When I think about marriage, I'm not going to lie — I get very freaked out.
It might be because I'm a product of divorce, but I can't help but look at these couples who have been together for years and years and wonder how the eff they managed to stay in love for that long.
I mean, doesn't the spark eventually die? And at that inevitable point, how do you even reignite it?
We've all heard about trying something new in the bedroom or incorporating "date night" into your weekly schedule, but a new study published in Psychological Science has a different tip when it comes to reigniting the spark in a relationship.
What's this different tip, you ask? Well, the team of researchers, led by James K. McNulty of Florida State University, found that looking at pictures of cute animals, like puppies and bunnies, could do wonders for your relationship.
Here's how they figured out.
With the study, researchers were hoping to find out if there's a way to retrain the brain to associate something positive with thoughts of someone's spouse.
In order to do this, the researchers found 144 young (all under 40) married couples, who had been together less than five years. They were all an average of 28 years old, and a little less than half had kids.
For the first part of their study, the couples were asked to complete a few tests to see how satisfied they were in their relationships. Next, after a few days had gone by, they were sent to a lab so their "immediate, automatic attitudes toward their partner" could be measured.
For six weeks, the spouses were each individually shown a bunch of images once every three days. Within the stream of photos were photos of their partners.
Half of the spouses were shown "neutral" pictures. In other words, they were shown their partners mixed with boring things, like a button.
The other half were shown positive pictures with those of their spouse, such as pictures of puppies or the word "wonderful."
Every two weeks while the couples did this, they were also asked to check back in regarding their attitude toward their partner.
And here's what they figured out.
Over the course of the experiment, researchers found that people who were shown cute, positive pictures along with those of their spouse had more positive reactions toward their partner during those bi-weekly check-ins, as compared to people who were shown neutral images.
These positive reactions also resulted in better marriage quality with the spouses who were shown the cute pictures.
If you're surprised that this actually worked, you're not the only one. Even McNulty admitted he didn't see it coming.
"I was actually a little surprised that it worked," McNulty explained. "All the theory I reviewed on evaluative conditioning suggested it should, but existing theories of relationships, and just the idea that something so simple and unrelated to marriage could affect how people feel about their marriage, made me skeptical."
Obviously, the most important thing when it comes to changing your relationship is your own behavior and how you choose to interact with your spouse.
But it's really cool to know that this isn't the only way to change your attitude toward your partner.
Also, it's just another excuse to look at cute puppies and bunnies, so I'm down.