Think again! The findings may also reveal the secrets to keeping intense love alive. When they first collected the data, the researchers were dumbfounded by the large percentage of people who claimed to still be intensely in love. The couples answered the question "how in love are you with your partner?
What are the secrets of intense love over the long term? Not surprisingly, the list was topped by physically affectionate behaviors such as hugging and kissing. We then feel closer to our partner and long-term bonding ensues.
Decades of psychological research shows that social connection is a fundamental human need and essential for our physical and mental well-being. Affection is such an important element of love that the couples in the study who did not report any physical affection also reported a loveless relationship. The researchers found that frequency of sex was also strongly associated with intensity in love, but that, interestingly, it was not always a requirement: 25 percent of those who had not had sex in the last month still reported being intensely in love.
Physical affection is so powerful that, even if a relationship doesn't always seem perfect and what relationship always does? Certain couples, for example, reported low marital satisfaction due, presumably, to some of the common challenges couples face e. However, if their levels of physical affection remained high, the couple still reported intense love. When people see each other every day, they can sometimes take each other for granted and stop noticing the characteristics they used to appreciate about their mate.
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However, a little awareness and gratitude may go a long way in countering this tendency. When we get to know someone well, we naturally learn about both their strengths and their weaknesses but it is really up to us whether we choose to focus one side or the other. By focusing on what we appreciate and admire in our partner and being grateful for the value and gifts that our partner brings into our lives, we cannot but think positively and may feel more intense love as a consequence. Love may also be cultivated in shared experiences.
Couples intensely in love reported participating in novel, engaging, and challenging activities together. Some of the greatest moments of intimacy in a relationship come from the simple joys of cooking or exercising together, exchanging intellectual ideas over common readings, learning a new and challenging skill like skiing, sharing spirituality by attending church or meditating, and going on travel adventures.
That togetherness may create a shared thread of life experience and memories. What of happiness? Can a relationship lead to happiness?
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Certainly, it can. Contempt, they have found, is the number one factor that tears couples apart. And people who treat their partners with contempt and criticize them not only kill the love in the relationship, but they also kill their partner's ability to fight off viruses and cancers. Being mean is the death knell of relationships.
Kindness, on the other hand, glues couples together. Research independent from theirs has shown that kindness along with emotional stability is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage. Kindness makes each partner feel cared for, understood, and validated—feel loved. There are two ways to think about kindness. Or you could think of kindness as a muscle. In some people, that muscle is naturally stronger than in others, but it can grow stronger in everyone with exercise.
Masters tend to think about kindness as a muscle. They know that they have to exercise it to keep it in shape. They know, in other words, that a good relationship requires sustained hard work. Neglect creates distance between partners and breeds resentment in the one who is being ignored. The hardest time to practice kindness is, of course, during a fight—but this is also the most important time to be kind. Letting contempt and aggression spiral out of control during a conflict can inflict irrevocable damage on a relationship.
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You can throw spears at your partner. For the hundreds of thousands of couples getting married this month—and for the millions of couples currently together, married or not—the lesson from the research is clear: If you want to have a stable, healthy relationship, exercise kindness early and often. When people think about practicing kindness, they often think about small acts of generosity, like buying each other little gifts or giving one another back rubs every now and then. While those are great examples of generosity, kindness can also be built into the very backbone of a relationship through the way partners interact with each other on a day-to-day basis, whether or not there are back rubs and chocolates involved.
From the research of the Gottmans, we know that disasters see negativity in their relationship even when it is not there.
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An angry wife may assume, for example, that when her husband left the toilet seat up, he was deliberately trying to annoy her. But he may have just absent-mindedly forgotten to put the seat down. But it turns out that the wife was running late because she stopped by a store to pick him up a gift for their special night out.
So appreciate the intent. Another powerful kindness strategy revolves around shared joy. But research shows that being there for each other when things go right is actually more important for relationship quality. In one study from , psychological researcher Shelly Gable and her colleagues brought young adult couples into the lab to discuss recent positive events from their lives.
If her partner responded in a passive destructive manner, he would ignore the event. I won a free t-shirt! If her partner responded in a passive constructive way, he would acknowledge the good news, but in a half-hearted, understated way. And what about the cost? Med school is so expensive!
When did you find out? Did they call you? What classes will you take first semester? Among the four response styles, active constructive responding is the kindest. While the other response styles are joy-killers, active constructive responding allows the partner to savor her joy and gives the couple an opportunity to bond over the good news. Active constructive responding is critical for healthy relationships.
In the study, Gable and her colleagues followed up with the couples two months later to see if they were still together. The psychologists found that the only difference between the couples who were together and those who broke up was active constructive responding. In an earlier study , Gable found that active constructive responding was also associated with higher relationship quality and more intimacy between partners.
As the normal stresses of a life together pile up—with children, career, friend, in-laws, and other distractions crowding out the time for romance and intimacy—couples may put less effort into their relationship and let the petty grievances they hold against one another tear them apart. In most marriages, levels of satisfaction drop dramatically within the first few years together. But among couples who not only endure, but live happily together for years and years, the spirit of kindness and generosity guides them forward.
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