According to Sonya Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, there are simple but important things we can do to keep love alive and well, especially if we want to avert “hedonic adaptation,” i.e. the tendency among humans to get so used to things that make us feel good that they stop feeling good. Alas, things that can be thrilling at first (marriage, for example) — tend to be short-lived unless we actively do things to keep them from becoming, to be blunt: boring.
I actually think that Dr. Lyubomirsky’s four simple strategies to keep love alive and thrilling make sense for all close relationships, including friendships and parent-child relationships.
- APPRECIATION. “Count your blessings and resist taking a spouse for granted.” Remind yourself what you appreciate about the person.
- VARIETY. To stave off “hedonic adaptation,” be spontaneous to keep the relationship “fresh, meaningful and positive.”
- SURPRISE. People tend to get to know each other too well and fall into routines that are dull. Try new activities, new places, new friends. Learn new skills together.
- TOUCH. “A pat on the back, a squeeze of the hand, a hug, an arm around the shoulder – the science of touch suggests that it can save a so-so marriage,” says Dr. Lyubomirsky. “Affection on a daily basis will go a long way in rekindling warmth and tenderness.”
Ultimately, healthy and happy relationships require positive energy, which leads to positive feelings, positive experiences, and positive stories.
I decided to ask William, Natalie and my brother if they could think of anything else important to add to Dr. Lyubomirsky’s list:
Natalie said she would add — EXPLORE. She said, “I love going on outings with you because it’s fun and we get to learn new things and talk.”
My brother said he would add — ENJOY GOOD FOOD TOGETHER. He added, “Good food means having good conversation, trying new things, and a shared pleasant experience.”
William said he would add — LISTEN. “Because if you listen, you might hear something. And we listen to understand.”
I’d add — SLOW DOWN AND UN-RUSH. Take time to enjoy little things. The little things are the big things.
Dr. Barbara L. Fredrickson, a social psychologist and professor at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has found that a flourishing relationship needs three times as many positive emotions as negative ones. You might like to read my earlier post — 5 “Put-Ups” to Heal “1 Put-Down” — http://twointhemiddle.com/2012/07/05/5-put-ups-to-heal-1-put-down/