Recent findings, however, indicate that these predictions may be too negative. Psychologist Arthur Aron of SUNY Stony Brook and colleagues presented a rosier scenario at a recent meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in Washington, D.C. Aron’s research team selected 10 women and seven men who claimed they were still in love with their partners. The average time together was 21 years.
The individuals were shown a photograph of their partners, while their brain waves were studied with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). The results were then compared to brain-wave patterns of a group of people still in the blissful phase with less than one year together. Surprisingly, the results revealed that those with more than a two-decade history of marriage paralleled those with less than a year of hotsy romance.
These findings run counter to the conventional wisdom that love is bound to fade after just a few years. The notion of the “seven-year itch,” while popular and accurate for some couples, does not always hold true.
Time has an effect on all relationships. With some individuals, it erodes loving, passionate, sexual and positive feelings. Yet this study showed objective evidence that some manage to hold on to their romantic emotions after decades. Their brain lights up with a warm glow when they merely see a picture of their life partner. Although half of all marriages end in divorce, it is heartening to realize that some are outstandingly successful and can withstand the test of time.
Dr. Graceffo is a retired psychiatrist and nationally ranked distance runner. His column appears weekly in The New Times.