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This Low-Effort Activity Could Bring The Love Back To Your Relationship

Feb. 4, 2023 Huffington Post

“We know that love feelings typically decline over time in long-term relationships and that declining love feelings are a common reason for breakups,” study author Sandra Langeslag, an associate professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and director of the Neurocognition of Emotion and Motivation Lab, told HuffPost.

Langeslag and her team wanted to see if there was some way to bring the thrill back to once-romantic partnerships. To do that, they recruited 25 mostly hetero- married people for this study: Twenty-four participants had an opposite-gender spouse, and one female participant had a same-sex spouse. On average, the participants had known their partners for 11.9 years.

To get some background on the couples and collect the controlled data, each person was asked how they’d rate their current infatuation levels and attachment to their spouse, how long they’d known the partner, how long they’d been romantically involved and how long they’d been married. 

Each person also completed an assessment of their marital satisfaction and love regulation. (In social science jargon, “love regulation” is how we use behavioral or cognitive strategies to boost the intensity of our feelings. For instance, in a relationship that you want to go the distance, you may consciously choose to have positive thoughts about the other person or make a point to try something new together regularly.)

Next, the researchers had the participants view pictures of their spouse along with pleasant and neutral pictures while their brain activity was recorded. (The pleasant pictures showed strangers smiling or doing something nice, like hiking or petting an animal. The neutral pictures showed strangers engaged in mundane activities, such as grocery shopping or working on a computer.) 

Some of the spouse pictures and pleasant pictures were preceded by emotional regulation prompts, such as, “Think of one good personality trait of your spouse,” and “This man is fulfilling his dream of hang gliding.”

As the pics were shown, the participants used sliders to indicate how infatuated with their spouse they felt, how attached to their spouse they felt and how satisfied with their marriage they felt. 

In the end, Langeslag and her team found that viewing pictures of the spouse increased infatuation, attachment and marital satisfaction compared with viewing pleasant or neutral pictures. 

In addition, a pattern of electrical brain activity known as the late positive potential (LPP) was most positive in response to spouse pictures, indicating that “participants had more motivated attention to a spouse than pleasant pictures.”

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