There’s no single key to happiness in life. Romantic, spiritual, familial, professional, financial and social fulfillment can all play a role. But on Valentine’s Day, romantic fulfillment takes the front seat of public attention. Romantic love is a topic that often comes up when individuals (and certainly couples) meet with their therapists. Being in a troubled marriage can seem to cast a shadow over every other aspect of a person’s life. And a healthy marriage can encourage growth and flourishing just the same. In honor of Valentine’s Day, here’s a roundup of recent research exploring the connections between love and psychology.
- For many people, their first kiss proves more memorable than their first sexual encounter, a sign that many attribute to the importance of romance over physical chemistry.
- Language and love are related, even down to the “ifs, ands, or buts.” A study published in the journal Psychological Science finds that the way couples use small connecting words is a window into their romantic compatibility. Thought it’s just one factor among many, similar speech patterns were indeed associated with longer relationships among college students.
- Double dating enhances couple’s love lives. Researchers at Wayne State University have found that spending time together with other couples leads to happier and more satisfying romantic relationships.
- Having a partner who recovers well after a fight will benefit you. Marriage counselors constantly work with couples to improve conflict-resolution, but few studies look at recovery time after those conflicts are resolved. The University of Minnesota has done so, and finds that post-conflict resolution recovery also plays a big role in relationship stability.
- Marriage—especially a good marriage—is good for you. It’s been associated with increased mental health for women, physical health for men, and longer lifespan for both.
Yet love remains a mystery. Psychologists can explore the connections between love and wellbeing, and physicians can link relationship satisfaction to blood pressure and any other number of physical manifestations. But at the end of the day, love can’t be reduced to science, which may be precisely why we love it so much.
© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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