As modern, liberated women, we often feel that we should not have to conform ourselves to the will and whims of men. And, we're not wrong about that. But, if we want to fan the flames of love, so that they'll keep us warm for a lifetime, a bit of honesty and a bit of knowledge about the human brain goes a long way.
The key to lasting love is attention.
There is actually not much difference between paying attention and loving. As humans, our attention is our most valuable commodity. When we love, we pay consistent loving attention.
Anthropologist and brain researcher Helen Fisher has scanned thousands of brains in love. Her research, summarized in her best-selling book Why We Love, is clear. A major variable in romantic love is novelty, as the survival mechanisms in the human brain are highly sensitized to it.
When scanning the prairie or tundra, there is no protective function to noticing the familiar. But, noticing an unusual movement, berry or wild animal can make the difference between life and death. Novelty garners attention, while familiarity elicits complacency.
The primary challenge of keeping the flames alive over the long term is keeping things new and fresh, even as things get familiar.
Variety is the spice of life. Keep your love spicy by stimulating the senses.
Since I don't live with my lover, I challenge myself to surprise him in some small way, every time we see one another.
Use the 5 Senses to Cultivate Novelty
1. Sight: Challenge yourself to make some very subtle but surprising change each time your lover really sees you. If you wake up side by side, this is more challenging, but it's still possible. Surprising seasonal colors, a fun new piece of jewelry and a new hairstyle are all options. As are all of the contents of the Victoria Secret catalogue.
2. Smell: A new, sweet aroma is a wonderful way to tantalize the senses. Smell is the sense most closely linked with memory, so if you are long-distance from your love or if they travel, smell is a great place to start. Be sensitive to chemical or synthetic smells (ie. in some cheap perfumes). My favorite smells to play with are essential oils, especially vanilla, lavender, and coconut.
3. Taste: I'm not much of a fan of the quote "the way to a man's heart is through his stomach," but that doesn't change the fact that it is true for many. Incorporate great food or wine, unique cuisine or a flavored lip gloss into your repertoire to surprise the taste buds.
4. Sound: The fun of playing with hearing and sound is that it creates an immersive, multi-sensory experience (because we're almost always using one or two other senses while we hear). Make playlists for quality time with your love (like in the olden days!), or put on some jazz over dinner to stimulate the ears. Adding a soundtrack of words or sounds of pleasure to love-making is another way to incorporate sound.
5. Touch: Humans need touch as much as we needed mother's milk as babies. If you want the flames of love to keep you warm for a lifetime, make sure that touch and varied touch is part of your relationship. In the bedroom, maintaining a variety of sexual positions is the best way to keep sex novel and surprising.
Fantasy and Role-Play to Cultivate Novelty
In a long-term committed relationship, the best way to roll all five strategies into one fun and satisfying approach is to incorporate fantasy and role-play into the bedroom. Fantasy and role-play embrace our human preference for growth and for a variety of different types of sensory stimulation. Even if you don't think of yourself as a creative or playful person, incorporating fantasy and role-play into your love relationship is a wonderful way to stretch that part of yourself, to deeply satisfying results.
Keeping the flames of love alive is a delicate dance. As relationship expert Esther Perel teaches, the very reason we find long-term love appealing is because of the security it offers us. But, our human brains are programmed for novelty. The key to keeping the flame alive is to keep things new and fresh, even as they feel safe and familiar. The result is the kind of lasting love that makes life worth living.
Sarene B. Arias is an ex-pat writer and healer. She loves connecting with her readers. Hear here on the Arias podcast or say hello at email@example.com.