Be My Valentine? How to Keep Love AliveMental Health
We’ve all felt that rush of love, and we know its powerful feeling contributes to a healthier life.
Love, according to science, is a “cocktail of chemicals,” including adrenaline, dopamine, and serotonin. Science also says that when we’re falling in love, we produce oxytocin - commonly known as the cuddle hormone - and vasopressin – which creates the desire to nurture, among other beneficial behaviors.
However love works, one thing is clear: Time is the thief of romantic love or that initial stage experts call passionate love.
“Life has a tendency of getting in the way of our relationships, and it’s easy to forget the importance of maintaining a connection to those we love,” says Jayme Hodges, a licensed clinical social worker and director of Behavioral Health at Lee Health. “With the passing of time it is natural to find ourselves growing both together and apart as we navigate through the many ups and downs that life presents.”
Those heady feelings of butterflies in the stomach and sleepless nights of dreaming about the other begin to fade as couples become familiar with each other.
Within one or two years, our feel-good chemicals return to normal levels, too, signaling that our relationship, ideally, has moved from one of passionate love to compassionate love.
Relationships based on compassionate love are characterized by intimacy, trust, commitment, and affection. All well and good, definitely.
However, although our feelings in a compassionate love-based relationship are not as euphoric as those in the early stages of romance, we all want “to keep the spark alive,” as the saying goes.
“We find that we grow with each other and we grow within ourselves during our partnerships,” Hodges says. “Love is like a flower. To keep it healthy and growing, it requires attention.”
Some spark solutions
So, if you find your love withering a little—and we all do from time to time—try some of these solutions to grow your passion and put yourself in a happier place – one of the keys to overall wellness.
- If physical intimacy is an issue, many experts recommend that couples should simply try more physical contact: When is the last time you held hands with your significant other? In public? When is the last time you simply sat and gave each other a meaningful, long kiss? Reestablishing the physical roots of a relationship can help remind you of why attraction sparked in the first place.
- Reminisce: Do you have funny stories from the first time you met? Did you have a spectacular honeymoon? Find some old pictures or mementos of past time together to help you reconnect.
- Many experts usually recommend keeping the mystery alive: This can mean lots of things including not sharing a bathroom and making sure your clothes and underwear are kept out of sight. But it can also mean being spontaneous, surprising each other with gifts or special plans, or even getting out of your comfort zone in the bedroom.
- Remember how fun it is to be friends: Not everything has to have the pressure of perfect romance. Carve out time to play a video game, have a casual lunch – anything that might inspire regular conversation.
- Better yet, go out with a group of friends: Watch each other out in public and you might be surprised how differently your spouse acts around other people. That might inspire thoughts of why you were initially attracted.
- Finally, just talk to each other. Can you open up about your relationship concerns? Do you have trouble communicating? Are you embarrassed to share and to explore how to better your relationship? Never undervalue the power of talk. And if necessary, counseling can help open the doors to new, invigorated communication, which helps intimacy flow.
Learn more about Lee Health’s counseling and Behavioral Health options. Call 239-343-9180.
Sources: Psychology Today, Johns Hopkins, HealthBeat, Self.com