stony Brook University, has studied couples who claim to have “intense love”:  having a partner that is very central to your life who you think about often and towards whom you have a strong sexual and physical response.
Couples often share intense love during the initial stages of their relationship but can lose it over time. Intense love (which is different from “general satisfaction and happiness”) is believed to be important in keeping marriages, and couples, together.    

Intense love is “born of one of the fundamental things we want in life:”, explains Dr. Aron, “The experience of growth, development, acquiring new abilities and resources and perspectives.”  He adds, “This is a fundamental motivation not just of humans but of animals.” One way we satisfy our desire to grow and develop ourselves is through others, by taking on others’ resources, perspectives, and identities and experiencing them as our own, in a process Dr. Aron calls “self-expansion”.  

When we start a romantic relationship, (just as when we learn a new sport or experience something new), self-expansion happens rapidly, fostering in us positive feelings and exhilaration.  
Ready for this?  Intense love is not an emotion; rather it is a “motivational state”(the motivation being the desire to expand the self), claims Dr. Aron.  As such, intense love can be measured (I told you there was a science to it) with Functional MRIs : “It’s clear from FMRI studies that when people are falling in love , we see motivational areas active in the brain.” These same areas have been seen active in people who describe their continued intense love for their partner.

How to keep this intense love?  Keep what fostered it in the first place: excitement and growth: ”If you can do something that is challenging and associated with change, growth, etc. with your partner, then you associate that change, growth, and the accompanying positive, excited feelings with that person”, states Dr. Aron.  

Take a course and learn something new together, take on a challenge as partners, experience an adventure, visit a new place together…
And in your less exciting and challenging times, a wide body of research suggests the following things may help to preserve your marriage:
  • “capitalization”: celebrating your partner’s success
  • limiting feelings of depression or anxiety (your own anxiety and depression matter more than your partner’s)
  • practicing effective communication skills (this becomes especially important when you become a parent dealing with conflicting parental approaches)
  • nurturing your relationships with extended family and friends (also more important after having kids )
  • working on handling stressors
*While you can argue with your husband, you can’t argue with science.  But you can use it and what it’s telling us about love, to keep your marriage happy and intact.

Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter for Lifestyle Tips

Related Posts:


Post a Comment