Most studies of love and marriage show that the decline of romantic love over time is inevitable. While brain scan studies show that some long-married couples do maintain intense romantic feelings, they seem to be the exception.
For most people, the butterflies of early romance quickly flutter away and are replaced by familiar, predictable feelings of long-term attachment. There’s nothing wrong with the calm, settled feeling of companionate love, and many couples wouldn’t trade the deep intimacy and commitment they’ve achieved for another whirl at passionate romance. But the risk of companionate love is that it might go stale and that, when it does, boredom and discontent will set in, and your hard-won intimacy will fade.
But it doesn’t have to happen. Love researchers have come up with a way for long-married couples to rekindle their early feelings of romance. Here’s the prescription: Embark on a regular date night, but reinvent it to include new and unusual experiences. How about that.
The advice is based in brain science. New experiences activate the brain’s reward system, flooding it with the brain chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine. These are the same brain circuits that are ignited in early romantic love, a time of exhilaration and obsessive thoughts about a new partner. And several experiments show that novelty—simply doing new things together as a couple—may help bring the butterflies back, re-creating the chemical surges of early courtship…..so go on try new things.