Love is work
It’s no secret that lasting love takes dedication from both partners. Anyone who has been married will tell you that they key to a successful marriage is willingness to work hard. Studies of long-lasting relationships have found other commonalities including engaging in shared experiences, thinking positively about each other, and supporting each other’s personal growth. Genuinely caring about and enjoying the company of your partner makes the challenging periods in life seem less daunting.
Love is about connection
Studies have shown that loneliness can be just as bad for your physical health as smoking. Loving connections do not necessarily need to be romantic; while physical intimacy is always fun, other forms of intimacy can be just as meaningful. Shared activities can bring loving relationships that may or may not move to the next level, but still provide the human connection we crave. Belonging to a sports team, a church group, or a book club can allow you to experience other versions of love besides the physical kind.
Love is gratitude
Numerous studies have shown the connection between gratitude and happiness. When we intentionally focus on appreciating our partner, or the joys in our lives, we have higher self-esteem and a greater capacity to love. Exuding optimistic energy and a zest for life enhances the positive relationships in your life. When your partner feels appreciated and valued, they will in turn reciprocate these emotions.
Love is multi-faceted
So often we associate intimacy and love with the physical definition. Merriam-Webster defines love as “a strong affection for another rising out of kinship or personal ties.” We can feel strong love for family members and friends, and practicing a healthy version of platonic love can prepare us for healthy physical love. Confusing the definition of love leads us to false and unrealistic expectations in our romantic relationships.
Love is contagious
People who live fully and unapologetically are like magnets. Others want to be around them, basking in their joie de vivre. Someone who engages in positive self-talk and is convinced that happiness is non-negotiable inspires these same sentiments in others. There is a reason why your therapist tells you to surround yourself with positive people. When you love life, life loves you right back.
Love may not be forever
Another interesting human behavior is that we think we must mate for life. Our society tells us that we should grow up, find a partner, marry them, and live happily ever after. While this version of the traditional love story may play out for some, the reality is that our lived experiences can change us over time. Sometimes the love that is right for us at sixteen may not be the right love for us at forty. Sometimes, our relationships grow and change with us. Sometimes we have different loves for different periods of our lives. For some reason we’re scared to admit that relationships may not last forever. We would be much happier and more fulfilled if we could be honest about ourselves and our relationships. The landscape of our lives may change throughout our lived experiences, and so might our relationships.
Love is unique
“Opposites attract.” While this saying is not necessarily true, research has shown that people who are too similar or too different don’t make the best partners. A healthy amount of difference mixed with shared interests and common goals makes for the best partnerships. It’s comforting to see some of yourself reflected in the person you love, but also exciting to embrace what makes you different. A combination of similarities with and differences from your partner keep life comfortable but also interesting. Inevitably every relationship will be different, but the science behind successful relationships says that too similar and too different both won’t last.
Love has phases
Just like the moon, your love life can be cyclical. Scientists at Harvard say that your love at the beginning of a new relationship will look much different from your later love with the same person. The chemicals that are emitted during the early, “obsessive,” honey-moon phase of a relationship later calm down, making way for a calmer and more mature form of love. The National Institute of Health has a variety of studies showing that love can not only have affects like a sickness, but can also contribute to health benefits. For example, some studies show that married couples live longer. So, if you can weather the difficult phases of your love life, love does have cycles that can keep you healthy and happy.