Ah, love. It’s practically a cultural obsession, and it’s something we think about a lot at Mend: what’s happening in your brain when you see your significant other and turn into the happiest little puddle of jello? How do you love someone without losing yourself? What makes couples happy and keeps them together?
But does love actually make us happier? It looks like the answer is no. Er, well, not exactly.
Research shows that after the blissful intoxication of falling in love, most people come off the high within 2 years of starting the relationship, at which point their happiness levels return to about where they were beforehand (there are outliers, though: the people who experience the biggest happiness gains when they fall in love have a longer happiness half-life).
Psychologists refer to this ability to adapt to the things that bring us happiness-- and to therefore eventually enjoy them less-- as "hedonic adaptation." So the very adaptive ability that makes us a dynamic species capable of reacting to change also robs us of perma-infatuation.
But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing; as Jane Brody wrote for the New York Times, the transition from pure passion to partnership is a completely necessary and healthy function of growing together.
If the kind of love we experience inevitably changes, how can we make the Two Year Transition well? Most therapists agree that it's important to put in the work to maintain a healthy relationship long before there are ever problems, and research shows there are many ways to go about this. Here are 4 research-supported ideas for you to try:
1. Try Something New
Excitement is invigorating, and stimulates all the same neural pathways that light up when we fall in love, so try an activity together that's totally out of of the norm.
2. Support Them
To make your partner feel loved, try making a point of supporting him or her in the things they care about.
3. Get In Touch
Research also shows that consciously upping nonsexual touch also helps strengthen the sense of connection and support.
4. #NetflixAndChill (And Then Talk About It)
Even something as simple as watching a movie together and discussing the relationship aspects of the story can bring you together and benefit the relationship long term.