5 Ways To Make Your Relationship More Romantic, So Get Ready To Swoon

Author Article

Relationships, like all things, change with time. And while there are many beautiful things about a long-term commitment to someone, keeping the spark alive can sometimes be challenging. After all, when you settle into a routine together, it’s not quite so simple to shake things up and retain that element of surprise. Don’t fret, though — there are plenty of ways to make your relationship more romantic, as long as you’re both creative and resourceful.

I checked in with the experts to get their thoughts on this, and their advice did not disappoint. “Our partner needs to know that we value them and that they have a vital role in our life,” says Susan Winter, relationship expert. “From this foundation of appreciation and gratitude, romantic feelings grow with abundance.” If you want to show your partner how much you care, one of the best things you can do is add some intrigue back into your lives. There’s something about a passionate, romantic evening together that electrifies your chemistry and reminds you why you chose one another. And it doesn’t have to be any huge gesture — even small changes can make a big difference! When you’re ready to get more intimate with bae, put these tips to use and watch your bond deepen in a beautiful way.

1. ACKNOWLEDGE THE SMALL THINGS

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“We tend to underestimate the impact of phrases such as, ‘Thank you,’ and, ‘I really appreciate what you’ve done for me,'” Winter says. When your SO does something you’re grateful for, like buying you flowers or cleaning your room, let them know. After couples have been together for an extended period, it’s easy to forget to thank one another for small daily actions. But according to Winter, “kindness and appreciation are powerful aphrodisiacs.” You don’t have to make huge changes in your routine to make each other feel special — just express your love in little ways!

2. RECREATE YOUR FIRST DATE

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When you’re in a rut and your time together starts to feel monotonous, bring back a special memory you both share. “Break that cycle by randomly recreating your first date at home,” says Clarissa Silva, behavioral scientist. “Candles, rose petals, dinner, movie, anything that can recreate that first date.” Or, try reminiscing in the actual place you first went out together! Think back to that time when you were first getting to know one another, and when everything felt exciting and scary and new. You’ll both be able to look back with fondness and also to see how far your relationship has come.

3. GO ON A TRIP TOGETHER

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If you’re both craving a weekend out of town, consider taking a vacation — maybe even a couple’s retreat. “Not only will you learn new skills for enhancing communication, managing conflict, a renewed sense of commitment to one another, and deepening intimacy. But you also have a built-in vacation filled with romantic settings, dinners, and relaxation,” Silva explains. Sometimes, getting out of your shared space and into a new location can help you feel rejuvenated and more in love.

4. SIGN UP TO HELP A CAUSE YOU BOTH CARE ABOUT

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Shula Melamed, relationship and well-being coach, says that couples who try new activities together end up happier in the long run. “Maybe sign up for a course or cause that requires that the two of you to learn, create, or show up for something you both can be passionate about,” she suggests. If you have a shared love for something, it’ll bring you closer together, and it also gives you something fresh to talk about. Doing good for the world and doing good for your relationship? It’s a win-win.

5. COMMIT TO HAVING FUN TOGETHER

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No matter what you do, the most important thing is that you’re enjoying each other’s company. “Couples who play and explore with each other report higher relationship satisfaction,” Melamed says. “So the ‘work’ that goes into maintaining long-term committed relationships might be more depended on ‘play.’” The human brain responds positively to new experiences, so the more creative you can be, the more fun you’ll have together. Try to make a habit of trying something new together at least once per month! This helps you build a bank of shared memories together that will keep the romance alive.

Try to remember that even on days when you feel bored or out of touch with each other, you both chose this relationship for a reason. When you can reframe your brain to remind yourself, “I choose you,” you’ll be more thankful for your partner and more confident in your love. And at the end of the day, a box of chocolates and bouquet of roses never hurt anyone… so get cheesy with it and have a little fun.

Sex, Actually

Author Article

For more than four decades, I have been a practicing psychologist, marriagecounselor, and sex therapist. During that time, I have heard literally hundreds of patient’s recounting of their sexual experiences and how they felt about themselves as they participated.

As people enter into sexual encounters, they are influenced by a host of internal expectations and past experiences. Those memories and prior events affect how they feel about themselves, their partners, and what expectations/fears/needs they anticipate as they enter a new partnership.

Most people are reluctant to share some of their innermost thoughts about sex with their partners, even when they have formed long-term relationships. They tell me that they fear that knowledge might turn their partners off or render themselves too vulnerable to criticism.

Yet, when I’ve been able to open up these sensitive subjects with my couples, they have unanimously ended up closer and more trusting of each other. They are not only grateful for the opportunity to understand more deeply, but often become more successful as sexual partners.

I’ve learned so much from their willingness to share these vulnerable and fragile experiences with me. It’s given me the opportunity to categorize and choose the following fifteen areas of influence that I believe have the most significant effects on a person’s sense of him or herself as a sexual partner.

My hope is that, after reading this article, you will feel more open to sharing yourself more completely in your current and future sexual experiences.

Number One – Unequal Appetites

In most cases, males have a greater appetite for sexual arousal and orgasmthan women do. That can make them less interested in a long courtship process. When sex is a mutually desired, instant attraction and not part of an emotional relationship, the difference in timing and frequency may not be a problem.

As a relationship matures, however, the difference in appetites can become more of an issue. The old adage, “women need thirty-six hours to warm up, and men wake up with a hard-on” is often truer than not. When partners have been together for a while, life demands can create diversions and many women end up participating in sex without sufficient arousal. If that continues over time, many women end up not looking forward to sex as they once did.

Partners may also have different feelings of how important sex is in the totality of their relationship. For some, it is central to their feelings of security and compatibility. For others, it is pleasurable but more peripheral or sometimes even dispensable.

Number Two – Power Differentials

Is there a regularly more dominant and more submissive partner in the sexual encounter? In some relationships, those roles are interchangeable but its more likely to be a stable interaction in most relationships.

The difference in initiation, control, timing demand, and sexually preferred behaviors gives the partner who is designated dominant the power to coordinate and direct the sexual encounter.

In cases where that power difference is agreed upon and mutually shared, the sexual encounter may be successful for both partners. If, on the other hand, coercion and punishment are involved in the maintenance of dominance and there is an abuse of power and domination, the victimized partner’s fear will often prohibit sexual arousal to occur.

Number Three – Prior Trauma

Whether in childhood or through a lifetime, either partner has been subjected to sexually traumatic experiences, he or she will approach a sexual encounter as though those tragedies might recur. Many even unconsciously are attracted to a similar experience because of its sense of familiarity, as well as not knowing that there could be better.

Many people are reluctant to talk with their current partners about prior sexual trauma. Without that knowledge, those partners may unknowingly repeat certain phrases or behaviors that trigger memories of those prior tragedies. Or, a trauma victim may actually unwittingly accept them as part of their “due,” not knowing how to ask for help for fear of humiliation or rejection.

Sexual trauma is much more prevalent than most people realize. The extent and duration of those experiences always affect a sexual encounter when triggered or even before one begins. The previously traumatized person may go in and out of arousal, pull back at the moment of orgasm, become angry during the process, disconnect quickly when the sexual experience is over, oscillate between enjoyment and fear, or try to get the sexual encounter over as quickly as possible.

Many sexual insecurities, anxieties, reluctances, needs for control, or even aggressions are actually symptoms of prior trauma, whether consciously or unconsciously experienced.

Number Four – Taboos

Early teachings affect everyone, but especially so when the discussion of a subject is avoided or thought of as immoral, dirty, or unacceptable. Children incorporate those lessons and then have to somehow integrate them with their own natural desires as they mature.

When there is a large difference between what a child innately feels and what he or she is told not to allow, a sexual taboo can drive that person, as an adult, to act out those repressed desires in an exaggerated manner, or urgently suppress their presence when they emerge. They may resort to inward fantasy while outwardly restricted in their capability to behave as they desire.

There are also societal taboos against certain behaviors. Most people live within them because they don’t want to pay the price of being outcasted in some way, while others are attracted to those behaviors simply because they are frowned upon and try secretly to have it both ways.

Most probably the most indulged in, yet still somewhat condemned, is the regular use of pornography. A very large percentage of men and a significant percentage of women watch pornography on a regular basis. For many, it is not only a ready release and an opportunity to indulge in taboo fantasies, but can also augment a sexual relationship by education and an increase in acceptable behaviors.

What is crucial in a relationship is that the involvement in pornography does not substitute for partner sex in a way that dismisses the other partner, and is willingly shared if the other partner is interested.

Number Five – Physical Plumbing

Men’s outer genitalia make them much more susceptible to stimulation. In times of arousal, they cannot hide the outward evidence. When they are in fear of erectile dysfunction, they may avoid sexual interaction even when they

have desire. That cycle of anticipated dysfunction and avoidance can lead to premature ejaculation, or even inability to ejaculate when they do connect.

Women who are interacting with male partners, can choose to interact sexually without those obvious external signs. Many women have told me that they often don’t share their level of arousal with their male partners if they are not able to match their partner’s excitement, concerned that they will distress the or turn them off.

The way women are touched or aroused can be very different for women than it is for men. Heteroxexual women more often tell me that they feel invaded if men reach for their erogenous zones before they are more generally aroused both physically and emotionally. As a contrast, heterosexual men often share with me that they feel most accurately responded to sexually if their partners reach for their genitals early in the sexual connection.

People who have had same-sex partners, or are primarily involved with those of the same sex, are more likely to intuitively understand those differences. Sharing the same anatomy makes it easier to identify and accordingly respond.

Number Six – Senses

Touch, smell, sight, hearing, and taste are highly variable from one person to another. Chemistry is often a combination of super-compatibility in all of those areas, even if a relationship fails miserably in others.

How, when, and where a person wants to be touched, what olfactory experience is preferable, visual attraction, how and which phrases are emitted, and how a person tastes to another as they mix fluids, are central to a sexual relationship’s success.

The basic human emotions of fear, anger, joy, surprise, sadness, or disgust interact and are expressed through the senses as well. They all contribute in concert as to how one person approaches, interacts, and feels about another.

Number Seven – Sexual or Sexy

What may be sexy to one person can differ highly from what may be to another, and sexual attractions do not always mean sexual satisfaction in the long run, or compatibility with other dimensions of a relationship.

Sexy, as most people describe it, is comprised of confidence, independence, charm, welcome, mischief, teasing, playfulness, hot, but not needy. Sexual simply means a high sex-drive and can be perceived by a willing partner as a plus, but by one who is not turned on, as onerous.

Of all of the sexual experiences, sexiness is in the eye of the beholder. And it has its place. Those in relationships may, at one time, love that their partners are seen as sexy by others but can also feel threatened by the same behaviors in other situations.

Number Eight – Masturbation versus Partner Sex

Most people begin their sexual experience privately. Drawing from observing others at home, in the media, or hearing from others, they form their masturbatory fantasies that help them achieve self-exploration and orgasm.

Those fantasies remain with most people, in some form, for their entire lifetimes. They also, during auto-arousal, know their own rhythms, timing, and touch preferences. They don’t have to worry about how their behavior is affecting another or be concerned about their own performance or reputation.

When it is time for a person to change that comfortable self-experience to that of being with another, it is often hard to integrate the two. In a new relationship, filled with intensity and lust, those differences do not emerge. Most new partners, caught up in the frenzy of new passion, go effortlessly between their own internal experience and living in that of their partners, without thinking or experiencing how that is happening.

The ability to stay in the present and connect with another during love-making can only happen when fantasies and reality merge and the partners are open to being with one another in real time. If there is performance anxiety or they cannot share when they temporarily disconnect and retreat into their own world, they can end up simply mutually using the other partner to fulfill what is inside.

Those who, by choice or by situation, masturbate much more than they copulate, may have more difficulty switching over. The tendency to stay in old fantasies that work when alone is a powerful pull that can interfere with interpersonal intimacy.

Number Nine – Romantic Sex

Romantic sex is basically a criss-cross of parent/child nurturing combined with sexual passion. People don’t call their friends “baby” or tenderly embrace adults the way they do children.

People newly in the throes of romantic love have only eyes for each other, openly embrace in situations where they would normally be more discreet, and put most all other priorities on a back burner. They treasure one another as parts of themselves and anticipate each desire or request with eagerness to comply.

In the initial weeks of romantic love, any potential red flags or past losses are ignored or forgotten and sexual discrepancies disappear.

As the partners simultaneously or sequentially discovers that the perfect parent they thought they had morphs into reality, they feel “abandoned,” “rejected,” “disillusioned,” or “discarded.” The truth is that they were never only who they appeared to be, but both partners wanted to leave out what did not fit in their mutual illusion.

Some intimate partners have been lucky enough to have created other dimensions of compatibility and understanding that hold the relationship together as the parent/child interaction fades, and still treasure those feelings of unconditional love enough to recreate them from time to time. Sadly, most romantic relationships cannot navigate that process.

Number Ten – Strangers versus Known Partners

New, forbidden, or unknown strangers can carry a mystique of their own. One-night stands can be thrilling because of the uncertainty that, when not triggering insecurity, is often deeply freeing. Being unknown and anonymous can release prior restrictions and allow fantasies to emerge. There was a popular web site many years ago that required and encouraged those entering it to pose as an imposter to participate. People could then become part of an imaginary world where they could pretend to be anyone they wanted to be.

When it is not required to be known, to have a history, or to be expected to be a certain way, many people can allow themselves to act out their fantasies because of the limited exposure and privacy those interactions allow.

Of course, there are risks involved in having sex with a total stranger. But, when the tryst is thrilling and there are no insufferable losses, they are well worth it for some people at that particular time in their lives.

Number Eleven – How Many Partners?

During eras of free love, many people have multiple partners either sequentially or concurrently. Their emotional, physical, intellectual, and spiritual experiences can range from superficial to deeply intertwining.

When a current society defines sexuality as a precursor only to monogamy and eventual commitment, those who have had multiple partners can be condemned as somehow lacking in their inability to hold on to a relationship. People who have chosen or simply endured many short-term sexual encounters tend to hide them from their current partners, in fear of being rejected. Though many feel that applies more predominantly to women, I have found that there are also men who are reluctant to share their past histories as well.

Despite the sampling of many potential long-term partners is now more readily available, most people still yearn for “the one.” Sequential monogamy seems to fill the gap, but, in many cases, is simply the new term for the old romantic relationships that faded when reality set in.

What is most important is not how many partners any one person has had, but how he or she cumulatively feels about themselves as a desirable sexual partner in the present.

Number Twelve – Availability and Compromise

This dilemma is, sadly, one that many would-be sexual partners face in their quest for new experiences. Ageism, geographical location, vocation, illness, physical limitations and/or desirability, financial constraints, religiousrestrictions, and personality issues can all contribute to a lack of potential options or the need to compromise.

When it is necessary to limit options because of ideas, moral choices, physical attraction, social condemnation, or hopes for compatibility and continued love, many people enter relationships feeling discouraged and somehow pre-defeated, or end up with a sense of incompleteness after a sexual encounter. Yet, some opportunities for physical gratification may be better than loneliness or a lack of touch.

There are seekers of intimacy who just can’t allow themselves to make the compromises that their life circumstances allow in order for them to be sexually active. Sometimes they try to find ways to live without those experiences in their lives, but many have told me of the loneliness that accompanies those decisions. That is especially true of those who are different, older, or too damaged from prior trauma.

Number Thirteen – Love, Sex, or Both

For some people, sex is sex and can be enjoyed regardless of the quality of a short-term or long-term relationship. For others, sex is the physical expression of a deeper affection and connection.

When courtship was a requirement in order for sex to follow, it was more difficult for more highly sexual people to participate, primarily males. The uncertainty of whether or not the orgasmic goal would be achieved and the intricacies of seduction were hard for many to navigate.

As sexual availability is now more common without the necessity of those complicated overtures, many people can indulge in sexual connection relatively soon into a relationship without needing to develop other dimensions as readily.

Unfortunately, sexual passion, without those additional connections, most often abates over time when love hasn’t had the chance to adequately develop.

Though great chemistry will forever be desired and enjoyed, most of my patients would prefer to have it all and to simultaneously hold on to the passion they felt for one another at the beginning of their relationship.

Number Fourteen – STD’s and Other Painful Embarrassments

Many of my patients have been exposed at one time or another to a sexually transmitted illness. Because society still correlates those conditions with sexual impropriety, those who have been infected often feel that sting, even though their exposure may have been innocent.

Even in the safety and comfort of the therapeutic environment, most people do not even share that knowledge readily, and often with embarrassmentand humiliation. When do they tell a potential sexual partner they may be contagious? How do they let them know? How can they trust a new partner to let them know if they are in danger.

Many people also have understandable concerns sharing any kind of sexual dysfunction pattern, like erectile difficulty, painful intercourse, or anorgasmia. Others feel embarrassed about their physical attributes and fear that the nakedness of sexual connection will reveal them to rejection or humiliation.

Childhood shame around masturbation or being told that sex is dirty, obligatory, or self-serving may approach physical intimacy with a combination of normal desire mixed with guilt or self-reproach. If their partners are not aware of these vulnerabilities, they may inadvertently say or do something that can set off triggers they did not know existed.

Number Fifteen – The Outliers

Mutually desired sexual connection, in all of its myriad forms, inhabits a wide swath of attitudes, behaviors, desires, and interactions. Yet, society does accept some of those behaviors more readily than it does others.

For instance, a number of people seek polyamorous involvement, dominance/submissive interactions, multiple partners at one time, or any form of sexuality that might be referred to as “kinky.” Many who engage in those more fringe behaviors may choose not to speak freely of them to others who do not.

Some sexual behaviors are criminally forbidden and those who engage in them are usually careful to stay anonymous.

If any form of sexual connection is mutually agreed upon and there is no coercion/punishment involved, and both partners are not selling out in ways that could be eventually self-harmful, most sex therapists would not find that wrong. There are still those who would put restrictions and negative consequences on them, simply because they cannot accept those behaviors in themselves.

The emergence and awareness of now gender fluidity have put many people under a prejudiced microscope in terms of their sexual behavior. As it was many years ago for homosexual people who were often thought of only in the ways they were sexual, transgender people today are often unfairly depicted as sexually deviant.

So, Who Are You Sexually and Are You Okay with Who You Are?

After reading through this article, are you able to see yourself more clearly as a sexual being?

Do you feel comfortable talking to a potential sexual partner openly about what you bring to the relationship as to what you need and what you can authentically offer?

Do you understand what drives you to connect sexually and what your limitations and desires are?

Can you work through your sexually conflicted areas so that you can transform into a more integrated and comfortable sexual partner?

Does it make more sense to you know how you may have ended up allowing your sexual experiences to harm you or to continue triggering old memories that need to be resolved and left behind?

Can you see, accept, and embrace your own sexuality better than you could before?

Why Love in the 21st Century Is So Difficult

Author Article

The nature of love in the 21st century has beckoned us to a new cultural and social horizon from which we may be able to learn how to manage our conflicts between love and hate, between dominance and submission, between surrender and self-protection, without creating an enemy. Either we will learn how to grow and develop in this way or our narcissisticlongings for a “perfect love” will defeat us. I believe that the contemporary couple relationship has created an urgent and critical challenge to the stability of our families and our lives. I want this challenge to lead to greater wisdom instead of a failure to love.

Before we can learn to love under current conditions, we need to reflect a bit on our past traditions. Marriage moved relatively quickly from being a vow of impersonal loyalty and a commitment “in sickness and in health until death do us part” for the sake of the family and property to a personal and transitory vow “for as long as this meets my needs.” This shift has made everyone a little nervous, and some people now feel almost obliged to break off a relationship if they no longer find their own image and values reflected in the other person in the way they expect: “How can I be with someone like this?”

Charlie Foster_Unsplash
Source: Charlie Foster_Unsplash

Further, because ideas of the hierarchy are eschewed in our contemporary lives, our relationships are based on ideas of equality and reciprocity, as well as personal desire. Equality, mutuality, reciprocity, and desire are destabilizing influences in a partnership or a family because of the ongoing requirements to negotiate needs and conflicts on a day-to-day or even hour-to-hour basis. Frequent and repetitive negotiations require emotional and communication skills that most of us lack. Our ordinary daily conflicts can soon become exhausting and dispiriting because no solutions are arrived at. These conflicts (even the most benign ones, like “what color should we paint the kitchen?”) may threaten to undermine our commitment to our relationships because they quickly lead us to review whether or not we want to “live with someone who is like this.” On top of all this, human beings (Homo sapiens) may, unfortunately, despite their intentions, simply feel more comfortable and at ease in a hierarchy in which one individual seems to be in charge. Then, the power arrangements are clear even if they rest on oppression—and potentially, abuse.

But in today’s world, you most likely believe that you no longer want a hierarchy in your personal life. Instead, you want to be equal with your partner. You want to be respected, you want to be witnessed and held in mind, and you want to be found desirable and cared for. These are the demands of personal love.

This love is different from romance and from biological attachment bonds. Personal love is much more demanding and challenging than a secure attachment or pair bond because it typically requires functioning together with a partner in multiple roles in our daily lives and using psychological insights, and even spiritual skills, that are unfamiliar and may seem burdensome. Attachment bonds and biology play a role in personal love, but only a minor one. Living together over time and solving problems with someone who is meant to be your best friend, your co-parent, your sexual partner, and possibly your business partner, in a reciprocal and mutual relationship, is a radical new endeavor for which the old archetypes and myths, as well as the current neurological and biological models, do not provide adequate guidance.

In today’s marriage—I will use the term “marriage” loosely here to mean a long-term committed bond—you fall in love with a stranger to whom you then commit in a relationship in which you promise not to dominate, control, or break the trust. Furthermore, you must also remain true to yourself—your own needs and values—or the relationship will not thrive. Personal love, as we will see, breaks all the rules that marriage has followed for centuries. Most radical is that this kind of love requires that an emotional and mental space be created in which both partners can grow and develop psychologically and spiritually. And this process begins with disillusionment after the romance has ended.

While disillusionment is the death knell for the initial romance, it is a necessary development for personal love and romance to mature into ongoing intimacy. Here is a radical idea: when you fall in love you have fallen into your own unconsciousness, and you can only step out of that unconsciousness after you begin to see what you have projected—both in idealization and in disillusionment. It is the nature of projection that you see and feel as though the disavowed aspects of yourself (either idealized or devalued) are within another person, not yourself. You will feel this as a fact, as though it were absolutely true. But initial disillusionment is critically important on the path of love because it is the first opportunity to notice your projection—after it has become sour and negative, when your partner begins to seem like someone you don’t like and someone you must defend against.

You then must develop, as the next step, a more complex picture of your partner and yourself that includes your projected anxieties, images, and desires. The truth is that this other person cannot satisfy all (or maybe even most) of your needs or be your friend in all the ways you had hoped. Embracing this truth (again and again) in a way that does not prohibit intimacy and friendship with your partner is an ongoing commitment. The process of taking back our projections never ends. It means you have to maintain a kind of psychological openness that helps you repeatedly get to know your partner anew and to look at yourself with fresh eyes as well.

For personal love to develop into what I call “true love”—a powerful mixture of reality and desire—you must shift from disillusionment into friendship, from antagonism into cooperation, from your partner being your “intimate enemy” into being your intimate friend. As a result, it requires you to discover and embrace a more complex sense of who you are—your history, vulnerabilities, and so on—since this is the basis of both your idealizations and your disillusionments.

The defenses that surround the pain of disillusionment often keep couples from moving into being intimate after feeling like enemies. Partners, and their friends and relatives, also tend to make critical appraisals of a devalued partner such as “he’s an alcoholic” or “she’s needy” or “he has bipolar disorder” or “she’s an airhead.” These appraisals lead to gathering evidence and grievances to illustrate their circumstantial “truths.” And so, disavowed aggressions and feelings of the “moral superiority” of victimhood complicate many daily conflicts with “proof” that a devalued partner is defective or mean-spirited. True love, however, requires walking through disillusionment without losing your faith and hope of finding your best friend again through a fog of confusion, discouragement, and pain. Sadly, it is at the juncture of defensive disillusionment where most committed couples flounder and become discouraged and feel imprisoned. It is at this point where traditional marriages typically lost their way and entered into the War between the Sexes. Learning to navigate the path from disillusionment to true love is what all couples must learn to do in this new age.

Lip Service: A History of Kissing – In Pictures

The Guardian Article
By Holly Stafford

For the past 25 years, Barbara Levine and Paige Ramey have been collecting amateur photography. Based in Mexico and Texas, the artists have published a number of books together featuring vintage images found at flea markets and on eBay. Their latest is People Kissing: A Century of Photographs (Abrams & Chronicle, £11.99), which charts the evolution of the genre from Victorian postcards to automatic photo booths. Before photography, Levine says, kissing was largely a private affair. “Nowadays it’s a public act. People are encouraged to perform their affection for the camera.”

The Neuroscience of Romance: Your Brain on Love

See Author Article Here
By Sabrina Stierwalt

The Neuroscience of Romance: Your Brain on Love

Falling in love seems to be a basic part of human nature. It’s universalwe all know what love is even if we have a hard time defining it or detailing its complexities. And love transcends cultural and societal differences: in a historical study of 166 societies, anthropologist Helen Fisher found evidence that feelings of love existed in 147 of them. Thus, it appears we are not taught that love is important to us, but rather may be born knowing it.

But anyone who has ever been in love knows that love is complicated. Being in love can calm you down but it can also make you anxious. In our attempts to understand how the human brain works, neuroscientists have studied for decades what the complex mix of emotions we call love does to our brain. Can love cause us to lose focus? Is being in love addicting? And can science weigh in on the question of whether or not love can last?

Let’s find out today.

Our Brains See Love as a Reward

In a 2005 study, researchers compared functional MRI images of the brains of 2,500 college students while looking at someone they love relative to looking at an acquaintance. Scientists were thus able to map which regions of the brain are active when a person is experiencing feelings of love. They saw the most activity in two regions associated with seeking and detecting rewards, namely the caudate nucleus and the ventral tegmental area. These regions are also responsible for an increased production of dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitter. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that pass information from one neuron to the next. In the case of dopamine, that information is a signal to the brain that the person is feeling happy and finds the current activity rewarding.

Love Can Be Addicting

The increase in dopamine levels can act as a high or even inspire a state of euphoria when around the object of affection. In an effort to continue that lover’s high, you may find yourself wanting to be around the other person all of the time.

The part of our brain that processes attraction, often a precursor to love, is known as the opioid center and is, as you may have guessed, the same region responsible for our response to certain addictive substances including opioids like morphine. For example, in one, albeit smaller, study, a group of 30 men were given either small doses of morphine or a dose of an opioid suppressor. Those given the opioid rated attractive faces more highly and spent more time looking at them, suggesting that our brains can be primed to find others attractive by first stimulating the right region of the brain.

Also running high in love-addled brains are adrenaline, which can make your heart beat faster and your palms sweaty, and vasopressin, which triggers territorial feelings of loyalty and the need to protect. However…