I had the great opportunity recently to hear biological anthropologist Helen Fisher speak about the chemistry of love. Dr. Fisher’s extensive research on this subject has included interviews, brain scans, and studying many different cultures as well as animal behavior. She is a leading authority on the chemistry of love.
This research has big implications for your relationship and I would like to share this information with you. She has found that couples in love have increased chemicals in their brain such as dopamine, oxytocin, and testosterone (in men and women). These are the “fun” chemicals that make us feel good. When we first meet and fall in love with someone these chemicals saturate our brain. I always say someone in love is on drugs. They are out of their mind. They are obsessed, elated, and in denial all at once. We can all agree it is a fabulous feeling. One of these drugs, oxytocin is the in-love drug. Women who are breastfeeding have increased levels of oxytocin. I am sure you have observed a new mom with her baby. She can’t stop looking at her child, obsessing, and it is painful for her when she is away from her baby. One mom told me that when her child was first born she had neck problems from non-stop looking down at her baby! This in-love drug assists us in the bonding process in a new relationship. Sadly, the increase of these levels of chemicals in our brain generally does diminish about six months to two years into the relationship. Hopefully you as a couple have used this initial time to bond and therefore build a foundation to continue the relationship without the assistance of your feel good drugs. The good news is that Dr. Fisher has found that there are ways to boost these chemicals in our brains to maintain our love relationship even after these levels have dwindled:
Novelty is important for our relationship. Having new experiences on date nights increases these chemicals. Remember when you are first falling in love you are talking about new things, going new places, and having new experiences. So go out and try that experience you both have been talking about for years but have not done.
Touch increases those chemicals. Snuggling, holding hands, and rubbing each other are all ways that we can continue to stay connected. Some folks tell me they are not “touchy people”. Not an excuse, if you value your partner’s connection-start touching, put a reminder in your phone, post-its on your mirror, and evaluate how you are doing daily. Touch your partner or spouse and don’t let any of your own excuses get in the way. Ask yourself are you actively assisting the love connection in your relationship?
Sex is a strong biological bond. Many couples come to couples therapy struggling with this one. You may have stopped having sex as a couple. Unless you are sure this is ok for both of you, see if you can make a shift here. Going to a couples therapist or marriage counselor may help with this. It can be hard to jump into sex once the flow has been broken. But this is a workable problem. This may be a topic that has years of baggage with you two as a couple and/or you individually but it is worth taking a look at and making some changes.
So here is a start on some of the easy (and fun!) and even challenging ways of increasing your connection with your partner. As a couple decide to commit to taking time weekly to increase those levels of in-love drugs. Come on now, there is science behind it.
Please let me know some of the novel ways you have made shifts in your marriage or relationship to keep the love going. I know we all need new ideas to think outside of our relationship boxes.
And be sure and visit Helen Fisher’s website where you can learn more about her valuable work at HelenFisher.com