For people who are not currently partnered, but want to be, Valentine’s Day can be a difficult holiday. If I’m describing you, try to make a date to be with some dear friends during the holiday, whether to hang out at home or to go out and have some fun (just not dinner at a restaurant on February 14).
Nonsexual emotional intimacy and support, and having people around who are committed to you, interested in you, and who show up to spend time with you are parts of love as well.
Romantic love has special powers to change one’s mental and physical state. I remember a scene in Cambridge, Mass., on a very snowy winter day.
I had recently fallen in love with my late husband. Cambridge can be miserable during a snow storm: You slip and slide on the sidewalk, and you can fall and break bones or get slooshingly wet if you fall down. No one looks anyone else in the eye because each is busy simply surviving the storm.
I was trudging through several inches of wet, heavy snow, and I somehow wound up talking to an older woman.
She said, “Isn’t this miserable?”
I said, “It’s not so bad.”
And she answered, “Oh, you must be in love.”
And I was. I was in the beginning stage of love — that crazy stage where you can’t stop thinking about the other person, and you think having him or her in your life will fulfill all your dreams.
In fact, romantic love in its early stage is so powerful that it can actually overcome physical pain. In one study, researchers Arthur Aron and Sean Mackey, recruited 15 college students who had just started a relationship. They asked the subjects to bring in a photo of their beloved. They also asked them to bring in a photo of a similarly attractive acquaintance.
The researchers then subjected the participants to a painful procedure in which the palms of their hands were overheated — twice: once while they were looking at their beloved, and once when they were looking at the photo of the acquaintance. The participants reported less pain when looking at photos of their beloved.
The researchers also took conducted functional magnetic resonance imaging tests (fMRI) tests on the participants brains and they found that the photo of the beloved person engaged the brain’s reward center.
Isn’t that amazing?
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