17 Jan You have to work at love for a happy relationship
That loving feeling takes a lot of work
by Jane Brody
When people fall in love and decide to marry, the expectation is nearly always that love and marriage and the happiness they bring will last; as the vows say, till death do us part. Only the most cynical among us would think, walking down the aisle, that if things don’t work out, “We can always split.”
But the divorce rate in the United States is exactly half the marriage rate, and that does not bode well for this cherished institution.
While some divorces are clearly justified by physical or emotional abuse, intolerable infidelity, addictive behavior or irreconcilable incompatibility, experts say many severed marriages seem to have just withered and died from a lack of effort to keep the embers of love alive.
Jane Brody speaks about love and marriage.
I say “embers” because the flame of love — the feelings that prompt people to forget all their troubles and fly down the street with wings on their feet — does not last very long, and cannot if lovers are ever to get anything done. The passion ignited by a new love inevitably cools and must mature into the caring, compassion and companionship that can sustain a long-lasting relationship.
Studies by Richard E. Lucas and colleagues at Michigan State University have shown that the happiness boost that occurs with marriage lasts only about two years, after which people revert to their former levels of happiness — or unhappiness.
Infatuation and passion have even shorter life spans, and must evolve into “companionate love, composed more of deep affection, connection and liking,” according to Sonya Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside.
In her new book, “The Myths of Happiness,” Dr. Lyubomirsky describes a slew of research-tested actions and words that can do wonders to keep love alive.
She points out that the natural human tendency to become “habituated” to positive circumstances — to get so used to things that make us feel good that they no longer do — can be the death knell of marital happiness. Psychologists call it “hedonic adaptation”: things that thrill us tend to be short-lived.
So Dr. Lyubomirsky’s first suggestion is to adopt measures to avert, or at least slow down, the habituation that can lead to boredom and marital dissatisfaction. While her methods may seem obvious, many married couples forget to put them into practice.
Steps to slow, prevent or counteract hedonic adaptation and rescue a so-so marriage should be taken long before the union is in trouble, Dr. Lyubomirsky urges. Her recommended strategies include making time to be together and talk, truly listening to each other, and expressing admiration and affection.
Dr. Lyubomirsky emphasizes “the importance of appreciation”: count your blessings and resist taking a spouse for granted. Routinely remind yourself and your partner of what you appreciate about the person and the marriage…
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