Here's some great news: love is controlable

Is your love life nonexistent? It doesn’t have to be that way for ever. Because you can make love happen. Or make it go away, in case you don't receive anything from your crush this Valentine's Day.

According to the Dutch Sandra Langeslag, biological and cognitive psychologist and professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, you are in charge of reinforcing or reducing your own romantic feelings.  When your heart gets broken again, our brain is capable of comforting itself.

People often assume that being in love is something beyond their control. Think about all those situations in which people are in love when they shouldn’t be, or want to be but aren’t. Cruelness!


Langeslag and colleague prof. dr. Jan van Strien (Erasmus University Rotterdam) wanted to find out whether this is correct. They let people in a solid relationship ánd people who became single recently look at pictures of their (ex) lovers, reminiscing positively about them and their (former) relationship. Afterwards they were asked to do the same, but with negative thoughts.

Langeslag: ‘We investigated their brain waves and concluded that romantic feelings towards their (ex) lovers always got stronger by having positive thoughts. And the other way around. It sounds simple, but this is the first time that we investigated how our thoughts affect the way we experience love’.

Being able to control feelings allows us to escape from miserable situations: for example when you’re in a relationship rut, you can reinforce your feelings. Or the other way around: when your partner is abusive but you stay anyway because you love them, you can tone down the feelings.

Happy thoughts

How to achieve that? Focus on the positive things. Think about how smart or sweet he or she is. Or the other way around. It ain’t easy, and it’s also not the solution to all relationship problems. But if you apply this strategy consequently, it will be effective.

Subjects were also asked how they prevent the flame from being extinguished. Langeslag: 'Some answered: Nothing, if the feelings go away, I have to break up.' They had this romantic ideal of love being in charge. Which is fine, but research has now shown that feelings of love decrease over time. Isn’t it great you can change this?

In conclusion some free advice from Langeslag: love is important, but not that important. And dare to be satisfied: if it's good enough, it's good enough.

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