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The Case for Love Maintenance  

Last month I promised to share some simple things you can do to maintain the feeling of love or connection.  This builds on the idea that love is something that needs to be nurtured and fed in order to stay healthy.  Before I get into the specifics, I think it might be useful to look at the statistics on marriage success in different cultures.

In the United States, about half of marriages end in divorce.  Divorce rates are even higher for remarriages, with about two thirds of second marriages and three quarters of third marriages ending in divorce.  In cultures with arranged marriages, divorce is much less frequent. 

Now, many will likely say marriages in those cultures are based on different ideals, but it seems people in arranged marriages want love and connection just as much as anyone else.  The results of one research study are particularly interesting.  A scale to measure romantic love, the kind of ideal you often see in movies and stories, was used to track love over time in “love marriages” versus arranged marriages.  In the first, love started very high and declined fairly rapidly.  In arranged marriages, love started low and gradually increased.  At about five years there was a cross, with arranged marriages surpassing love marriages in the amount of love they reported.  After ten years, those in arranged marriages reported twice as much love. 

What’s going on here?  It seems cultures that utilize arranged marriages don’t buy the “fall in love” myth.  They see love as something that needs to grow over time and needs to be nurtured. 

I’m not advocating we start using arranged marriages.  I’m a pretty romantic guy at one level and like all the gushy falling in love stuff.  But I am certainly advocating we take responsibility for nurturing, feeding, and tending the love in our intimate relationships.  I am planning on taking the next few newsletters to talk about the things that contribute to the growth and maintenance of love and intimacy. 

I promised something simple to maintain the feeling of connection.  Interestingly enough, being physically close increases feeling of connection, as does eye contact.  Try this exercise with the person you love.  Stand or sit about two feet from each other and look deeply into each others eyes.  After about two minutes talk to each other about what you see.  Sounds goofy, and it is kind of, but try it anyway.  You may have difficulty maintaining eye contact for that long.  This is likely because looking silently into someone’s eyes often makes us feel vulnerable.  But that is a subject for a future letter.