Remember the good old days when you and your partner were madly in love? If those days are a distant memory and you feel like you’ve lost that loving feeling, science proves you can rekindle the romance. A growing body of research reveals a number of strategies to revitalize your love life.
Dial it up
While many think of love as an on/off switch, it is more useful to think about it as a volume setting that can be dialed up, according to a recent scientific paper titled Regulation of Romantic Love Feelings. In the study, people in a long-term relationship who were asked to look at a photograph of their partner and think positive thoughts about them (i.e.“He is so funny” or “We get along so well”) were able to upregulate their feelings of love and attachment as measured by brain scans and subjective reports. Focusing on your partner’s positive qualities for a few minutes each day will reconnect you with the feelings that brought you together in the first place.
Focus on more good versus less bad
Do you strive to avoid conflict or to deepen and strengthen your relationship? Couples who focus on cultivating more positive experiences and intimacy are happier than those who focus their energy on minimizing negativity. A study tracking sexual desire in long-term partners reveals how powerful this effect can be. Participants who said they had sex to prevent their partner from losing interest or to avoid a disagreement reported less passion than those who said they had sex with their partner as an expression of love. Put simply, instead of dwelling on what’s wrong, focus your efforts on what you can do to build a stronger connection.
Aim for the little things
What can you do to reignite your partner’s passion for you? While I’m sure your partner would appreciate an expensive gift or a romantic getaway, research suggests a simple strategy that is certainly less expensive. Just be nice, or as psychologists would say, be responsive. It’s so obvious and yet so easily forgotten when there are kids to feed, bills to pay and laundry to do. Making your partner feel special and consistently showing them that you care is essential for intimacy and fuels desire. Pick up a copy of your partner’s favorite magazine at the store, say thank you when they hold the door, bring them coffee in bed, send a flirty text. When you are together, be sure to pay more attention to your partner than to your phone. The little everyday gestures of love are emotional Viagra. As the old saying goes, if you act like you did at the beginning of the relationship, there won’t be an end.
Realize that not all intimacy is created equal
Having a strong emotional connection does not mean you need to do everything together. Privacy, boundaries and a little bit of mystery go a long way. Leaving the bathroom door open and clipping your toenails in front your partner will not fan the fires of desire. Contrary to what many believe, spending all your time together may not be the best idea. While it is important to share the same values, having different interests and hobbies is healthy for any relationship. Respecting the other person’s interests and encouraging them to pursue whatever it is they enjoy doing is what psychologists refer to as “autonomy support”. In other words, if your significant other loves to go camping but it’s not for you, suggest they go on a camping trip with their buddies. If your partner is training to run the marathon and you prefer Pilates, help them find a running partner. Just be there at the finish line. Attraction grows when you see your partner in a new light and doing something they are passionate about. As Proust said:
Mystery is not about traveling to new places but about looking with new eyes.
I wish you all the best,
Dr. Samantha Boardman