What’s Love Got To Do With It?

Marie Zanfardino, MA, LPCCWillow Wisdom

marriage counseling

Romeo and Juliet, Ellen and Portia, Beyonce’ and Jay-Z, Ken and Barbie, Dick and Jane, Superman and Lois Lane and most of the couples that come to counseling say love has just about everything to do with their motivation to stay connected.  This is the month to celebrate the power of that thing that makes us laugh, cry, want to live and sometimes want to die.  There are some things we can do to keep love alive so lets starts with a little of the science of being in love.

The power of new love envelops us in a cloak of electric happiness and stark longing.   What is this visceral and distracting thing we experience when falling in love?  There is some mystery here yet people experiencing mad love have been studied and their MRIs show that the brain in love lights up.  According to researcherHelen Fisher, love operates below our emotions and thoughts; it turns on the brain to motivate, to crave, to focus on, and to stay attached to our loved one. It seems love is real and actually expressed physically in more than one way.

While the chemistry of falling in love lays the foundation for fondness and admiration of our loved one, sometimes the question is how do we keep the light shining bright?  How do we weather the storms of conflict that can shake the resolve and commitment?  Love gurus Dr. John and Julie Gottman studied people in their “love lab” and found that people who fall in love and remain happy over the long haul are intentional. They nurture their bond by creating daily or weekly rituals of connection.

Helen Fisher also studied the MRIs of people who had been married or together for 10 to 25 years and found out that the love area of their brains still lit up.  Evidence that being intentional about keeping love alive seems to work.  Here’s what the Gottman gurus say are the rituals of connection that help relationships thrive:

1) Eat meals together without screens! That’s also good for weight management.

2) Have daily stress reducing conversations.  These only need to be about 30 minutes to talk about stress outside of the relationship.

3) Vacation together. How about an annual honeymoon?!

4) Exercise together.  Do whatever floats both of your boats! Maybe hiking, tubing, walking, curling, bowling, golfing, weight lifting, yoga or biking is your jam?

5) Share a six-second kiss. Besides increasing intimacy, giving and receiving touch is also super good for your prefrontal cortex. Who knew a kiss is also brain food!

Finally, this Valentine’s Day you can give the gift of feeling loved by learning how to speak in “love language.” Author, Gary Chapman identified five love languages: Words of Affirmation, Receiving Gifts, Physical Touch, Acts of Service and Quality Time. Each of us has a primary love language that speaks more deeply to us than the others. Here’s the link for more information and a quiz that you can take to learn about your preferred love language: https://www.5lovelanguages.com/

Happy Valentine’s Day and may you feel the love.