This post is kindly brought to you by eHarmony.
Romance. Passion. We’re told over and over that it doesn’t last. Can’t last. That at best we’ll be staring into each other’s eyes and having mad crazy sex on the kitchen table until 18 months in – or 3 years, tops – and after that, the relationship will morph into something, well, different. Something cosy and comfortable and not as exciting.
But here’s a fact: that’s not true AT ALL. Or least, it doesn’t have to be.
A lot of couples out there who’ve been together decades – yes, decades – know how to maintain the romance. Those ‘in love’ feelings. The hot sex. The adoration for one another.
It’s scientifically proven that you can keep romance and passion thriving even after a long time together. It’s not easy, but it can be done. And when eHarmony asked me to write about it in celebration of August’s Romance Awareness Month, I thought it was a great chance to impart a few of the secrets some of those couples have down pat.
Here are six you can try today.
Secret 1: You have love blindness. No, you don’t want to be blind to abuse or major incompatibilities, but couples who manage to keep their romantic feelings alive and on a slow simmer for decades are doing so through ‘positive illusions’, say scientists. This is borne out of a University of Geneva study which found that couples who remained romantic and ‘in love’ even decades after being together were almost ‘love blind’ – that is, they continue to maintain their partner was hot, funny, kind and the perfect person for them, even as they aged and changed and gained a spare tyre. Kinda sweet, huh?
Secret 2: You scare the pants off each other. Although my toddler adores me popping out from behind a doorway to surprise him, I don’t advocate this if you fear your partner might have a heart attack! But, doing things that scare you with the one you love – like indoor rock climbing, white water rafting, rollercoasters, horror movies – can keep passion and romance alive. Such activities, according to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, kickstart physiological arousal (ie, we get scared, our heart beats faster, etc) and the knock-on effect is a boost in attraction and desire. Plus, you’re creating new, fun (or funny) memories you can revisit together too – which is about as romantic as it gets.
Secret 3. You both make sex a priority. Sexless marriages are nothing new, but researchers at California’s Chapman University say giving your partner a damn good seeing to is the secret to a truly romantic, intimate long-term bond. They found that more than one-third of couples kept the passion alive for each other even after a decade or two together, because they made a ‘conscious effort to ward off routinisation of sex’. In other words, they tried new things, engaged in more intimate behaviours – like cuddling, kissing and even laughing during sex, set moods with candles or music, showered together, sent each other teasing texts during the day, and had more sex generally. The sexually-satisfied participants in the study also admitted they’d read self-help books and magazines – but what set them apart was they actually tried some of the suggestions.
Secret 4. You make a point of looking each other in the eye. Often. Studies abound on the power of eye contact when you’re dating. But in long-term relationships, it’s easy to go for days without real eye contact simply because we’re busy at work, the kids need us, we eat dinner facing the TV instead of each other. I get it, I get it, The Bachelor is on… but all those distractions are doing zip for fostering good feelings between you. Turn it around by making a conscious effort to notice each other and turn to each other whenever one of you is speaking; it builds intimacy, say experts. Plus, all that extra eye contact can be your secret weapon to more romantic feelings. In one study on mutual gaze and romantic love published in the Journal of Research in Personality, researchers found that prolonged eye contact – for 1-2 minutes – can make all the difference in boosting feelings of affection, passionate love and liking for the one you’re with.
Secret 5. You consider kissing important. One in three coupled-up Aussies say they need one proper kiss a day to feel satisfied in their relationship, according to eHarmony research – which is supported by a recent Oxford University study, which found that how often couples kissed was a good indicator of how happy and bonded their relationship was (even more so than how much sex they were having). It’s no wonder, really, with long term relationships easily falling prey to ‘kissing fatigue’ (a British Health Foundation study found 20 percent of couples over 45 kiss just once a week for less than 5 seconds). A good smooch can boost dopamine in the brain, which can trigger those romantic ‘in love’ feelings, so there’s no better reason to get your pash on regularly.
Secret 6. You crack open the champers to celebrate each other. Whether it’s a shiny new job or smashing a personal best on the treadmill, how you respond to each other’s ‘wins’ is huge in terms of maintaining that lovin’ feeling, according to a 2006 University of California study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Apparently, celebrating each other’s successes is even more important than how you deal with the down times, say experts. So cheer on the one you love and your relationship will be all the better for it.
What’s your secret to maintaining love, passion and romance in your relationship? Or do you think it’s impossible after years together? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.