The announcement that Al and Tipper Gore are splitting up after 40 years rocked the news media. They’ve reminded all of us that no one knows what’s happening inside a marriage except the people living it.
What’s the secret to lasting happiness in marriage? Only you and the person you’re married to can answer that question. The experts on the topic are no better at spotting troubled marriages than the bartender you pour your troubles out to. Which is to say, not good at all.
In a scientific study mentioned in the New York Times this week, pastors, marriage counselors and relationship experts were shown videos of couples talking and fighting. They had to guess which couples later divorced. They got it wrong as often as they got it right.
So you can’t tell by watching people interact with their spouses. What about a peek under the hood? Can brain scans tell us what makes a lasting marriage tick?
A bit. People who are passionate about their partners after decades together still light up the romantic parts of their brains when looking at photos of their beloved. They also illuminate the deeper parts of the brain that signal trust and attachment.
What are people who find lasting passion doing that the rest of us miss?
They stay involved in each other’s lives, researchers say. For starters, they spend time together. Yes, this means showing up for “date night.” But successful couples go beyond dinner and a movie. They take on new challenges together and learn new skills. By keeping the relationship exciting, they keep feeding the brain chemistry that made them fall in love in the first place.
How do you and your partner stay hot for each other? Do you see yourselves being together 40 years from now, or are your lives moving in different directions?