Making Romance Last Part 2

What allows some couples to keep romance alive?

Linda: Novelty is characterized by newness, freshness, unconventionality, unfamiliarity, difference, imaginativeness, creativity, and innovation. It is a habit of happy couples to allow the desire for novelty and adventure to spice up their partnership. One of the things that happy couples have in common is that they are doing new things together. There is a now famous study that was done in 1974 by psychologists Donald Dutton and Art Aaron (in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. “Some evidence for heightened sexual attraction under conditions of high anxiety.” 30: 510–517). The study is referred to as the “creaky bridge” experiment. They designed the experiment to be conducted on the two walking bridges over Capilano Canyon in North Vancouver. One is a flimsy suspension bridge, only five feet wide, which sways 230 feet above rocks and river rapids. Farther upstream is a steady, broad, low bridge.

In the experiment, the researchers posted an attractive young woman in the middle of each of the bridges. Dozens of men were requested to cross one bridge or the other. None of the subjects knew that she was planted there as a research team member and was part of the experiment. When the men approached the beautiful woman, she asked them to answer a questionnaire. When they completed the questionnaire, the woman mentioned that if they had any further questions that they could call her at her home phone number, and offered it on a piece of paper for them to take with them. Nine out of thirty-two men on the wobbly bridge called her. Only two of the men on the sturdy bridge called her. The conclusion of the experiment indicates that a sense of danger on the wobbly bridge stimulates the production of adrenaline. The element of uncertainty and fear sets the stage for romance. Since this experiment, there have been numerous others drawing the same conclusion.

In such studies their message indicates that couples participating in exciting things together feel more satisfaction in their partnership. Revitalizing experiences don’t have to be expensive such as visiting an exotic foreign country. Simple pleasures such as taking a different hiking path or climbing an alternate mountain trail will provide the required level of challenge. Lesser stimulation events such as tying new restaurants, purchasing tickets to live theater, a concert, dance performance, or any activity that varies from the usual will do the trick. Novelty doesn't even necessarily require an activity. A lively discussion about a topic that interests both partners, or sharing about the book that we are currently reading will offer the necessary stimulation. Making a conscious choice to step out of our comfort zone, to put ourselves in a novel, even somewhat risky situation is great for romance. Don’t take my word for it; try it out for yourself and see if it makes an enlivening difference.


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