Art by Rikuko
- About half of first marriages fail in the U.S., as do two thirds of second marriages and three quarters of third marriages.
- We fail in large part because we enter into relationships with poor skills for maintaining them and highly unrealistic expectations.
- The fix for our poor performance in romantic relationships: extract a practical technology from scientific research on how people learn to love each other—and then teach individuals how to use it.
Art by Hirokazu
1. Two as One. Embracing each other gently, begin to sense your partner’s breathing and gradually try to synchronize your breathing with his or hers. After a few minutes, you might feel that the two of you have merged.
Inhibitions. Countless millions of relationships have probably started with a glass of wine. Inhibitions block feelings of vulnerability, so lowering inhibitions can indeed help people bond. Getting drunk, however, is blinding and debilitating. Instead of alcohol, try the Two as One exercise above.
2. Soul Gazing. Standing or sitting about two feet away from each other, look deeply into each other’s eyes, trying to look into the very core of your beings. Do this for about two minutes and then talk about what you saw.
Art by Jayun
3. Monkey Love. Standing or sitting fairly near each other, start moving your hands, arms and legs any way you like—but in a fashion that perfectly imitates your partner. This is fun but also challenging. You will both feel as if you are moving voluntarily, but your actions are also linked to those of your partner.
Similarity. Opposites sometimes attract, but research by behavioral economist Dan Ariely of Duke University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and others shows that people usually tend to pair off with those who are similar to themselves—in intelligence, background and level of attractiveness. Some research even suggests that merely imitating someone can increase closeness. See the Monkey Love exercise above.
4. Falling in Love. This is a trust exercise, one of many that increase mutual feelings of vulnerability. From a standing position, simply let yourself fall backward into the arms of your partner. Then trade places. Repeat several times and then talk about your feelings. Strangers who do this exercise sometimes feel connected to each other for years.
Arousal. Studies by researchers such as psychologist Arthur Aron of Stony Brook University show that people tend to bond emotionally when aroused, say, through exercise, adventures or exposure to dangerous situations. Roller coaster, anyone? See the Falling in Love exercise above.
5. Secret Swap. Write down a deep secret and have your partner do the same. Then trade papers and talk about what you read. You can continue this process until you have run out of secrets. Better yet, save some of your secrets for another day
Self-disclosure. Research by Aron, Sprecher and others indicates that people tend to bond when they share secrets with each other. Once again, the key here is allowing oneself to be vulnerable. See the Secret Swap exercise above.
Art by Fujisawa Machi
6. Mind-Reading Game. Write down a thought that you want to convey to your partner. Then spend a few minutes wordlessly trying to broadcast that thought to him or her, as he or she tries to guess what it is. If he or she cannot guess, reveal what you were thinking. Then switch roles.
Art by Nariyuki
7. Let Me Inside. Stand about four feet away from each other and focus on each other. Every 10 seconds or so move a bit closer until, after several shifts, you are well inside each other’s personal space (the boundary is about 18 inches). Get as close as you can without touching. (My students tell me this exercise often ends with kissing.)
Proximity and familiarity. Studies by Stanford University social psychologists Leon Festinger and Robert Zajonc and others conclude that simply being around someone tends to produce positive feelings. When two people consciously and deliberately allow each other to invade their personal space, feelings of intimacy can grow quickly. See the Let Me Inside exercise above.
Art by Tetsukuzu Tetsuko
8. Love Aura. Place the palm of your hand as close as possible to your partner’s palm without actually touching. Do this for several minutes, during which you will feel not only heat but also, sometimes, eerie kinds of sparks.
Additional Factors from Studies on Intimacy
- In long-term, happy relationships, partners make each other laugh a lot
- Women often seek male partners who can make them laugh (possibly because when we are laughing, we feel vulnerable)
- People grow closer when they are doing something new
- Novelty heightens the senses and also makes people feel vulnerable
Kindness, accommodation and forgiveness.
- We tend to bond to people who are kind, sensitive and thoughtful
- Feelings of love can emerge especially quickly when someone deliberately changes his or her behavior to accommodate our needs
- Forgiveness often causes mutual bonding, because when one forgives, one shows vulnerability.
Touch and sexuality.
- The simplest touch can produce warm, positive feelings, and a backrub can work wonders.
- Even getting very near someone without actually touching can have an effect.
- Sexuality can make people feel closer emotionally, especially for women
- Sexual attraction should not be confused with feelings of love.
- Commitment is an essential element in building love
- People whose commitments are shaky interpret their partners’ behavior more negatively
- Covenant marriage is a new kind of marriage (emerging from the evangelical Christian movement) involving a very strong commitment: couples agree to premarital counseling and limited grounds for divorce
Source: Fall in Love and Stay That Way