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Re-Igniting the Romance with Date Night

Good news – doing new and exciting things together help keeps a relationship fresh and intense. AdventureMan and I have always wanted to take dance lessons together, but have never had the time. I can hardly wait! Snorkeling in a new and exotic site . . . an African safari . . . trying a new restaurant, a new cuisine . . . finding new places to explore . . . novelty helps keep a marriage fresh and engaging.

From The New York Times. You can click this blue type to read the entire article.

Long-married couples often schedule a weekly “date night” — a regular evening out with friends or at a favorite restaurant to strengthen their marital bond.

But brain and behavior researchers say many couples are going about date night all wrong. Simply spending quality time together is probably not enough to prevent a relationship from getting stale.

Using laboratory studies, real-world experiments and even brain-scan data, scientists can now offer long-married couples a simple prescription for rekindling the romantic love that brought them together in the first place. The solution? Reinventing date night.

Rather than visiting the same familiar haunts and dining with the same old friends, couples need to tailor their date nights around new and different activities that they both enjoy, says Arthur Aron, a professor of social psychology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. The goal is to find ways to keep injecting novelty into the relationship. The activity can be as simple as trying a new restaurant or something a little more unusual or thrilling — like taking an art class or going to an amusement park.

The theory is based on brain science. New experiences activate the brain’s reward system, flooding it with dopamine and norepinephrine. These are the same brain circuits that are ignited in early romantic love, a time of exhilaration and obsessive thoughts about a new partner. (They are also the brain chemicals involved in drug addiction and obsessive-compulsive disorder.)

Most studies of love and marriage show that the decline of romantic love over time is inevitable. The butterflies of early romance quickly flutter away and are replaced by familiar, predictable feelings of long-term attachment.

. . . . . .

Dr. Aron cautions that novelty alone is probably not enough to save a marriage in crisis. But for couples who have a reasonably good but slightly dull relationship, novelty may help reignite old sparks.

And recent brain-scan studies show that romantic love really can last years into a marriage. Last week, at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology conference in Albuquerque, researchers presented brain-scan data on several men and women who had been married for 10 or more years. Interviews and questionnaires suggested they were still intensely in love with their partners. Brain scans confirmed it, showing increased brain activity associated with romantic love when the subjects saw pictures of their spouses.

It’s not clear why some couples are able to maintain romantic intensity even after years together. But the scientists believe regular injections of novelty and excitement most likely play a role.

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April 15, 2009 Posted by | Adventure, Community, Family Issues, Health Issues, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Marriage, Mating Behavior, Social Issues | 5 Comments