If you watched the Superbowl this year , you may remember the Kia car commercial that aired with Adrianna Lima and Motley Crue. In the ad, we are presented with what appears to be a married couple sleeping side by side. A little sand man sneaks in and pours pixie dust over their heads, giving us insight into their dreams. The woman is dreaming of being romantically swept away on horse by a suave looking guy (not her husband) and the man is rocketing down a racetrack being cheered on by a crowd of half naked women (supermodel Adriana Lima right in front.) Although the couple meets at the end and drives off in a Kia together, the commercial implies an ever present misconception about long-term relationships and marriage: the idea that your highest moments of intensity and passion will soon exist only in your fantasies – *cough ehem* – which must include someone other than your partner. After all, mature love can’t retain that sort of passion, right?
Wrong! A new study by Stony Brook University reveals that a major percentage of couples stay intensely “in love” even after decades of marriage. These findings also may offer the secret to keep the flame of passion burning in your own relationship.
The team at SBU, surveyed a nationally representative sample of couples who had been married 10 years or more. The researchers were bewildered by the outcome, which showed that many couples in long marriages experience romantic love at intensity levels comparable to individuals who are newly in love. According to the report published in this month’s Journal of Social Psychological and Personality Science, 46% of women and 49% of men report being “very intensely in love” with their partners.
So what are the top predictors of intense long-term love?
#1.) Selective Thinking - Couples who choose to regularly focus their thoughts on their mate’s positive qualities, particularly in the absence of their mate, are more likely to experience high levels of intense romantic love in marriage. Studies have proven that thinking about our partner’s best traits leads us to vocalize that appreciation to our partner. Those simple appreciation statements go a long way to keeping romance alive.
#2.) Physical Affection (not just sex) - Sexual and non-sexual physical affection were evaluated separately in this study. For both men and women, regular hugging, kissing, and cuddling ranked high for greater romantic satisfaction. Sexual intercourse was indeed high on the list. But interestingly, 25% of couples who reported “very in love”, had not had sex in a month. More women associated frequent sex with intense love than men. Men equated non-sexual, physical affection with higher intensities of love. When relationship satisfaction was lower, the tendency to equate sex with love was higher.
#3.) Personal Happiness - Can a relationship lead to happiness? According to the study, long time married couples who remain “intensely in love” , do not expect happiness to come from their partner. Happiness, instead, is something they find within themselves as individuals. Whether you need a trip to the spa, or a night out with friends, taking responsibility for one’s own happiness seems to have dramatic affect on the romance.
Regardless of what the TV says, long term relationships can be exciting and romantically intense. Does YOUR love need an upgrade?
Lastly, I’d like to relate this article to The Vow story’s Kim & Krickitt Carpenter. Some folks have written in expressing frustration over a quote that Krickitt has said many times in interviews with the media. She says, “I chose to love him because I made a vow. It had nothing to do with feelings.” I think she is trying to make a point here about the importance of sticking to our word. I would have to agree. Sometimes we say we are going to do something no matter what, but many times what we are really saying is “I will do this until I don’t feel like doing it anymore”. How valuable is that sort of promise?
So yes, true love must keep it’s word. Even if feelings disappear. BUT – I do not believe that people should accept a lack of feeling in their relationship. As this study above shows, it is quite possible to be committed for the long haul and still romantically passionate.
Why not keep our vows AND enjoy romantic feelings too? It is possible!