If you find yourself falling out of love with your partner or in a rut in your relationship, don't worry. There's hope — and it's called "love regulation." According to a recent study published in the journal PLOS One, people can actually use positive thinking to increase their feelings of love for their partner. Meaning, changing your mindset can help you fall back in love.
"Positive thinking can increase how much love you have for your partner for several reasons," Yvonne Thomas, Ph.D., a Los Angeles-based psychologist tells Bustle. "First of all, if you are already thinking positively in general, you are much more likely to notice and appreciate those qualities in your partner that you love rather than take these characteristics for granted or or overlook them. Also, if you typically tend to engage in positive thinking, you are likely to be a more open-hearted person in general, as well as towards your partner than someone who tends to be more of a negative or even neutral kind of thinker."
Because of that, Thomas says, you're able to feel more fully and deeply about your partner. You have less defenses and barriers around your heart. Most importantly, your feelings of love for you partner will increase because you'll feel happier and more emotionally free to express yourself in any way.
Psychologists from the University of Missouri, St. Louis and Erasmus University Rotterdam conducted a study of 40 participants. Half of them were in romantic relationships, while the other half recently ended a relationship. Each participant was told to bring 30 pictures of their partner or ex into the lab. Before the study began, each person was asked to say how attached and infatuated they were with their partner. Participants also had their brain waves measured. During the study, they were told to look at the photos while thinking positive thoughts about their relationship and the future. Next, they were told to do the opposite and think negatively about their relationship.
As the study found, when people thought positively about their partners while looking at the photos, they were easily able to "up regulate" their love and feel more attached. When they thought negatively, their love became "down regulated" and participants felt less attachment and infatuation. The brain scans showed brain waves became stronger during positive thought, and weaker during negative ones. So, if you're trying to get over a breakup, focusing on the negatives can possibly help you get over it much quicker.
"When you are only seeing things through a negative view, it is all too easy for you to only see your partner's flaws and imperfections as well," Thomas says. "Even things that usually don't bother you about your partner can become irritating to you when you are in a negative thinking mode. Negative thinking can definitely prevent you from being able to remember or value your partner's positive qualities which, in turn, can sometimes lead to you feeling decreased love (and less respect maybe too) for your partner."
The researchers do note however that love isn't something people can control. Meaning you either feel it or you don't. But you can and do shape and manage emotions every day. Shaping and managing your feelings of love are no different. So here are ways to regulate your feelings of love and shift it towards a positive direction:
Avoid negative thinking traps.
According to Thomas, negative thinking styles include the following:
All-Or-Nothing Thinking : Unless everything is perfect, everything is terrible.
Catastrophizing: If something is mildly wrong, you think and feel that it is much worse than it actually is.
The Blame Game: Blaming your partner rather than looking at your part if you two are having a problem.
Thinking In "Should" Statements: Thinking that you "should" expect your partner to do things exactly by your standards and beliefs.
Discounting The Positives: Giving very little importance to your partner's good qualities or actions.
"By reducing the negative thinking while increasing the positive thinking, feelings of love are more naturally able to be experienced within and expressed towards one's significant other," Thomas says.
Focus on gratitude and appreciation.
"Mindset is pretty much the key to EVERYTHING in life," spiritual author and guide Heather Kristian Strang tells Bustle. "So the stories we tell ourselves about our partner, about the meaning of our partner's actions, about everything that occurs in our life has the power to make our life joyful and blissful or depressing and negative."
Oftentimes people get too caught up in fixing what's "wrong" in their relationships, she says. Many times, that becomes the primary focus. Unfortunately, that only leads to the draining and depleting of energy in the relationship. "Remember Einstein told us that you cannot solve a problem with the same thought-processes that created it!" Strang says. "Gratitude and positive focus on our partner resets the energy and allows us to access creative solutions that were not available to us when we were in a negative mindset."
Remember that staying positive doesn't necessarily mean you're looking at the relationship through rose-colored glasses.
"Being positive means that you are focusing on the benefits of being in the here and now," Paul DePompo, clinical psychologist, researcher on relationships and author of The Other Woman's Affair tells Bustle. It's all about appreciating your partner each and every day. It's also about knowing that if at some point the relationship doesn't end up working out, you'll cope and move on with life just like you did before.
"Thinking this way will help you be positive while remembering that it doesn't necessarily last forever. It may or may not and that may be sad. But if it doesn't, it's OK," DePompo says. "This way you can focus on living and enjoying the relationship, which will actually give it the best chance to stand the test of time!"
Allow yourself to be vulnerable.
As we've seen, positive thinking can impact the amount of love you have for your partner because negativity can hold you back. When negative thinking happens, it's nearly impossible to be vulnerable in your relationship. You just won't be as open to seeing the good intentions behind your partner's behavior since you're more likely to feel guarded. "Being able to be vulnerable and see the good intentions in your partner (especially during disagreements) are important ingredients to forming a close and secure bond," DePompo says.
Search for what you really want to find.
"We always find what we look for," Shannon McGurk, founder of Authentic Masculinity, LLC. tells Bustle. "Look for good and you find it. Look for bad…you know what happens. What person would want to be loved by someone who always looks for the bad?"
I know that thinking positively isn't always the easiest thing to do. But being positive can boost your love life in great ways. And like this study shows, it may even help you fall back in love.
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