Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day: Some interesting things about love and longing

     If you happen to be spending this Valentines weekend alone, no worries. It is after all, just a made up holiday anyway. However, if your long term plan is to spend all of your weekends alone, then you may want to reconsider.  As it turns out, loneliness could be as bad for your health as smoking or obesity... at least according to Prof. John Cacioppo of the University of Chicago who made several statements about loneliness and health at the 2009 conference for the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  While being alone on Valentine's Day clearly isn't a chronic problem, or something you should even worry about, people who are regularly alone, that is, tend not to have a good social network, don't hang out with family or friends, etc., are actually more likely to suffer both physically and mentally, with increased chances for things like heart attack, stroke, or Alzheimer's disease.  Part of the problem is, if/when something like a stroke happens, people who live alone are less likely to get immediate medical attention.  So maybe this Valentines Day is a good time to get working on building that family... so later you will have someone around to call the ambulance.
     Of course, if you are now inspired to go out looking for love, maybe you should reconsider the benefits of being alone.  According to a recent study at the University of Toronto, there is a strong correlation of increased anxiety about being single with "settling for less" in relationships.  Something that, according to the survey, was reported by both men and women, who indicated that they have stayed in relationships they weren't happy in or dated people they didn't think were as good as they deserved, in part, because they did not enjoy the prospect of being single.
     But, if you find yourself in that position, I guess there might even be an upside to settling for less and/or being in an unhappy relationship. According to a recent study in the journal Motivation and Emotion, focus and cognitive control of one's self decline as passion and amorousness increase.  Which could make sense.  If, for example, you spend all of your time daydreaming about your love, how can you focus on anything else?  So, if you want to focus more at work or school, and want to have greater cognitive control, best to date someone you aren't that into, or, move as quickly as possible past that honeymoon phase, and on to taking your partner for granted and getting back to work.
     Though, while it might be good for your job or your studies if your relationship has lost some of its passion, it might also lead you to worry about your partner stepping out.  If that's the case, you might want to pay attention to how your partner sounds when they are talking to others on their phone.  According to a study at Albright College, strangers listening to snippets of people talking to either their romantic partner or a same sex friend were able to identify which person was on the other end of the conversation, sometimes after listening to only 2 seconds of sound and phrases as benign as "how are you" and "what are you doing?".  Of course, while the sound bytes weren't of affectionate calls of "schmoopy" or "lovebug", the differences may have been just as obvious simply because our pitch likely changes depending on whether or not we are talking to a member of the opposite sex.  Still if your boyfriend's voice sounds really high pitched, or your girlfriend's sounds especially deep, it's probably a safe bet they are talking to someone of the opposite sex, and I'll leave it up to you to determine what that may mean.
     Finally, if you make it through all of that, and your true love doesn't sound like he or she is in love with anyone else, you may want to consider moving far away... you know, for the sake of the relationship.
According to a study in the Journal of Communication, couples in long distance relationships are better at communicating and as a result report a greater feeling of intimacy than couples who get to see each other face to face.  But what about the age old adage: "Long distance relationships don't work"?  Well, in our modern world, that may not be true, according to another survey, unmarried couples in long distance relationships reported similar quality of relationships to those living in close proximity, with couples in long distance relationships reporting greater satisfaction in... you guessed it, communication and intimacy!  Long distance couples were also better at discussing sex, though, due to obvious restrictions, tend to have less actual sex than couples living in close proximity.

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