Great strides have been made in recent years in the scientific study of relationships in several areas. We better understand the strengths that enable life partners to lead fulfilling lives, bringing out the best attributes within one other, and we know how to help people enhance their life experiences.
Imago Relationships Worldwide is the largest organizations of well-trained specialists in Couples Therapy, and the world leader of research into Relationships, with its research currently centered at the University of Pennsylvania’s Behavioral Health Department within the Perelman School of Medicine. Part of that research is centered on the concept of continuously cultivating happiness together. As a result, a growing body of evidence lends to the idea that deliberately deciding to date your spouse may be a highly effective way to do it.
The Happiness Set-Point
We’ll start by talking about “hedons.”
What in the world is a “hedon”? It’s a unit of pleasure used to theoretically weigh people’s happiness. Scientists suggest that our general level of happiness is determined by factors such as heredity and personality traits engrained early on by our familial experiences. (In Imago theory, this is known as imprinting, forming our character structure, which includes our defensive behaviors).
That relative sense of well-being you feel is known as your hedonic (or happiness) set-point, and remains nearly constant throughout your life. Certain experiences may cause temporary fluctuation, but those changes are not permanent.
The cycle of shifting away from and back to a feeling of normalcy is the heart of what is known as hedonic adaptation.
Hedonic Adaptation Theory
Hedonic adaptation theory observes that humans have a tendency to return (rather quickly, actually) to the same neutral level of happiness they typically experience after any out-of-the-ordinary event is over, regardless of its positive or negative impact.
However, emerging evidence has led to a belief that when you make out-of-the-ordinary events a regular part of your routine, there is an opportunity for you to increase your baseline happiness set-point.
Relationship therapists have, in turn, dedicated time and research to seeking out those things that can lead to lasting change in raising your happiness set-point as a couple.
Higher Set-Point – Happier Marriage
As Prince (and 85% of Americans under 30) would say, when we decide to commit to a life-long partnership, it means forever. And that’s a mighty long time.
As a Houston relationship therapist, there are dozens of reasons I suggest my clients revive regular date nights. But all of them are rooted in that same idea of cultivating a greater sense of happiness between them over the long haul.
Experiencing (safe) risks and challenges is exciting. Forcing yourselves to look at things in different ways promotes creativity. And seeing each other in new scenarios often rekindles those old sparks that made you fall for one another in the first place.
Not to mention, you two will have something new to talk and reminisce about until the next adventure.
This is where re-romanticizing tools from the Imago couples workshop come in. These tools include fun, caring, and loving behaviors, flooding, and surprises. Another extremely important tool is the Platinum Rule: find out what says “I love you” to your partner, and then gift them with it without any conditions.
The wise spouse works to increase hedons in their partner’s brain. The idea is to change your partner’s brain from associating you with pain and discomfort to pleasure and safety. The ideal is that your spouse thinks to themselves, “I’ve got a good deal with him/her!”
So, get out there and keep things interesting!
Because dating your spouse is more than just a trivial pursuit. The more often you do it, the more likely you are to increase your general sense of well-being. A higher happiness set-point equals a longer, happier marriage.
Need ideas for raising that happiness set-point? Looking for individualized suggestions? We’re always here to help.