Can, “Truly, madly, deeply,” ever last?
Being Madly in Love Can Last! The results of the study indicate that the feeling of intense passion can last in long-term relationships. “We found many very clear similarities between those who were in love long-term and those who had just fallen madly in love,” says Dr. Aron. “In this latest study, the VTA showed greater response to images of a long-term partner when compared with images of a close friend or any of the other facial images.”
This means that the VTA is particularly active for romantic love. “Interestingly, the same VTA region showed greater activation for those in the long-term couple group who scored especially high on romantic love scales and a closeness scale based on questionnaires,” Dr. Acevedo explains.
Previous studies have shown that activity in dopamine-rich areas, such as the VTA, are engaged in response to rewards such as food, money, cocaine, and alcohol. Additionally, studies have demonstrated the role of the VTA in motivation, reinforcement learning, and decision making. This research suggests that the VTA is important for maintaining long-term relationships and that intense romantic love commonly found in early-stage love can last through long-term relationships by engaging the rewards and motivation systems of the brain.
The results revealed many other fascinating findings, uncovering some keys to maintaining lasting love.
From this study, we have learned that the neural activity of individuals in intense romantic long-term love share remarkable similarities to the neural activity of individuals newly in love. (Interesting.) We have learned that romantic love can be sustained in long-term relationships. (Phew, that’s a relief !) And that intense, passionate long-term love is a dopamine-rich activity maintained by sustained rewards. (Come again?)
Okay. The key to understanding how to sustain long-term romantic love is to understand it a bit scientifically. Our brains view long-term passionate love as a goal-directed behavior to attain rewards. Rewards can include the reduction of anxiety and stress, feelings of security, a state of calmness, and a union with another. In long-term relationships, when we reference the self, we slowly incorporate our partner into our notion of our self. As we move from early-stage love to long-term love, our bond attachment grows. And when we perform actions that make our partner happy, we enhance and maintain the relationship by working towards our goal of sustaining the rewards aforementioned.
While we might be a way off before having an Idiot’s Guide For Staying Madly In Love, at least we are one step closer. And, hey, just knowing that it’s scientifically possible to stay intensely, madly, passionately in love year after year…after year…is pretty damn promising!
The whole article is worth the read — but focus on the part about sexuality. Apparently, science is finally noticing that marriage does not equal the end of sex, and that couples can stay passionate about each other on every level for the duration of their lives together.
By not shaming, guilting or threatening their partner and simply keeping on doing all the positive stuff they did when they were first in love…
Rocket science — really… 😉