When I was in college, I had a knack for meeting men who were traveling through Italy (where I lived), and for some reason they kept falling in love with me. I mean, not that falling in love with me is such a preposterous idea – but it always seemed so rapid and so intense.
I often wondered why this seemed to happen so often as I showed them the Foro Romano and my favorite little Giardino degli Aranci. Meanwhile, at home in the States I’d have felt flattered if someone bothered to chat with me while we queued for coffee (which 9 times out of 10 was not coming from a place of romantic interest).
As much as I like to think it was just me, a new study shows this difference may have been related to brain chemistry: research shows that the brain responds to new experiences by pumping out dopamine and norepinephrine, the same neurotransmitters that flood the brain when you’re madly in love. This, it turns out, may be why it is very common to fall madly in love while traveling .
New experiences have an effect on relationships, too. Researchers surveyed 53 couples before and after assigning them to complete either a new task (e.g. seeing a play, going to a new part of town, skiing) or a familiar but pleasant one (e.g. watching a movie, going to dinner). 10 weeks later, the group who’d had “exciting” date nights reported feeling happier and more satisfied in their marriages than those who’d stayed in their comfort zones.
So if you’re dating or in a relationship, plan a date night where you’re doing something new. Go see a band you’ve never heard of, and make fun of it if you hate it. Take a capoeira lesson. See a cabaret, just for the hell of it.
Here are 50 more ideas to get those loving neurotransmitters going. You can thank us later.