One of the apparent benefits of graduating from UCLA is the inevitable Alumni Association newsletter emails. Normally, these aren’t worth the cost of the email (to me), but occasionally, something truly interesting comes across the void.
For example, in the March 2008 volume, there was one story that caught my eye: “‘Hotties’ not so hot when you’re in love.” I clicked through and read the story and found something that was not all together surprising, though extremely insightful.
In this study, the research team at UCLA, working with a team from eHarmony.com, gathered a number of highly-rated pictures from a dating website (so, we’re talking about the ‘hotties’ of the bunch) and a bunch of undergraduates that were in committed relationships. Each of these undergrads was shown a picture of a ‘hottie’ of the opposite sex and asked to look at it for a certain amount of time.
Then, after giving the picture back to the researchers, they were asked to write an essay. One third of the students wrote about anything they wanted (this was the control group), another third wrote about a time that they felt a great amount of love for their partner, and the last wrote about when they were extremely attracted sexually to their partner.
Basically, aside from the control group, they were recalling extreme feelings of either love or lust.
While they were writing, they were told not to think about the hottie, but that, if they did, to simply put a check mark in the margin of their paper.
After the essay, they were asked to recall any details about the hottie that they studied at the beginning.
The results were quite interesting: those students actively recalling moments of love for their partners (remember: love here is not equal to attraction or lust) were 6 times less likely than the control group and 4 times less likely than the lust group to think of the attractive hottie that they had just been told not to think about. Now, I don’t know about you, but if someone tells me not to think about something, that just makes it all the more likely that I will. Don’t believe me? Just think about the last time someone said, “Don’t look now but…” What’s the first thing you did? You looked.
After the essays, when asked to recall details about the hottie, students who wrote about love had a difficult time recalling attractive features of the hottie and typically provided much more general information about the location of the picture or the color of clothing the person was wearing instead of details regarding anything that typically attracts a person’s attention, like their eyes, hair, skin, muscles, cleavage, or the like.
Clearly, lust is not love, and romantic love is not sexual desire. While desire or lust may attract us to a particular person, it is love that prevents us from being drawn somewhere else. Love is, essentially, a blinder that dulls the attractiveness that we perceive in others. It helps us maintain those partnerships that we have formed, the families that we have started.
This has got me to thinking about how many people fall into the trap of infidelity, or who fall out of love with their spouse.
Might there be some application of this study to my life? I’m sure there is.
The one thing that jumped almost immediately to mind is keeping a journal. If we were to record somewhere those things that remind us of the love that we feel for our spouses (be it something they do or say or how they act), we would have a fairly steady reminder of why we have chosen the person we did, keeping those feelings of love fresh and effective in blunting whatever attraction we might have otherwise felt for another. It would be a protective barrier against intrusion into our hearts.
I’m curious: what other ideas do you have? How do you maintain an active remembrance of the love you feel for your partner? Leave your comments and suggestions below; I’d love to hear them.