How to Make Love Last

COUPLE-IN-BED

How to Make Love Last

Despite the elevated divorce rate, long term love is not doomed. In fact many couples experience a beautiful, deep, thrilling connection throughout their lives together. A recent study conducted by Stony Brook University found that out of a sample of 274 married couples, together 10 years or longer, 49% of men and 46% of women said that they were “very intensely in love.” This study was published in The Journal of Social Psychological and Personality Science. Head researcher Daniel O’Leary and his team uncovered the secrets to sustaining romance. So how do you make love last? First, physical intimacy is important, such as hugging and kissing. It releases oxytocin the “cuddle hormone” helping the couple relax and connect. Couples who didn’t report any physical displays of love were also those in a loveless marriage. Sexual frequency also contributed to feelings of intense love. But it wasn’t necessary. 25% stated feeling this way without be physically intimate with their partner within the last month. Physical affection even makes up for other negative aspects of a relationship. Some couples who reported stress over financial decisions, different parenting styles and so on who took part in physical affection still said they were in intense love with their partner.

Couples that remained positive were also far more likely to feel intense love for each other. Some couples take each other for granted or the elements in their partner that they love, appreciate or admire fade from constantly seeing them. But those who showed more appreciation were far more likely to be intensely in love. Another aspect was sharing in interesting, unique and exhilarating experiences together. Exercising, cooking, reading and discussing the same book or article, learning something new that was exciting like surfing, traveling, exploring spirituality or going on adventures all helped couples maintain intense, long lasting love. Personal happiness was the last quality that couples that love intensely share. Personal happiness was especially important for women in these relationships. But does being intensely in love also infuse a person with happiness, or does personal happiness bring an extra spark to the relationship? This is a chicken and egg scenario, a Mobius strip without end. See if you can infuse some of these characteristics in your relationship. Practice appreciating your partner. Go on adventures and explore together. Invest in some quality time. Make sure to show physical affection toward one another. Your love will grow and blossom if you cultivate it in the right way. For more advice read, Lasting Love: How to Avoid Marital Failure by Alistair Begg.

Can a Fight Reignite your Sex Life?

Couple Lying In Bed

Can a Fight Reignite your Sex Life?

It’s a very old idea. Couples fight. All couples do. But then the energy they release, once they make up, leads to great “makeup sex.” But is it true? Is this a real phenomenon or is it all in our heads? New research is trying to put this question to bed. The first problem we must recognize is, after the honeymoon phase–when young couples are ravenous for one another, is over, couples’ sex lives can often become bland and routine. Some people call it simply “marital sex.” Disagreements can get in the way, fights about finances, raising the children and other concerns, and these issues follow the couple into the bedroom, sucking the life out of it. Most couples take fighting as just part of the routine. But certain fights or kinds of fighting can become baggage, getting in the way of sexual and emotional intimacy. What couples need to do, instead of being disconnected to one another, blowing up and having the occasional loving connection, is to think of their romantic life as distanced and separate altogether from their everyday life. A recent study of infidelity site Ashley Madison found that women go to the site to get sexual excitement, while still keeping their relationship intact. So learn how to compartmentalize the two worlds. Leave the fights at the bedroom door, and instead embrace the things that excite you both.

A lot of couples think they are just going to maintain a certain posture for the rest of their time together, if they are married, for the rest of their lives. A “this is as good as it gets” attitude resides. You don’t have to settle for a mediocre relationship. Psychological damage builds up as couples move along and disagreements and conflict inevitably arise. This has a direct influence over our sexual and emotional intimacy within our relationship. The emotional and physical state our body is in, “fight or flight,” is created with adrenaline. This is the absolute opposite of the status our body maintains when it is time to make love. When we are ready to make amore, oxytocin—the love neurotransmitter, and dopamine are released, the body relaxes and enters a state of “calm and cuddle.” The two states cannot coexist. It is either one or the other. The first thing you can do is establish how you fight. Do you take part in the “demand and withdraw” pattern? This is when a person shoves criticisms and complaints on their mate, hoping that the person will change. When these pile up, the person can’t leave them at the bedroom door, and sexual intimacy is lost. Usually as couples get older, this pattern worsens.  Texas Christian University found that this is “…the most common pattern of conflict in marriage or any committed established romantic relationship.”

One study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, found that middle-aged fighting increased the risk of death from all causes significantly. Another study, out of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, found that those couples who fought more often were more susceptible to depression. Those who had constant stress from their relationship were also more likely to get depressed. Nothing saps your love life like depression, be it yours or your partner’s. Some people say that the make-up sex is the best part of their relationship. Really, it’s just that you’ve made up and now the resurgence of those good feelings, the ones that should generally inhabit your relationship, has renewed emotional and sexual intimacy. So it isn’t the fighting itself, it’s being loving again that sparks sexual intimacy. Now one might ask what a couple can do to make things heat up again in the bedroom. John Gottman, a pioneering psychologist who spent his career studying couples, has shown through his research that loving kindness and generosity toward one another can increase intimacy, and give partners a fondness and love for each other, which can manifest itself into great physical and sexual intimacy. One recent study showed that the stronger the emotional intimacy between a couple, the better their sex life. Find ways to sustain intimacy and you can sustain your sex life. For ways to do that pick up a copy of, Emotional Intimacy 101: The Surefire Way to Great Romantic Relationships by Pierre F. Steenberg.

Do You Suffer from Love Addiction?

love-addiction

Do You Suffer from Love Addiction?

Everyone’s seen at least one couple like this. Where the woman is gorgeous, sweet and has a startling career or is packing a tremendous IQ. But she’s engaged to a dimwitted, repugnant loser. What on earth is she doing with him?! Or the guy who has everything going for him and he dates a woman who is coarse, vain, boorish and obtuse. What’s going on here? They may be love addicts, all hopped up on intimacy. They would rather be with someone substandard than be all alone. Rutgers University biological anthropologist Helen Fisher says love comes on in our brain like an amphetamine, followed by a dazzling opiate, all of which our own systems create. There is scientific data backing her up. A recent study of heartbroken lovers found shocking results. They had their brains scanned under an FMRI and found that a painful breakup mimicked quitting a cocaine addiction. That’s how powerful love is, and how the absence of it can feel. And of course, just like anything some people get addicted to it.  For those who truly suffer love addiction, generally one or both parents were emotionally unavailable. Here the person is perpetually trying to win the love they missed out on in childhood.

Tennessee detox and recovery clinic “The Ranch” specializes in all kinds of addictions, including sex addiction, emotional co-dependency and intimacy disorders. Psychologists there say that love addicts come in many different hues. Love addiction is defined as a compulsive need toward romance, relationships and sex that is harmful to both the addict and his or her partner. According to Ranch psychologists, “Although it may sound less damaging than other addictions, it shares many similarities.” Here love is a façade. The person goes and creates situations filled with drama as an entertainment and distraction. Only their lover can make their life meaningful, they say. Without their partner they don’t want to live. At least, until another one comes along. For women in their 40’s, a biochemical reason may be at fault. Hormones trick women of a certain age into thinking they are so in love, far more so than usual, in order to receive a fresh course of genes before the last of the eggs are gone, signaling the onset of menopause.

There are different kinds of behaviors a love addict can get involved with. Some get too attached. Then they undermine the relationship themselves causing it to end, so that they can get another partner and feel that rush of love beginning anew, once again. Others have abandonment issues. They will hold onto a bad relationship no matter the cost. There are those who are manipulative and controlling, others clingy and desperate. Sometimes love addicts target those who avoid intimacy, forming a sort of strange codependency, a mechanism where the relationship becomes a constant skirmish filled with pain and pleasure, in a war without end. Picture a tornado of constant bickering intermingled with makeup sex. But is that really a great love worth fighting for as such addicts claim? For most of us it is a recipe for a long-term headache but a relationship which won’t last. Besides dopamine—the reward neurochemical released in the brain, oxytocin is also present. This is the bonding biochemical which initiates the “calm and cuddle” response. This, evolutionary anthropologists’ believe, is essential to the creation and raising of children.  In men, a similar neurotransmitter is present called vasopressin. So take a look at your relationship, or the one you just walked away from, to see if you’ve been laid victim to a biochemical dependency, if in fact you are as the Huey Lewis song claims “Addicted to Love.” If you believe you may actually have a problem pick up a copy of, Facing Love Addiction: Giving Yourself the Power to Change the Way You Love by Pia Mellody and Andrea Wells Miller.

Scientists Isolate the Monogamy Gene

monogamy

Scientists Isolate the Monogamy Gene

Some men seem like they were born for monogamy. Others have someone new nearly every time you turn around. So how can a girl know if a guy is in it for the long haul, or if she is just the latest in a legion of lovers? Someday we may be able to take a genetic sample to see who has the monogamy gene and who doesn’t. It sounds like science fiction, but it’s closer to reality than you think. Scientists believe they have isolated the monogamy gene. Recently, there has been some speculation surrounding the hormone vasopressin. It is present in monogamous species but absent in others. Prairie voles are small monogamous rodents which carry vasopressin within their systems. Randy meadow voles however don’t have this hormone and so refuse to settle down. These little guys instead are forever promiscuous. Oxytocin, the “cuddle hormone,” is the equivalent of vasopressin in humans.  It is the pair bonding hormone which triggers the “calm and cuddle” response, what our systems do to get us ready for love. This is considered the polar opposite of the “fight or flight” response. As the New Scientist puts it, “Now it seems variations in a section of the gene coding for a vasopressin receptor in people help to determine whether men are serial commitment-phobes or devoted husbands.”

Researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden conducted the study. The lead researcher was Hasse Walum. 552 Swedish participants, all in heterosexual relationships for at least five years, took part. Each person was tested for a gene variation in their vasopressin receptor, the section of which is called RS3 334. This gene designates how a man will bond with his partner, according to researchers. A man can either have none, one, or two copies of RS3 334. Researchers soon found that the more copies a man had, the less likely he was to stay monogamous. Those who had two copies of RS3 334 were more likely to be single then those men who had none or one. If they were married there was a higher likelihood of a crisis in their marriage. Walum says that due to the fact that this data was collected from another study, researchers couldn’t ask the men whether or not they were faithful in their relationships. The study was published in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Though scientists are convinced that multiple copies of RS3 334 affect the expression of the vasopressin receptor, it is not clear how. In theory some animals have their brain split into two “motivational” centers. One is for social perception, the other reward. In marmosets and the aforementioned prairie voles, both of these receptors sit next to one another on cells. That means they are closely associated. Here social activity is felt to be rewarding, so these mammals are monogamous. Scientists want to know if the same phenomenon is active in people. Post-mortems are likely to be studied in order to see where these vasopressin receptors are within the human body. Scientists will also have to see what variations exist in the number of copies of RS3 334. Bond coupling isn’t the only social effect this gene has. The same section of genetic coding was found to set off the amygdala, a portion of the brain responsible for feelings of trust. Another study looking at altruism found that those who had multiple copies of RS3 334 exhibited unusual social behavior. Walum and his colleague will begin a new study testing a nasal spray containing vasopressin to see whether or not it affects altruism and jealousy. To learn more on the science of love and bonding read, The Myth of Monogamy: Fidelity and Infidelity in Animals and People by David P. Barash and Judith Eve Lipton.

Is There a Divorce Gene?

Unhappy couple not speaking to each other on sofa at home in the

Is There a Divorce Gene?

Swedish scientists at the Karolinska Institute have isolated a gene which they believe shows why some women cannot stay committed in a relationship. 1,800 female participants and their significant others donated DNA to a team of researchers for this study. Each couple had been together for five years and were either married or cohabitating.

Researchers soon discovered a deviation in a gene called A-allele, an oxytocin receptor gene. Oxytocin, often called the “cuddle hormone” helps us to bond to our mates. It helps us feel the emotion of love both for a partner and for children. Researchers found that if a woman had this deviation, the likelihood of divorce or a marital crisis increased by half. Scientists believe that the variation on this gene could make it difficult for her to bond properly to her mate, ergo causing commitment and relationship issues.

Another finding out of the Karolinska Institute came out in 2008 and it also shocked the world. Lead author Hasse Walum and his team of researchers found that a deviation gene linked to social interaction and autism, AVPR1A gene, made men report marital problems at a much higher rate when they wed. Both of these studies bring a whole new meaning to the stale line, “It’s not you, it’s me.” Biology and genetics are just starting to prove the emotion-genetic-mind-body connection. What other relationship problems are based in genetics and biology rather than interaction and psychology?

Another issue is whether people would want to take gene therapy for a problem such as this. Is a long term relationship the goal of everyone? Should it be? Lots of people perhaps envision themselves single or, if they have this gene may feel that they are properly single for a reason. This could also be Mother Nature’s little trick to try and keep the gene pool fresh. There are those who perhaps would spurn gene therapy and stay the way nature had made them. Others would consider the therapy as normal and right. Still, if you find yourself in a situation where you are dating someone with commitment issues, perhaps their genes are to blame. If you want advice on improving your marriage read, Divorce Busting: A Step-By-Step Approach to Making Your Marriage Loving Again by Michele Weiner-Davis.