Have you ever attended a 40, 50, or 60-year wedding anniversary party? If you have, then you know that the number one question asked by friends and family is always, “How did the two of you make it last all of these years?’
Each couple that stays together for that long has a unique story to tell. Every story is different, but they all have one thing in common. Researchers studied couples with long-lasting, sustained romantic relationships, and there were two concepts that every couple had in common. The first was their ability to maintain a “Positive Illusion” about their partner. The second was the ability of the couple to keep Dopamine levels balanced and Oxytocin levels high.
In a study done of couples married more than 10 years, 40% expressed that they continued to be very intensely in love!
Of those couples married more than 30 years, 40% of women, and 35% of men stated that they continued to be very intensely in love!
Feelings of love and passion stem from neurotransmitters in the brain. Dopamine sparks your feelings of desire, excitement, and arousal. It is what causes butterfly feelings in your stomach. It causes loss of appetite and insomnia in the beginning stages of dating. It is also responsible for an increase in heart rate and blood pressure.
Too much Dopamine is bad for your health. Dopamine is responsible for the reward response found in addictions. Researchers compared the brains of new couples with those of drug addicts. On MRI, the brain activity of the new couples and the brains of the drug addicts were similar.
Dopamine can create stress. Can you imagine feeling butterflies for the rest of your life? Can you picture never being able to eat or sleep? Or having obsessive, intrusive thoughts about your partner forever? Would it be healthy to have an increased heart rate or blood pressure all the time? Your body is not able to stay in this constant state forever. To protect itself, your brain starts destroying some of your Dopamine receptors so that only a limited amount of Dopamine is accepted into your system.
Oxytocin is your “cuddle hormone”. It creates the desire to snuggle, spend time together, participate in activities together, and it is responsible for feelings of attachment. Oxytocin levels increase in both men and women directly after sexual activity, with higher levels being found in women. That is why so many more women than men want to cuddle after sex.
To make love last forever, the objective is to keep Dopamine balanced and keep Oxytocin levels high.
When you first meet someone you are attracted to, it feels as if hundreds of butterflies are flapping their wings in the pit of your stomach. You can’t eat. You can’t sleep. You think of this person often, obsessively at times. Your brain goes haywire and becomes consumed with thoughts and questions. What they are doing? Where are they? When will I see them again? Are they thinking about me too? What if they don’t feel the same as I do? What if they don’t text me back (within two minutes!). Rational thinking has all but disappeared and has been replaced with speculation and assumptions.
THAT IS DOPAMINE
When we are attracted to someone, we often exaggerate their positive traits and overlook their faults. Have you had a relationship with a man you described as “perfect” for you? (In the beginning)? Did you brag about him? Did you regard him as a man who could do no wrong, EVER? Did you overlook those little annoying traits (or bigger, worse traits)?
That is Positive Illusion! You see what you want to see. You hear what you want to hear. Friends and family identify his shortcomings quickly, while you see him like a mirage of infallible masculinity.
Positive Illusion is not necessarily a bad thing. It is a fact that couples who maintain romantic relationships year after year tend to think positively about their partner and keep the positive illusions in place.
Couples who stay in committed long term relationships also tend to think about each other often, even when their partner is not near them.
They also have these 10 traits in common
- They show mutual respect for each other’s individual interests and personal growth.
- They maintain intimate connections within and outside of the relationship.
- They can compromise and validate their partner’s feelings.
- They have Sex.
- They consistently express affection and love for each other.
- They spend time doing things together.
- They frequently think about their partner’s wants and needs.
- When their partner touches them, it evokes the senses.
- They want to know what is going on in their partner’s life and keep tabs on them.
- They love life.
The MRI’s of couples with long-term romantic feelings for his/her partner showed different active areas of the brain than did new couples.
Dopamine levels became balanced and Oxytocin levels remained high for these couples. Heart rate and blood pressure were normalized. Appetites returned and insomnia no longer plagued them.
Oxytocin cultivates feelings of closeness with your partner and allows for a greater connection between partners. Oxytocin can also help decrease stress, lower cortisol (stress hormone) levels, and diminish physical pain.
It is a well-documented fact that Oxytocin plays a significant role in mother-child bonding, advancing the notion that Oxytocin plays an important role in the communication element of love between couples. Adults tend to seek from their partners what babies seek from their mothers.
- Proximity (being physically near)
A study was conducted at the University of Zurich, which involved one group receiving liquid Oxytocin via the nares, and the other group receiving a placebo. After administration of Oxytocin, couples were asked to talk together about a subject that the couples had stated lead to frequent arguments, such as chore assignments or how the couple should use their spare time. Results showed that the couples who received the liquid Oxytocin had lower cortisol levels and better communication skills than the couples in the placebo group.
In a recent study which has yet to be published, researchers found that the ability to empathize with others is linked to the receptor genes for Oxytocin.
What then, is my recipe for keeping Oxytocin levels naturally?
Here are 24 ways to increase Oxytocin levels.
- Be creative together – Cook a meal, start a business, remodel a room in the home
- Listen to Music Together
- Participate in Risky Activities Together –activities such as Bungee Jumping & Sky Diving
- Celebrate Together – increases happiness and levels of commitment
- Exercise Together
- Take Responsibility for Personal Happiness
- Never keep score (of the good or bad things)
- Play Competitive Games – also increases Testosterone which fuels desire
- Reminisce and Re-live happy memories
- Laugh Often
- Argue using “I” statements rather than “You” statements
- Take care of yourself – Feel Sexy
- Experience New Things Together – the newness fosters closeness
- Have hobbies and maintain your own friendships
- Express Gratitude – through both words and actions
- Meditate – decreases anger, fear, and anxiety
- Practice Mindfulness
- Have Sex
- Masturbate – studies show that women who masturbate frequently have an increased desire for sex
- Talk about sex for a minimum of 10 minutes a day – can be with anyone, not just with your partner
- Approach Life with Excitement Daily
- Practice Reciprocal Self-Disclosure – talk to each other about feelings, goals, failures, successes, and fears. Discuss sexual preferences, turn-ons, and turn-offs
- Create Equal Equity in the Relationship – if one partner’s needs dominate the other partner’s needs, then the relationship is not healthy. Equal equity fosters bonding.
- Choose a Man that is Happy and Healthy – a study showed that conflict prevention was increased when the man had a pleasant personality and was physically healthy
Making Love Last Forever is possible! Dopamine drives excitement, desire, and arousal. Oxytocin helps couples bond and creates feelings of contentment and love.
Dopamine levels rise sharply during the first several months of a relationship. Dopamine causes feelings of butterflies in the stomach, increases heart rate and blood pressure, gives way for intrusive and obsessive thoughts, insomnia and loss of appetite. This heightened sympathetic nervous system experience cannot be maintained for years on end, as it would cause damage to your body long-term.
Oxytocin is your “cuddle hormone”. Oxytocin is responsible for feelings of attachment. Oxytocin plays a significant role in connection, closeness, and affection. It creates feelings of contentment and assists with effective communication between partners. It decreases stress, increases empathy and decreases pain.
The primary goal for long-term relationships is to keep Dopamine levels balanced, and Oxytocin levels high.
The above list of ways to increase Oxytocin levels is in no way all-inclusive. There are endless ways to spend time together and create a lasting connection. Deep connection leads to long-term love.
Having a positive illusion of your partner has been shown to keep couples together. Partners who maintain romantic relationships long-term tend to think positively about their partner.
How do you with or for your partner or yourself to maintain connection? Have a question or comment? I would love to hear from you. Feel free to share below.
All My Love,
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