Love & Marriage
Like a Horse & Carriage
When couples have settled into a lifelong bond, the nature of their affection evolves. A 2011 study of people who had been married more than 20 years, on average, looked at the brains of these committed souls. Researchers took a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) snapshot of the brain as each person looked at a photo of his or her partner. Many of the same areas that are active in newly-in-love brains also showed increased activity here, especially the VTA or rewards center and surrounding structures. An interesting difference: These long-committed partners had less activity in the amygdala than newly-in-love folks, a signal that they have less anxiety, pining, and other challenging emotions experienced in the early stages of romantic love.
Having Kids: For Better or for Worse?Parents know the joy they feel when their child reaches an important milestone, or expresses love. Many would insist that parenthood, therefore, must be a life event that boosts their happiness through the stratosphere. Well, the hard data from scientific research tells a different story. Parents are consistently found to report no higher level of happiness than their childless peers, and sometimes they rank their happiness lower than childless people. In a 2004 study, 909 working women ranked 19 activities from most to least pleasurable. Child care ranked only 16th! Among the activities the women reported liking better were cooking, watching TV, exercising, talking on the phone, even housework. Eventually, parents' happiness levels climb higher again–right around the time kids leave the nest and go out on their own. READ MORE
What's the story? Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness, says the joy of parenthood does exist, but so do the day-to-day drudgery and responsibility of child-raising. The heart-searing moments of joy that parents believe they couldn't live without don't happen every day. But nose-wiping, discipline, worrying, and putting yourself second to the kids happen to every parent every day. Research instruments set out to measure your average happiness across time. So while your average happiness may take a hit while you are doing the important work of child-raising, the high points are what keep most parents motivated and engaged. LESS