How to Have a Better Relationship
Romantic love has been called a “natural addiction” because it activates the brain’s reward center — notably the dopamine pathways associated with drug addiction, alcohol, and gambling. But those same pathways are also associated with novelty, energy, focus, learning, motivation, ecstasy, and craving. No wonder we feel so energized and motivated when we fall in love!
But we all know that romantic, passionate love fades a bit over time, and (we hope) matures into a more contented form of committed love. Even so, many couples long to rekindle the sparks of early courtship. But is it possible?
How to Have a Better Relationship
The relationship researcher Arthur Aron, a psychology professor who directs the Interpersonal Relationships Laboratory at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, has found a way. The secret? Do something new and different — and make sure you do it together. New experiences activate the brain’s reward system, flooding it with dopamine and norepinephrine. These are the same brain circuits that are ignited in early romantic love. Whether you take a pottery class or go on a white-water rafting trip, activating your dopamine systems while you are together can help bring back the excitement you felt on your first date. In studies of couples, Dr. Aron has found that partners who regularly share new experiences report greater boosts in marital happiness than those who simply share pleasant but familiar experiences.
Diagnose Your Passion Level
The psychology professor Elaine Hatfield has suggested that the love we feel early in a relationship is different than what we feel later. Early on, love is “passionate,” meaning we have feelings of intense longing for our mate. Longer-term relationships develop “companionate love,” which can be described as a deep affection, and strong feelings of commitment and intimacy.
Where does your relationship land on the spectrum of love? The Passionate Love Scale, developed by Dr. Hatfield, of the University of Hawaii, and Susan Sprecher, a psychology and sociology professor at Illinois State University, can help you gauge the passion level of your relationship. Once you see where you stand, you can start working on injecting more passion into your partnership. Note that while the scale is widely used by relationship researchers who study love, the quiz is by no means the final word on the health of your relationship. Take it for fun and let the questions inspire you to talk to your partner about passion. After all, you never know where the conversation might lead.
How Much S**x Are You Having?
Let’s start with the good news. Committed couples really do have more S**x than everyone else. Do not believe it? While it’s true that single people can regale you with stories of crazy s**xual episodes, remember that single people also go through long dry spells. A March 2017 report found that 15 percent of men and 27 percent of women reported they hadn’t had sex in the past year. And 9 percent of men and 18 percent of women say they haven’t had S**x in five years. The main factors associated with a S**xless life are older age and not being married. So whether you’re having committed or married S**x once a week, once a month or just six times a year, the fact is that there’s still someone out there having less sex than you. And if you’re one of those people NOT having S**x, this will cheer you up: Americans who are not having S**x are just as happy as their S**xually-active counterparts.
But Who’s Counting?
Even though most people keep their S**x lives private, we do know quite a bit about people’s S**x habits. The data come from a variety of sources, including the General Social Survey, which collects information on behavior in the United States, and the International Social Survey Program, a similar study that collects international data, and additional studies from people who study S**x like the famous Kinsey Institute. A recent trend is that S**xual frequency is declining among millennials, likely because they are less likely than earlier generations to have steady partners.
Based on that research, here’s some of what we know about S**x:
- The average adult has S**x 54 times a year.
- The average S**xual encounter lasts about 30 minutes.
- About 5 percent of people have S**x at least three times a week.
- People in their 20s have S**x more than 80 times per year.
- People in their 40s have S**x about 60 times a year.
- S**x drops to 20 times per year by age 65.
- After the age of 25, sexual frequency declines 3.2 percent annually.
- After controlling for age and period, those born in the 1930s had S**x the most often; people born in the 1990s (millennials) had S**x the least often.
- About 20 percent of people, most of them widows, have been celibate for at least a year.
- The typical married person has S**x an average of 51 times a year.
- “Very Happy” couples have S**x, on average, 74 times a year.
- Married people under 30 have S**x about 112 times a year; single people under 30 have S**x about 69 times a year.
- Married people in their 40s have S**x 69 times a year; single people in their 40s have S**x 50 times a year.
- Active people have more S**x
- People who drink alcohol have 20 percent more S**x than teetotalers.
- On average, extra education is associated with about a week’s worth of less S**x each year.
Authored by By Tara Parker-Pope