Good health requires both physical and mental health, and for most people, good mental health is facilitated if one is in a happy and stable relationship. Maintaining long-term relationships is not easy, and today we offer a hint that might help.
Research studies on married couples (and the findings probably relate also to non-married couples) show that the initial surge of happiness felt by both partners typically lasts about two years. After that, passionate love is replaced somewhat by a more sober and less exciting “companion” love, and at that transition, problems might begin.
When this “honeymoon” phase ends, it is easier for one or both partners to look outside the relationship to seek out again the thrill of the new. At the beginning of a relationship, almost everything about your partner is new and surprising: what he or she likes to eat, do for fun, what are his friends and family like, and on and on. But eventually, you get to know your partner pretty well; there are fewer and fewer surprises, and this can lead to complacency and lessened interest in sex with the same person.
But there is hope! There are plenty of couples that stay together for many years, even monogamously, sometimes raising children, sometimes continuing to be happy without children. A classic research study by social psychologist Arthur Aron gives us today’s hint how to stay happy in your relationship.
Dr. Aron and his colleagues carried out their studies on middle-aged, upper-middle-class couples. Half the couples were assigned to spend at least 90 minutes weekly doing new activities together that were “pleasant”, such as seeing a movie, going out to a restaurant with friends and similar. The other half of the couples were assigned to spend at least 90 minutes weekly doing something new but also “exciting”, such as dancing, attending a concert, even enjoying some extreme sports together.
After the ten-week study, the couples who had engaged in the “exciting” activities reported being more satisfied in their marriages than the couples who merely did activities that were “pleasant”.
Dr. Aron felt that surprise and uncertainty were the potent forces that helped the couples feel better about their partners, and happier in their relationships.
It’s inevitable that couples, after time, lose the excitement experienced at the beginning when everything about the other was new. When you notice that happening, don’t think of it as a terrible thing, understand it and use it as a time to explore together outside your comfort zone: new places, new activities, maybe new friends.
As Woody Allen said in his movie Annie Hall, “A relationship is like a shark. It has to constantly move forward or it dies.” It doesn’t have to die. It can become richer and more fulfilling. Add some uncertainty, avoid predictability. Move forward and grow together.
You might like to read a just released book “The Myths of Happiness: What Should Make You Happy, but Doesn’t, What Shouldn’t Make You Happy, but Does” by University of California psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky [link for Kindle download].
Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)