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Where there is love … there is life!

By Bernadette Kathryn, LMT, IHLC


Where there is love, there is life.

~ Mahatma Gandhi


What’s The Secret to Staying Madly in Love?


According to an article published in Psychology Today that reviews a recent study published online in the journal ~ Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, that sets out to answer the question – Is it even possible to feel madly in love with someone after five, ten, twenty years together?


The study investigated which brain regions are associated with long-term romantic love and can we sustain long-term love with one partner for our lifetime?


Love  ~ intense romantic love typifies symptoms (common to being newly in love) including:

  1. Craving for union
  2. Focused attention
  3. Increased energy with the partner
  4. Motivation to do things that make the partner happy
  5. Sexual attraction and thinking about the partner when apart


Being Madly in Love Can Last!


The results of the study indicate that feeling of intense passion can last in long-term relationships. “We found many obvious similarities between those who were in love long-term and those who had just fallen madly in love,” says Dr. Aron. “In this latest study, the VTA showed greater response to images of a long-term partner when compared with images of a close friend or any of the other facial images.”


The results revealed many other fascinating findings, uncovering some keys to maintaining lasting love.


Sexual Frequency – a bonus in long-term love!


A common question that couples wonder is if the sexual frequency and interest can be maintained through long-term relationships. The answer is YES! The couples in long-term romantic love reported high sexual frequency and higher sexual frequency was linked to activation in a particular brain region. This area is the very sexy left posterior hippocampus. These results indicate that participants in long-term love showed greater activation in the dorsal hippocampus. Because the posterior hippocampus is related to feelings of cravings and satiating desires, this brain region can hold the key to understanding how some couples stay sexually interested and passionate about long-term relationships.


Closeness and Union are Our Motivation!


Romantic long-term love activates the dopamine-rich brain regions. This information suggests that romantic love is a desire and a motivation to unite with another. Therefore, behaviors such as wanting to be close to one’s partner or do things to make the partner happy, are enacted to maintain closeness and union. We all do it; we want to cook a special meal for our lover, we want to wear something that will make them say “WOW” and we want to feel the touch of their hand on our shoulder or neck. We want the loving kiss for no reason and the caress of their body close to us when we snuggle on the sofa during a movie. We relish in those moments that bring us closer together without even having to say anything.


Attachment, Monogamy, and Bonding


The results of the study also revealed some unexpected and fascinating findings on attachment. The brain scans of participants show that the same parts of the brain that are active for long-term romantic love have been known to be engaged in the maternal attachment. These brain regions have a high density of oxytocin and vasopressin receptors. Oxytocin and vasopressin receptors are unusual because they have been shown to regulate social behavior, monogamy, and bonding.


Feeling Safe and Secure is Important


Another exciting discovery from this ground-breaking research concerns the body’s regulation of pain and stress and its relationship to romantic love. The study shows intense romantic love activates specific regions of the brain. These areas are also involved in the body’s response to pain and stress. Past research has suggested that the goal of the attachment system is to feel a sense of security. This data indicates that our association with an attachment figure reduces pain and stress. We can surmise from this information that feeling safe and secure is essential in long-term romantic, loving relationship.


Friendship-Based Love vs. Romantic Love


The research confirms a surprising difference between romantic love and friendship-based love. This research has suggested that wanting and liking are two different motivations, which are mutually exclusive. The evidence of the study shows that romantic/passionate love is associated with characteristics of wanting, while friendship-based love related characteristics of liking. The data suggest that romantic love is a motivation or a drive based on wanting, focused on a specific target, rather than a feeling or emotion. The same ‘wanting’ that fuels our desire for attachment, perhaps.


Long-Term Romantic Love vs. Early-Stage Love


While long-term romantic appears similar to early-stage romantic love, the study indicates that many more brain regions are affected by long-term romantic love than in early-stage love. The scans reveal long-term love promotes brain activity which was not active in early-stage love. These areas are involved in regulating anxiety and pain. This data suggests that one crucial distinction between long-term love and early-stage love is a sense of calmness, characteristic the stability, security, and safety found in attachment and the love that binds us.


Conclusions … 


  • We have learned that romantic love can be sustained in long-term relationships, yahoo!
  • The key to sustaining long-term romantic love is to understand it a bit scientifically.
  • Our brains view long-term passionate love as a goal-directed behavior to attain rewards.


Rewards can include:

  • The reduction of anxiety and stress
  • Feelings of security
  • A state of calmness
  • A union with another


In long-term relationships, we slowly incorporate our partner into our notion of our self. As we move in our partnership from early-stage love to long-term love, our attachment to our partner grows. And when we behave in a way that makes our partner happy, we enhance and maintain our relationship by working towards a common goal of sustaining the rewards of a long-term loving relationship.



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