Love is a powerful force—it can strike at any time and take precedence over any thought you might have had at the time. “The things we do for love!” is a phrase often used to explain away certain embarrassing acts that we would never have thought of performing otherwise. And yet, so many of us do just that, powerless in the face of love’s all-consuming power.
Well, not completely powerless, as it turns out. In fact, scientists believe that it might be possible to keep these romantic feelings in check and all you need to do it is a fresh perspective!
The Science Behind It
Published in PLOS One in August 2016, the studies in question were carried out by Sandra Langeslag from the University of Missouri-St. Louis and Jan van Strien from Erasmus University Rotterdam. The first involved 25 women and seven men aged between 18-30, with the only criterion being that the participant had to be in love. They filled out a questionnaire assessing how much control they felt they had on their feelings of love, and subsequently their strategies for coping with heartbreak.
In the second study, 18 participants who were in a relationship and 18 who had just gone through a breakup provided 30 photos of their partner. They were then instructed to try to regulate their feelings of love by using the technique of reappraisal. This involved viewing a slideshow of the images and focusing each time on a positive aspect of their beloved for what the scientists termed ‘up-regulation,’ or a negative aspect for ‘down-regulation.’ Their feelings were monitored via EEG.
The first study showed that people perceive love feelings to be somewhat uncontrollable, even though some perceived more control over some aspects of love than others. The majority of participants reported using a variety of strategies to cope with breakups or when in a long-term relationship to control their romantic feelings. Some strategies (such as distraction, reappraisal or seeking support from friends or family) seemed specific for changing the intensity of love feelings rather than for regulating emotions or maintaining relationships. In the second study, an analysis of the participants’ EEG data revealed more love towards their partner after up-regulation and less love after down-regulation, seemingly confirming the feasibility of love regulation techniques.
So if you’re looking to re-ignite the spark you thought your relationship had lost or trying to move on after an emotional breakup, this might be an area worth exploring!