Young love floods the brain with a cocktail of neurotransmitters that enhance attraction, pleasure, and commitment. In young love, this cocktail can prove dangerous, blinding young lovers to the red flags and flaws of their partner. They are too “drunk on love” to truly discern what everyone around them already knows. But, as time goes on, this cocktail loses its potency. Neurotransmitter levels return to normal and feelings begin to level out. The love shared by young lovers becomes tested and their true level of commitment becomes apparent. Mature love, a love that transcends mere passion to incorporate commitment and investment into the relationship, can develop at this time. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying the feelings and passion of young love does not play a role in mature love. It just becomes supported by a foundation of commitment and investment. In fact, I really think it’s a great idea for every marriage to add an emotional, passionate cocktail of neurotransmitters to their foundation of commitment and investment. Not only do I think it a good idea, I have a recipe. It is composed of three ingredients (Taken from The Neurochemistry of Love).
Dopamine is the first ingredient in this perfect love cocktail. Dopamine is a feel-good neurotransmitter. We experience pleasure when it is released. One author notes that dopamine is released in response to “the chase,” the pursuit of love. Dopamine also alerts us that our needs are about to be met. For instance, the smell of the charcoal grill alerts us that our hunger will soon be satisfied by grilled burgers or steak. Ahh, the joy…. Anyway, you can see how dopamine adds to the cocktail of love. You can add it into your love potion by continuing to pursue your spouse. Learn about your spouse and what entices them, excites them, or makes them feel loved ( Discover Your Love Language here). Then pursue your spouse by romancing them with your knowledge of their likes and interests. Put on the perfume he enjoys. Bring the gift that you know she likes. Say the words that “make their heart swoon.” Every time you do, you give them a shot of dopamine. They feel good. You feel good. The pursuit is on. Soon, your spouse will get a little shot of dopamine when you walk in the room with that smile on your face that says something good is on the way.
Oxytocin, the “love hormone” itself, adds the second component in this cocktail of love. Oxytocin is triggered by touch. Something as simple as holding hands or a hug releases oxytocin. When you invest in repeatedly holding hands or hugging your spouse over years of committed relationship, you build an “oxytocin quick release system.” It is more easily released, which is good since oxytocin also promotes trust. Who doesn’t want trust in their marriage? So, bring on the touch and add a shot of oxytocin into your marital cocktail of love. Hold hands. Hug. Sit with arms touching. Put your hand on your spouse’s leg. Enjoy physical touch. (Read An Easy Way to Get in Sync for more.)
Serotonin is the third ingredient in this love cocktail. Serotonin is stimulated by associating with a person of status. You can add this into your love cocktail by building a reputation of keeping your promises. Build a reputation as a kind person, a compassionate person, a patient person. Become known among your friends and community as a person of honor and integrity. As you grow in a reputation of a good person, you spouse will get a shot of serotonin to enhance your marital love cocktail. (More for men.)
These three ingredients will make a cocktail of love to keep your marriage young. Added to commitment, this cocktail can enhance your marriage and your love. Adding them in is simple: 1) learn about your spouse and continue to pursue them with romance; 2) engage in loving touch every day, and 3) build a reputation of honor and integrity.
I discovered an amazingly impactful prep school for young adulthood romance, aka, young love. Notice I said “impactful” not “effective.” This prep school can effectively promote healthy romance in young adulthood, but it can also effectively promote problematic, drama-filled and even violent romance in young adulthood. Makes you wonder if we even want our children to attend this prep school, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, you have no choice about whether your children attend. They will and do attend this prep school. Fortunately, you have total control over staffing and curriculum! The prep school is your home. The staff are the parents of your children (that’s you). The curriculum is your marriage and your parenting strategies.
Researchers at Penn state recruited 974 adolescents to assess this prep school (Read about it in Parents May Help Prep Kids for Healthier, Less Violent Relationships.) They met with the young people three times between sixth and ninth grade to gather information about how their families got along, how consistent and harsh punishment was in their home, and how they interacted with their parents. Then, when the children were around 19.5-years-old, the researchers asked them about their romantic relationships including their feelings of love, their problem-solving abilities, and whether they ever engaged in physical or verbal violence with their romantic partner. They discovered three curriculum and staffing guidelines for the most positive and effective prep school for young love.
A prep school that produced young adults who engaged in better problem solving within their romantic relationships utilized staff (parents) who created a supportive home and practiced positive parenting (Dunkin’ Donuts & A Better Behaved Child tells more). Supportive home and positive parenting practices strike a balance between rules and relationship. Parents in such home lead in love, promote values built on a foundation of love, and discipline from a position of love. (Where are you On the Parenting See-Saw )
A prep school that produced young adults who felt more love and connection in their romantic relationships promoted a positive engagement between children and staff (parents). Work to create a close bond with your children. This will involve investing time in their lives, following through on promises, and learning about their interests and hobbies. Engage with your children in daily routines, play, and activities that promote connection. (Here are 3 Simple Ways to Bond With Your Child)
A prep school associated with a lower risk of violence in young adults’ romantic relationships was one which built a more “cohesive and organized family climate.” In other words, the family prep school provided enough structure and love to promote a sense of security and safety. It provides the structure of a predictable daily life that allows each person to have a fair understanding of the “next event” as well as their role in the home. It also provides the love that undergirds each person’s sense of inherent worth and value while guiding them toward a healthier, independent life. This combination of structure that flows from love promotes cohesion and stability. In this balance of structure and love, curriculum includes validation and problem-solving, learning to persist, acceptance of temporary failures as learning experiences.
If you are a parent, you currently run a Young Adulthood Romance (YAR) Preparatory School for your children. I propose you implement these three curriculum and staffing guidelines for your children today. You will be so happy you did when they bring home their boyfriends or girlfriends in the future!
Marriages thrive when spouses honor one another on a daily basis. In fact, spouses who honor one another exhibit more humor and affection during conflict. They make-up with one another more effectively after negative interactions. They also report more romance, passion, and better sex when they honor and feel honored. I don’t know about you, but I want more humor, affection, easier repair, more romance, and better sex in my marriage. So, how can we honor our spouses? One great way to honor our spouses is to show them kindness. It’s that simple: show them kindness. In case you have difficulty thinking of kind things to do for your spouse I’ve listed 30 below, one for each day of the next month. (I must admit, I did get some help coming up with ideas because I couldn’t think of 30 on my own.) Hopefully, this list will give us all a good start.
Get up early and make breakfast for your spouse.
Go one step further and serve your spouse breakfast in bed.
Clean your spouse’s car, inside and out.
Text your spouse throughout the day just to let him know you’re thinking about him.
Give your spouse a sincere compliment.
Help your spouse with a project she is working on.
Learn about something that interests your spouse (a hobby or special topic) and show your love for him by talk with him about his interest.
Give your spouse a back rub.
Tell your spouse something you admire about her.
Make a list of 10-15 things you love about your spouse and leave it under his pillow.
Do one of your spouse’s chores.
Surprise your spouse with a small gift.
Prepare your spouse’s favorite meal or desert.
Watch your spouse’s favorite show or movie with her.
Call or text your spouse during the day just to say, “I love you” or “I was thinking about you.”
Thank your spouse for something he/she did today.
Tell your spouse some character trait your truly appreciate or admire in him/her.
Plan a date with your spouse and enjoy the time together.
Smile at your spouse.
Give your spouse a long, loving hug.
Hide love notes for your spouse throughout the house for her to find during the week.
Leave a special note of appreciation in your spouse’s car.
Ask your spouse about her day and listen with interest.
Share a favorite memory of your time together.
Get dressed up to greet your spouse at the end of the day.
Hold the door open for your spouse.
Let your spouse control the remote for the evening.
Offer to get your spouse a snack or drink…and bring it to her.
Mail your spouse a card telling him how much you love him. (I know you could just hand it to him, but everyone likes to get mail!)
And for those months with 31 days…make your spouse laugh.
Give these acts of kindness a go. Maybe do one a day for the next month or double them up for a day. And, please give us your ideas for kind deeds in the comment section below. We might start a Kindness-in-Marriage-Revolution that could flow from our marriages to our families to our communities to our world.
Don’t have a lot of money? Wonder how to put a little romance in your marriage when you can’t afford a dozen roses, a fancy dinner out, or a movie and popcorn? Well, go “old school.” “Old school” romance often costs very little and still packs a punch! In fact, this “old school” romance tip will only cost you time and attention; but, in spite of the low cash expenditure, the dividends are amazing. It’s really simple, too. What is it? Go for a walk. Hold hands and go for a walk. Seriously…check out these surprising ways in which going for a walk can benefit your marriage.
Going for a walk will increase symptoms of physiological arousal, symptoms like a slightly racing pulse, a subtle shortness of breath, and, if you walk up a hill or at a brisk pace, a minor case of the sweaty palms. These symptoms mirror the symptoms of romantic attraction. At least one classic study (Read the abstract here) suggests we attribute symptoms of physiological arousal to romantic attraction under the right circumstances. Walking with your spouse presents those “right circumstances.” So, going for a walk can make you “fall in love” all over again.
Walking together helps increase the bond you share with your spouse. You and your spouse have to match pace to walk together. Couples tend to subconsciously mimic their partner’s steps and pace. In doing so, you increase your sense of attunement with your spouse (See Mimicry in Social Interactions for more). More attuned leads to a deeper bond; a deeper bond leads to greater intimacy in your marriage.
If you decide to increase your walk to a more challenging run or ballroom dance, you may find even more romantic benefits. Researchers discovered the physiological arousal of “invigorating activities” engaged in together led to greater feelings of satisfaction and romantic attraction (For more click here). In other words, your marriage becomes more satisfying and more intimate. Sounds good to me!
You will also get in better shape. Exercise is good for us. And, let’s face it; we are attracted to those who take the time to increase their physical health.
Don’t forget…you also increase your intimacy by interacting with one another as you walk. Talking to one another. Tell one another about your day. Share your thoughts and feelings. Talk about the news. Talk about your dreams. Each discussion increases your feelings of love and connection.
See what I mean. That “old school” romance got it going on! You can renew your sense of romance, build a closer bond, get in shape, and share intimate conversation all with this one “old school” romance activity. So, grab your spouse by the hand and get on out there and take a walk. Oh, but before you do, enjoy this “old school” song that talks about the joys of “walking” together.
Revlon commissioned a study in 2015 and partnered with Fordham University to complete it. This study recruited 710 women to follow a “daily beauty ritual” and report its impact on their love life. The “daily beauty ritual” included looking into a mirror while applying a fragrance, applying eye make-up, enjoying a chocolate, applying lipstick, taking a deep breath, and smiling. (My favorite parts are enjoying a chocolate and smiling.) After four days:
97% of the women felt a positive change in themselves
77% of the women felt more outgoing and social
74% of the women were more likely to flirt
71% of the women reported wanting more romance
65% of the women noticed an increase in compliments from their partner
60% of the women said their partner was more affectionate toward them
58% of the women said their partner was more romantic
56% of the women felt that others, including their partner, flirted with them more
Overall, this study seems to suggest that a daily beauty ritual charges their internal and external environment in a way that increases the likelihood of romance and intimacy. I have to admit, I have reservations (and questions) about this study and its validity; but, it does make a good point. You can deepen intimacy and heighten romance in your marriage by intentionally taking care of yourself and “looking your best” for your spouse. Taking care of your self—dabbing on some make-up, enjoying a small treat, putting on nice clothes, exercise—enhances feelings of confidence and competence. It makes us feel better about ourselves and we express that confidence in our actions and our interactions. Even more, when we take care of ourselves for our partner—putting on clothes to look nice for them, looking our best with them in mind—we also express how much we value them and their attention. Let’s face it…that is romantic! We find it romantic when our spouse thinks about our desires and our ideas. So, if you want to deepen intimacy with your spouse, take care of yourself. If you want to heighten the romance, take care of yourself with the tastes of your spouse in mind. And, most important, enjoy the romance.
According to research, practicing gratitude can benefits your marriage and family in numerous ways. Let me share 7 of the benefits I think all families need to know.
Gratitude “vaccinates” against impulsiveness and poor self-control. Of course, this is not a one-time vaccine. We need to practice “gratitude boosters” on a daily basis to get the best results. In fact, research suggests that the more regularly a person experiences gratitude, the more self-control they seem to have. Want your children and spouse to be less impulsive and exhibit better self-control, model and teach gratitude!
Teaching teens to be grateful decreases problem behavior. A four year study in New York found that grateful teens had a greater sense of meaning in their life, were more satisfied with their overall life, and were more hopeful about their lives. Grateful teens also showed less of a tendency to abuse drugs and alcohol. They were less likely to have behavior problems in school.
Gratitude increases patience, especially when it comes to financial decisions. A study from the Northeastern University’s College of Science assessed the impact of a number of positive emotions on patience when making financial decisions. Gratitude increased patience more than happiness or neutral emotions. In other words, grateful teens are less likely to make that impulsive purchase.
Gratitude increases happiness in life. Kent State University published a study in which college students wrote letters of gratitude to people who had positively impacted their lives. They wrote one letter every two weeks for a six week period. Each letter had to be “positively expressive, required some insight and reflection, were nontrivial and contained a high level of appreciation or gratitude.” After each letter, students completed a survey to assess their mood, satisfaction with life, and feelings of happiness. Not surprisingly, happiness increased with each letter! Why not write a letter of gratitude to someone who has impacted your life?
Gratitude strengthens marital relationships.Researchers from University of Georgia asked 468 married individuals about their financial well-being, communication styles, and expressions of spousal gratitude. Results of the survey indicated that expression of gratitude was the most consistent and significant predictor of marital quality. It protected couples from the negative effects of poor communication during conflict and was more important than financial status in producing happiness in the marriage. In other words, grateful spouse, happy spouse!
Gratitude strengthens romantic relationships. Sara Algoe, a professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, found that expressing gratitude in conversations led to stronger relationships, a greater adaptability to change, and a more positive relationship in general. A simple “thank you” can increase the romance in your marriage.
Gratitude helps us achieve and maintain satisfaction with our spouse. Sara Algoe, in another study, found that expressions of gratitude gave a boost to romantic relationships. In fact, the positive effects of gratitude on a marital relationship were still felt the day after it was expressed. Her research suggests that everyday gratitude serves an important function in maintaining happy, intimate relationships. In other words, if you want an ongoing happy marriage, practice gratitude every day.
Oh, the power of gratitude. A sincere “thank you” carries amazing power. Power you hold on the tip of your tongue! Start improving your family life today by wielding this power. Simply inject some gratitude into your everyday conversation. Keep it up and watch your family follow suit. In a month’s time you may have a new family to enjoy…thanks to the power of gratitude!
I am a male. So I write this blog with great hesitation. But, I am also a father of two daughters. So, I feel compelled to pass this scientific finding on to my daughters…and all of you. An article in Medical News Today reported the results of a study analyzing the winners of the Darwin Awards (click here to read). The Darwin Awards “commemorate individuals who protect our gene pool by making the ultimate sacrifice of their own lives. Darwin Award winners eliminate themselves in an extraordinarily idiotic manner, thereby improving our species’ chance of long-term survival.” I have enjoyed reading the Darwin Awards. You can read the stories of several Darwin Award nominees on the Darwin Award website.
A recent analysis examined the Darwin Award nominations of the past 20 years and found 332 independently verified and confirmed. Of those 332, only 318 involved individuals (14 involved joint male and female nominees). Of the 318 verified Darwin Awards, 282 were awarded to men. Only 36 were given to women. In other words, 88.7% of Darwin Awards are won by men! The authors believe this verified their hypothesis: “Men are idiots and idiots do stupid things.” Now you know why I hate reporting this information to you. But, I am the father of two daughters and I want them to be aware of the variety of males swimming in the dating pool. I want to warn them to choose carefully when looking for a date…and, even more significantly, when choosing a mate. In that dating pool, a percentage of males are idiots. Not all, mind you, but a portion. So, let us encourage our daughters to choose wisely!
Of course, you and I are not Darwin Award Nominees…and we live to proclaim this fact. We do not fall into the percentage of men who never have the opportunity to speak of how they won the Darwin Awards (you have to die to become a recipient). And, we want our daughters to choose men in their lives like us…non-recipients of the Darwin Award. With that in mind, let me share four ways you can encourage your daughters to choose a boyfriend (and eventually a husband) like you, a wise man who will never receive a nomination for a Darwin Award.
Model wisdom. Think before you act. Practice restraint. Learn to seek out godly wisdom before making choices. Let your daughter witness you accepting your wife’s influence when making decisions that impact your family. The more she witnesses you living wisely, the less likely she is to date a Darwin Award nominee.
Be involved in your daughter’s life. Women who have involved fathers show greater wisdom in choosing boyfriends and, eventually, a husband (click here to learn more). Daughters with a secure, supportive relationship with their father are less likely to experience teen pregnancy. They also tend to have romantic relationships that are more emotionally intimate and fulfilling. By remaining actively involved in your daughter’s life, you increase the chance that she will choose a wise mate…just like her Dad.
Communicate with your daughter. Talk about the news. Learn about her interests. Tell her about your feelings, fears and hopes. Enjoy simple daily conversation about the little humdrum aspects of life, but don’t stop there. Take time to have intimate, heart-felt, vulnerable talks of life with her as well. Learn about her and let her learn about you. Open up and share. In doing so, your daughter will more likely avoid the Darwin Award nominee when choosing a man for her life.
Meet your daughter’s boyfriends. Don’t let your daughter date the unknown boy. Have her bring him to the house. Invite him to dinner. Talk with him. Get to know him. Learn about his interests, strengths, and interests. Encourage him to think before acting. Assure him that you are actively involved in your daughter’s life and will remain her protector throughout her dating career. Just knowing you will be interacting with any boy she brings home will help her choose more wisely.
Fathers, we need to take a stand against the bad rap of this study. Those of us who make wise choices, and never win a Darwin Award, need to unite. We must protect our daughters from those men who might gain a nomination in their lifetime. Step up and model wisdom for your daughter. Remain involved in her life. Communicate intimately with her. Meet her boyfriends. Keep the Darwin Award out of the family!
Whether you want to spend a romantic night with your spouse or a relaxed evening with your whole family, stargazing fits the bill. I remember laying a blanket out in the back yard so my daughters, my wife, and I could lie back, look at the stars, and talk. We talked about the constellations (mostly them pointing constellations out to me) as well as life, beliefs, dreams, and whatever silly ideas came to mind. Stargazing is relaxing. It provides a lovely backdrop for building family intimacy as well as the perfect romantic setting after the kids go to bed.
Stargazing can also become a great family hobby—a hobby that promotes togetherness and the opportunity to stand in awe of the vastness of God and His creation…or talk about myths and romance…all while having a snack. Depending on where you live, a stargazing family could have enjoyed a lunar eclipse, a solar eclipse, Pegasus crossing the sky, and mercury peeking into the morning sky last month (October, 2014). And, this month (November, 2014) will offer a great time to see Mercury just before sunrise in the Eastern sky.
Two sites that will give more information about stargazing are StarDate and Stargazing Tonight. Check them out. Then go for a walk on a clear night and enjoy the stories of stars and constellations. Share dreams. Recall what the stars mean in your beliefs (such as Abraham being promised by God that his descendants would number like the stars of the sky). Stand in awe at the vastness of God and His creation. And, for the sake of family, enjoy one another’s company as you stargaze for a family fun night.
Remember the joys of dating…the spark, the excitement, the anticipation? After marriage the pressure of paying bills, running kids from activity to activity, meeting the demands of work, and the rush of life can all creep in to rob us of that spark. In 10 Great Dates to Energize Your Marriage, authors David & Claudia Arpaim to help you rekindle that spark, reconnect with your spouse, and make new memories…and, it’s loads of fun!
10 Great Dates to Energize Your Marriage provides you with topics to discuss with your spouse while enjoying a date; in fact, 10 topics for 10 dates. Topics include communication, conflict resolution, building unity based on individual strengths, sharing responsibilities, developing an exciting and fulfilling sexual relationship, balancing marriage with parenting, and developing spiritual intimacy. Each partner prepares for the date by reading a short chapter and answering a few discussion starters/exercises to help you think about the lessons of the chapter. Then the fun begins–take your spouse on a date. Enjoy the time together. Be creative…or romantic…as you plan your date. While enjoying your date, discuss your relationship in light of the chapter you read. Keep it positive and discuss how you can create the marriage you both desire. Most importantly, have fun, celebrate your love, and energize your marriage while enjoying the joy and excitement of dating again.Book available at