When we fall in love, one part of the brain that becomes activated is the area that produces dopamine, a natural stimulant that produces feelings of excitement, craving, motivation and elation,” says Dr. Helen Fisher, author of Why Him? Why Her? How to Find and Keep Lasting Love and Chief Scientific Advisor for Chemistry.com. Brain scans of couples that have recently fallen in love show that the reward systems where dopamine is produced are activated. And for new couples, time together is often characterized by intense feelings of joy and excitement. But can these feelings be maintained over the years? Fisher and her colleagues also scanned the brains of happy couples who have been together for over 25 years and discovered that the reward systems of their brains were similarly activated when they were together. So what can couples do to make sure their feelings of love and excitement for each other stay fresh over time?
1. Variety, variety, variety
One secret to keeping your love alive may well be adding some variety to your date nights. “Novelty drives up dopamine production in the brain,” says Fisher, “and gives you the same feelings associated with romantic love. In fact, doing any activity that is new, dangerous or exciting will raise the brain’s dopamine levels.” Mixing things up is one of the easiest ways to keep a relationship exciting. So if you’ve got a favorite sushi place, it’s still OK to eat dinner there… just not every Friday night. “It is important to share your favorite places with your partner, but don’t go to the same spots over and over. Choose new things to do — a museum, a picnic, a bike ride to a new part of town,” suggests Fisher. Couples can brainstorm a master list of date night activities together that are new to both people, like tango classes, ice skating, visiting an art gallery or attending a lecture at a local college or library. Even mixing things up in small ways — like taking a new route or making plans with new friends — creates an air of date-night novelty.
2. Take turns planning your date nights
Another way to keep monotony at bay, suggests Fisher, is to take turns planning dates. If one of you always plans the dates, it’s easier to be lulled into a routine. When it’s your turn to plan date night, think of small and big ways to weave the unexpected into your evening. If you normally drive to a restaurant, try walking somewhere closer instead. If you have a standard movie night out, check your local listings for plays and concerts. If staying in and watching rented films is your go-to date, invite friends over to play board games or take turns finding new recipes to cook and enjoy together.
3. Go out without a plan
In the head-spinning start of a relationship, everything feels like an adventure as you discover your new partner’s world — their friends, favorite haunts, most beloved books and movies. Unplanned date nights can help couples foster this attitude of adventure throughout the course of their relationship. “Head out the door without a plan,” says Fisher, “and just see where the evening takes you.” Start by heading to a new neighborhood and taking a stroll, which might lead to dinner in a restaurant neither of you knew existed. Often, our most fun and memorable evenings are born from spontaneous and unexpected choices.
4. Go where no man has been before…or at least, neither of you
It’s only natural to take your new love to all of your favorite places and vice versa. But for at least one of you, these places will be lacking in the novelty associated with dopamine production. After you’ve visited your mutual hangouts, head off to discover fresh locations together. Check out restaurant reviews and try that new Thai place. Hike along on a trail that’s new to both of you. Find a guidebook for your city and read it together, scanning for adventures for you two to embark upon. Remember: keep it new, fresh — and keep the excitement of being in love alive!
Guys – it’s easy to get in a rut when it comes to dating/courting your wife. Many husbands don’t even bother. They have already “won the prize” and somehow feel that they don’t need to pursue, date or court her ever again. Nothing could be further from the truth. Your wife deeply desires to be wanted, to be needed, to be pursued and desired.
One of the best ways to stay emotionally connected/engaged with her is to deliberately plan time (date night, weekend getaway, etc.) together with just her. That means no double-dates, no group dates, etc. – just you and her. Please take a break from the movie theater. Go somewhere where you have to walk, talk, interact together. Difficult for most of us – but a huge gust of fresh wind on your wife’s emotional (connected with you) sails.
Be deliberate. Plan it ahead of time. Book a babysitter. Do whatever it takes. You’re marriage is worth it!
It starts with you,