Dr. Arthur Aron: The Science of Intimacy & Love
Sex, Love and Intimacy
Chip August

Episode 46 - Dr. Arthur Aron: The Science of Intimacy & Love

Interviewing Dr. Aron was like having a conversation with your favorite college professor about the psychological research being conducted around the subjects of love and intimacy.  Art Aron is an internationally acclaimed research psychologist.  He is an Associate Editor for the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and serves on the editorial boards of Personal Relationships and the Journal of Personal and Social Relationships. He is a fellow of the American Psychological Society and Principal Investigator on a major National Science Foundation research grant. As we talked, Dr. Aron offered insights and answers that help in the understanding of attraction, relationship satisfaction, the psychological benefits of being in relationship, understanding altruism, defining the nature of self, looking at the concepts of merging selves and losing self.  We talked about the psychology of unreciprocated love and the motivations for intense romantic love.  And Dr. Aron gave me, and you, a great exercise we can do at home to help avoid the danger of relationship boredom and improve relationship quality.



Chip August: Welcome to Sex, Love and Intimacy. I’m your host Chip August, and today on the show we’re going to be talking about research about love, about relationship, about closeness. We’re talking about scientific research here, and we’re going to be talking to Dr. Arthur Aron.

Dr. Arthur Aron: Similarly, when we look at the pattern of brain in a person in the FMRI scanner, the brain response when you hear your own name is much more similar to what you get when you hear the name of a close other than when you hear the name of a not quite so close other.

Dr. Arthur Aron: You know, it also has to do with who you are. If you are fairly confident in your own self, if your self-esteem is not too low, if it’s fairly stable, then you can share yourself with another and not feel you’re losing who you are. On the other hand, if your self-esteem is tenuous, it’s easy to be in a situation, we call them people who are anxious, ambivalent or preoccupied, those of us who study relationships, one of the main difference in the way people behave in relationships is what’s called their attachment style.

Dr. Arthur Aron: There tend to be a prejudice against single people. There’s culturally and they’re disadvantaged in a number of ways. One of the studies likes to emphasize as an example, it’s been done on this, if you have a couple friend and you go out to dinner with them, if you’re a couple, you go to some nice place. If you have a single friend, “Well, lets just go to McDonald’s.”

Chip August: Dr. Aron’s research center’s on the self expansion model of motivation and cognition in personal relationships. Basically his model posits that people want to be more affective in life, and that one way they seek to do this is through relationships, which include others. And as an idea that the way that they include others in their very self has them start to possess to some extent the others perspectives, identities and resources. We’re going to talk a lot more about this. His major research programs focus on identifying interpersonal closeness as a cognitive overlap between self and other and how self expansion motivations relate to and can be used to alleviate the typical decline in relationship satisfaction over time. Other current studies that he’s working on examine implications of the self-expansion model for understanding empathy, prejudice, persuasion, social basis of logical processing and also how relationship experiences are mapped on the brain. He’s an associate editor for the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and serves on the editorial boards of the Personal Relationships and The Journal of Personal and Social Relationships. He’s a fellow of the American Psychological Society and a principle investigator on a major national science foundation research grant. I’m really pleased to have him here. Welcome Dr. Aron.

Dr. Arthur Aron: Thank you for inviting me.

Chip August: It’s my pleasure. You take a very scientific approach to the whole subject of love and relationship, and you sent me research papers and I waded through them and I felt like I was back in college again, but…So I want to just start with a simple question: from your perspective, what is love? What is the thing you’re looking at?

Dr. Arthur Aron: Well there’s two ways of looking at what this question, what is love? One way is how we as researchers trying to understand systematically the underlying principles in love and relationships to find it. And typically we are seeing it as an intense desire to form and maintain a close relationship with another person. The other way of understanding what love is is looking at how ordinary people use the word. And it’s not like other words, it makes a difference. If someone defines what they’re feeling as love, especially in a new partner, it completely changes, it may change their whole orientation of their life, but certainly how they relate to that person. Similarly, if you’re in a long-term relationship, whether you define what’s going on as love or you’re feeling your falling out of it, it makes a difference. So a good deal of research has been done by Beverly Fair at the University of Winnipeg, and we followed up a good deal of it at Stoneybrook, on what people mean when they use the word love, they lay understanding of love. It turns out that there isn’t a definition, a hard definition. It’s more of a prototype. Scientists understand what a bird is by whether it has feathers or whatever, but ordinary people understand a bird by how close it is to a robin, whether it has certain features, and it doesn’t have to have all of them, so…A penguin is a bird but it’s not very much of a bird. So what is the prototype of love? It turns out that it, there’s a set of characteristics that are typical. Most central is the sense of intimacy, connectedness. Next most central is commitment, loyalty, being, the other person being ready to stay with that person. And the third, but still part of it, but the least central is passion, intensity.

Chip August: Least central is passion, huh? Oh, okay. So, now you say that, you use the word intimacy, I noticed in the research you use the word closeness a lot, are intimacy and closeness synonymous for you?

Dr. Arthur Aron: Pretty much so. People tend to use the word, they use them more or less synonymously. In ordinary language intimacy is used more, in research we tend to use closeness more. They’re subtle distinctions, but we use them more or less interchangeably. And what we mean by closeness, there’s two meanings, one is sort of momentary. You can have a sense of closeness or intimacy, you meet someone on a plane and something happens, or even in a long-term relationship, there’s variations in it. And there’s also an ongoing closeness with another person, a more of a trait like characteristic in relation to them. And what we think the core of this long-term thing is that the person is that the person has actually become part of who you are, that you actually mix up memories between yourself and the other person, you mix up identities. When we’ve done experiments where you allocate money and game tasks, people allocate about the same to close others and the self, even when the other will not know that you are doing it. It’s a spontaneous tendency. When we look at how you organize information. For example, one of our experiments, you are given a list of trait words: anxious, ambitious, artistic, and for each you’re asked is it true of you or not? Now, you know, one comes up and you say true and the next one false. What we find is if a trait comes up that’s true of you and also true of your partner, say you’re both artistic, you say true. If a trait comes up that’s true of you, but not true of your partner, like say anxious, I still say true but not as quickly. There is some interference because the other person is part of who I am, and thus in a sense it’s true of me, but in a sense it’s not. And there’s a whole bunch of what we call cognitive psychology paradymes like that. Similarly, when we look at the pattern of brain reaction, we put a person in the FMRI scanner, the brain response when you hear your own name is much more similar to what you get when you hear the name of a close other than when you hear the name of a not quite so close other.

Chip August: Now do you do a distinction here, like you try this with like person’s children’s names versus a person’s lovers names? You know, ‘cause the intimacy has a lot of different forms. I have an intimacy with my kids, I have an intimacy with my partner, they’re not the same. Do you look at distinctions like that?

Dr. Arthur Aron: Some things differ between relationship types and some don’t. Closeness, the sense of including the other in the self, is pretty similar between, we haven’t looked at parents with young children, we looked at college students with their parents, we’ve looked at siblings, we’ve looked at close friends, we’ve looked at romantic partners, long-term married partners. This sense of including the other in the self is pretty similar across those relationship types. Other characteristics like for example sexual desire, presumably hopefully differs between say a romantic partner and a child.

Chip August: Okay, now, I was looking at your research and, now, I was a philosophy major so I can read thick text pretty well, but I’m not really of a scientific bent. I’m interested, but it’s challenging for me. And I was looking at some of the ven diagrams you did about sort of self’s overlapping, self’s completely overlapping, self’s just sort of touching each other, and the thing I was struck by was all of the current movement right now for people to have boundaries and to be separate from each other, I think what you’re implying is that what some people might classify as co-dependency might also just be true love, that from the point of view of like cells overlapping on each other, they might look very similar.

Dr. Arthur Aron: One of the ways we get at this thing of how close are you to another person is with this self-report thing where they’re given a set of seven pairs of overlapping circles or in some versions we actually have it on a computer and they can overlap them to whatever degree they want, and the extent to which a person selects a pair of circles that represents myself and a friend or a lover as overlapped, corresponds to these cognitive measures of closeness, corresponds to the brain measures of closeness, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good thing to be close. It defines what it means to be close. Now one of my former graduate students now at the Clairmont College is Deb Mashik, has done some studies where she gives people these circles and says, “Which one describes your relationship?” Then she gives them again and says, “How would you like your relationship?” Now among dating couples in college, ten to fifteen percent actually would like it to be less close than it is. Among married couples, it’s seven or eight percent. But there are people that find they’re uncomfortably close, they may be losing some of who they are. For the most people though, the more you get of this, the better.

Chip August: I had a psychiatrist friend who once said that clinically, when you look at symptoms, the symptoms of co-dependency and true love are actually the exact same symptoms, you know, like you want your lover to be happy and when your lover’s unhappy you’re unhappy and when your lover’s happy you’re happy, and it’s, the only difference is, the major difference in true love is that it’s not a pathology, you know, there’s nothing, it’s not a problem, you don’t feel bad about this merging, you feel good about this merging, you know?

Dr. Arthur Aron: I think so. You know, it also has to do with who you are. If you are fairly confident in your own self, if your self esteem is not too low, if it’s fairly stable, then you can share yourself with another and not feel you’re losing who you are. On the other hand, if your self esteem is tenuous, it’s easy to be in a situation, we call them people who are anxious, ambivalent or preoccupied, those of us who study relationships. One of the main differences in the way people behave in relationships is what’s called their attachment style, which tends to come from their early child rearing, and most people are secure, but about thirty, forty percent are what we call avoidant. And then there’s five, ten percent that are what we call preoccupied or anxious, ambivalent. They want to be closer to other people than other people find comfortable. In fact, they find it hard to believe that the other will be as close to them as they are, and those people have a particularly easy time to feel their self is overwhelmed and then not overwhelmed enough. It’s not a pathology, although at its extreme it is. But it’s a normal individual difference, which when even not at its extreme, it’s still not optimal for close relationships.

Chip August: We’re using this word self, and I just want to just take a little side moment here. It’s not so easily defined from my, from a philosopher’s point of view, I notice that, yeah. So, what, when you use the term, I mean, sort of what is the self and what is somebody else’s self? What are you talking about?

Dr. Arthur Aron: What, this notion of what is the self is certainly something that in the scientific community we struggle a lot with. But we can’t avoid it because people distinguish who they are from who other people are. And there’s two main ways we use it: one is what we call the self-concept, how I think about myself, and that has to do with both, you know, what I think I look like, what traits I have, what social status, also how much I have, how high or low I have evaluate myself, that self esteem, but there’s also the large self-concept. And then there’s who I am. William James was sort of the first to really lay this picture out. He was both a philosopher and a psychologist and enormously influential even today. No one writes anything about the self in psychology without citing William James. And he talks about the self-concept as the ‘me’, how we see ourselves, and he talks about it having these characteristics of really what we call identities, perspectives, possessions, these are part of…But he also talks about the ‘I’, who is the actor and the perceiver. And we also, in psychology we talk about just sort of how I differentiate, how I recognize, especially when we look at infants, that it’s my action and not someone else’s. Even if we may not, subjectively most people don’t perceive the ‘I’, I mean, people who’ve had deep meditation experiences often talk about knowing the ‘I’, and even James talked about it a little bit in his religious experiences books. But we may not directly know the perceiver or the actor, but we recognize that it’s this body doing it and not the body across the room, at least mostly. But in a very close relationship we can even mix them up. William James, one of the things he wrote about is, when Peter and Paul wake up in the morning they, you know, they don’t mix up who they were the previous day. But I’ve kind of thought that if Peter and Paul were lovers, maybe when they woke up in the morning they would mix it up a little bit.

Chip August: I love that thought, I love that thought. I have a teacher who used to say, “You are who you think you are”, you know. And who you think you are isn’t really who you are because there’s so much we discover about ourselves and learn about ourselves. We’re going to take a short great, give a chance for our sponsors to support us and for us to support our sponsors. You’re listening to Sex, Love and Intimacy. I’m your host Chip August, and we’ll be back to talk a lot more about motivation and love and self and all this stuff we’re talking about, so come on back after the break.

Chip August: We are back. We’re talking to Art Aron. He does research on love and on relationship and on intimacy and on closeness, scientific psychological research. We’ve been talking about love and intimacy and understanding the nature of ourselves and merging selves and losing ourselves and…I want to shift topic a little bit and talk a little bit about what, are there psychological benefits to being in a relationship. I notice that anecdotally most of the people I know grow up and want to be in relationship. Not all but most, and I’m just wondering like what are the benefits of being in a relationship?

Dr. Arthur Aron: Well there’s huge benefits to being in a relationship, physically for in terms of one’s health, in terms of one’s mental health, in terms of one’s happiness. But saying that, I want to emphasize that having close others is what provides the benefits, not necessarily marriage. For men marriage tends to be very beneficial. For women the data are a little mixed. It’s not mixed that it’s beneficial to be in relationships for women, but being in a marriage may not be entirely as beneficial. Men get more out of it in part because women have other social, in American culture, have other close social bonds, so that for example when a partner dies men do terribly because they typically have no other close bonds or relations, whereas women, when they lose a husband, if it’s a good relationship they suffer, but they often were close to their children, they’ve got other women they’re close to, they may have, you know, siblings they’re close to. So, closeness clearly matters for everybody, but men particularly often get entirely from their partner, even not just long-term relationship. A wonderful study by Harry Reese years ago, they had, they measured peoples loneliness in general, and then they had people keep records of every ten minute conversation that they had and how close it was over a two week period. What they found was that for both men and women, the number and the closeness of the conversations with women predicted less loneliness. The number of conversations and closeness with men had no relation how lonely they felt. So in other words, women in American culture, there’s lots of exceptions and overlaps, but tend to be much better relationally. But going back to the benefits, for everybody it’s beneficial. I mean, there may be exceptions. But the reason I emphasize it’s not just marriage is because there tend to be a prejudice against single people. There’s, culturally and they’re disadvantaged in a number of ways. One of the studies likes to emphasize as an example that’s been done on this. If you have a couple friend and you go out to dinner with them if you’re a couple, you go to some nice place. You have a single friend, “Well, lets just go to McDonald’s and eat out.” So single people often have a prejudice against them, and they are at a disadvantage if they don’t have other relationships. But if they have friends, if they have family that they’re close to…Now, what is the benefit? Where does it come from? Part of where it comes from is simply the external social support they provide, if you’re sick, if you have a hard time with something, if you need help, you have someone you can call on. But we also think it has to do with this shared selves. You see the world, not just from who you are, but from who they are. You are able to, something bad happens, you can see it from their perspective, you can feel their caring, and of course, you can get their caring. But most of what matters in life is not the reality, but how we perceive it. And in relationships we perceive the world, if I go to the ballet by myself without my wife, I am seeing not only the dancers as I see them, but I know what she will see too and it enriches my experience.

Chip August: Yeah, it’s that experience, my wife and I do a lot of theatre, and it’s that experience of I’ll see, I’ll be traveling on business, I’ll see something in New York and be having the conversation with her about it even though she’s not actually present because, yeah, there’s something about knowing how she’ll see something that enriches how I see something, but I never thought of it as a sort of a psychological phenomenon, that’s a, that’s curious. Do, so in a way what you are saying a healthy profound deep relationship in some way is a blurring of selves, it’s a, you know, you do start to actually respond out of somebody else’s self rather than your own.

Dr. Arthur Aron: Absolutely, there is. And in fact, some times to a fault. My wife has a whole line of, we share some of our research, but she has this whole line of research on the highly sensitive person and sometimes people will start asking me about it and I’ll start talking about it, and they’ll ask me some deep question and I’ll start to answer and then realize I don’t know the, she knows the answer. But because I’m so close to her I feel like I know her answers, but I don’t in fact.

Chip August: Yeah, yeah, you’re saying this and I’m thinking of the times when as a couple people ask my wife what she does for a living and I think I can say it better than she can say it even though I don’t do what she does for a living, I don’t have anything to do with it. Okay, so lets talk about altruism for a moment here, okay? Alright, so as a benefit in being in relationship, but…Altruism shows up as a problem for a lot of thinking people, you know. Why would it, I just actually just had this argument with my father-in-law, you know. Why does that guy throw himself on the grenade to save all his comrades? Is it just because he was trained to do it, you know, or does it, is it, why…Do I really do things altruistically for my partner? You know, I feel like I do, but…So talk, can we talk a little bit about altruism, and tell me what it is and what you know about it.

Dr. Arthur Aron: Well I think there’s a lot of things going on with altruism, but one of the things that’s going on is that people, other people are part of who we are. When they suffer, we suffer. When they have something wonderful happen, we feel it. I mean, the closer we are, the more that’s true. But even with a stranger, if, especially whey they’re in need, it primes for us, it brings to forth that connection we have with children, with people that are caring. And so, it brings them, unless they’re, you know, there’s some out group or we have some reason to want to separate our self from them, we feel a connection with them at that moment, and that makes us, you know, want to avoid that suffering. Now, you know, the throwing on the grenade is also, we throw, we might throw our self on a grenade to save our child or our partner or a close friend. We might also do it to save people in general and that has to do I think with something a little different, a sense of integrity, a sense of connection with the culture. You know, what kind of person am I, and part of that has to do with what does it mean to be a good person, it means to care about others.

Chip August: So you actually believe there is such a thing as altruism, there is, that there is a, there are actions I take with really no thought to my own reward, I am, I’m simply, yeah, I’m watching you laugh, so, go ahead, tell me what you’re smiling about.

Dr. Arthur Aron: Well I’m smiling because it’s such a complicated question. If a person does something, there must be a reason for it. So if I do something for another person, you can, and this has been an argument in psychology, is there real altruism? Any explanation I give, you can say, “Well, that’s the selfish reason.” But if the selfish reason is to feel good about yourself, in a way that’s selfish, in a way it’s not. If the selfish reason is that when the other person suffers, I suffer, in a sense that’s selfish and in a sense it’s not. And that’s the complexity. Now it is also true that much of the time we do things that look altruistic on the outside, they are for, what everyone would agree, is a selfish reason, so that I will get praise from other people, so that the other person will do a favor for me back. I mean, that’s also a reason people do altruistic, and much of the time things that look altruistic are for consciously or unconsciously those reasons. But for other times they’re for reasons that are rational and sensible if you take the view that I suffer when others suffer. But that’s a funny sense of being selfish.

Chip August: I want to, I want to shift a little bit here and talk just for a moment or two about love, and, one of the things I noticed is you do some research on unreciprocated love, and I have to say as sort of a self-taught Darwinian psychologist I’ve never actually understood the value of unreciprocated love, I’ve never understood why we didn’t just sort of evolve out of that. It seems like it just causes a lot of heartbreak and not a lot of positive stuff. But lets talk a little bit about unreciprocated love.

Dr. Arthur Aron: Yeah, first of all, it’s very common. If you talk to college students in America, almost all of them will have had several experiences of being intensely in love with someone who didn’t respond. And it’s a kind of motivational paradox, why do you continue with that? And we’ve done some research on it, and as best as we can tell there are three main reasons. One is, it’s simply mistake. That is, there is an evolutionary value to being persistent in trying to win a partner, win a mate, and you’ll see this with, if you watch deer fighting over partners, they’ll keep pursing it. And so, you may have been mislead in, or mistakenly felt the other person would respond or they may have purposely mislead you. We call those the Giselle’s after the ballet heroine, and those people tend, that’s the least common, but it tends to be the one that most, when it secures, these attachment secure types have unreciprocated, it’s usually by mistake in some way. A second reason, and probably the most common, is that you believe that if this person were to respond life would be perfect. And even though it’s a small probability, it’s like betting on the lottery, it’s worth trying, it’s worth, because nothing could make life, and in fact on questionnaires people will say, “My life would be perfect, things would be…”And even if you talk to them, people will say, “Well, I know it wouldn’t really be that, but it feels that way.” And so these people are idealizing the other, they are idealizing the potential of the relationship and they know it’s a long shot, but it’s worth the long shot. And that’s most common in these preoccupied anxious ambivalence, when they have, and it’s a very common phenomenon. And at its extreme, it can make people very angry at the person. One researcher, Paul Wong in Canada, found that the more, with unrequited love, the more you love the person, the less you like them, because they’re not responding and, you know, in Shakespear’s Symboline, they, the person actually kills the person for not responding. And then the third is,  recall and certainly that type we call them the siranose, the, but the third type we’ve actually labeled the Don Quixote’s. These are people off in their avoidance for whom unrequited love’s not such a bad thing. They don’t really want a close relationship, but they want to be the romantic hero. It enriches your life, it gives you direction. These are the people we’ll say, they won’t say they’re happy about it, but they’ll say, “Better to of loved and lost”, you know. It makes their life richer, fuller to have this love object, and, you know, if they were to respond they might not actually want, they’re the people if the person responded, by saying, “Well you’re not really so great”, you know.

Chip August: I like it. So I get to have the feeling of loving feelings inside me without ay of the complications of relationship or actual connection. We need to pause, give a chance to listen to our sponsors. As you listen to these sponsors I just want to remind you that you can get a free book from Audible, you can save twenty percent on ice.com jewelry and more. Just go to personallifemedia.com and check out the links on my episode pages, and any place where they ask for a promo code use the word love, l-o-v-e. Come on back ‘cause we’ve got a little more to do here and we’ve got an exercise for you also, so come on back.

Chip August: We are back. You’re listening to Sex, Love and Intimacy. I’m your host, Chip August. We’re talking to Art Aron. He is a research psychologist who’s doing amazing stuff about love and attraction and self and altruism, and we’ve been talking about unreciprocated love and intense romantic love. I actually want to talk about, a little bit more about this whole thing about love and this whole thing about, you, there was one survey, one research paper you sent me that had to do with comparing, introducing new and novel things into relationships versus the mundane and versus not doing anything at all, and I’m just wondering if you could talk a little bit about all that work that you’re doing, ‘cause it, I read the hypothesis and was just kind of fascinated by the value of newness in relationship.

Dr. Arthur Aron: We’ve done a series of studies on this notion that if you do something with your partner that is challenging, novel, exciting, it can in a sense rekindle the excitement and love from the early stages. What happens we argue, and we have some data to support this, when you fall in love with someone is in the early stages you are sharing ideas, talking all the time, you’re becoming part of each other at a very rapid rate and it’s very exhilarating. But eventually you get to know each other. What can happen then? Well we think, one thing we think can happen then is you can do things that are novel, challenging, exciting, self-expanding with your partner. In the early stages, the forming of the relationship itself does it. But if later you do something together out in the world, it gets associated with your partner because you’re doing it with them. So we’ve done a whole series of studies of this. One of them we did, it was a field experiment where we took 60 people and we, volunteers, middle class white couples mostly, there was some ethnic diversity, but they were all middle class well educated couples who were doing okay, and we randomly assigned them to one of three groups. One group for an hour and a half each night for ten weeks did something from a list of activities that were novel, challenging, exciting. The other group did something from a list of activities that were highly pleasant, but not novel or challenging. And then there was a third group that didn’t do anything special. And we looked at their marital quality before and after the ten weeks. At the end of the ten weeks those who did the novel, challenging, exciting activities had a substantial and significant increase in their marital quality compared to either of the other two groups. We’ve also done this in the laboratory. The laboratory, we can get the effect in seven minutes. We bring a couple in, we tie them together at the wrists and ankles with Velcro straps and have them go back and forth across gym mats and we compare that to a condition where the couple just goes back and forth. And, again, seven minutes later they’re, they come in thinking this is a study in which they’re filling out a bunch of questionnaires, they’re doing some activities, filling out more questionnaires. From our point of view, the first sets a pre-test, the last sets a post-test, and then the activity, some couples are doing the exciting and some are mundane. Those doing the exciting activity show a substantial increase in their love, their satisfaction. If we have them doing a communication task afterwards, there’s less hostility, more positive comments.

Chip August: So, if, you know, it’s always hard to go from experiments in research to actual life advice, but I think what I’m hearing is, I have a belief that sort of romantic love goes through phases, that there’s an intense beginning and that for many people, three, four years into a relationship things have cooled off, and when you look at divorce rates you just notice between three years and seven years the divorce rates just skyrocket as, I think, you know, relationships just kind of die, I think people don’t know how to sustain them, and I think one of the conclusions I would draw from what you’re saying is introduction of novel and challenging things on somewhat of a regular basis is likely to offset that.

Dr. Arthur Aron: It should help. I mean, the data are very clear that there’s what we call the curve, things go downhill. After four years only about ten percent of couples are as happy as they were when they started, and not all those were that happy at the beginning. But there is then, although there are a small percentage of people who thirty, forty years later, are as in love as people who are, first met, in fact we’ve been doing FMRI studies and we’re seeing the brain activity in people that have been together thirty years who claim to be intensely in love. Some of them show the same thing as people who’ve just fallen in love and are intensely in love. So it is possible, and we think one of the things is doing novel, challenging activities with your partner. Everything else matters too. You know, good communication skills, not having anxiety or depression in either partner, all those things help, but this is one thing that can be added by virtually anybody. My wife and I try once a week to do something we’ve never done before, haven’t done in a long time, that’s novel, challenging, exciting to both of us and that’s very interactive, you know.

Chip August: Once a week, wow. I’m impressed, I mean, I would say my wife and I, it’s more like once a month, but okay, once a week, okay. We are running to the end of our time. This has been a terrific interview. I’m clear we could talk for days and days and days and just never, never run out of things to talk about. If people, you’re working on something called like The Handbook of Closeness and Intimacy, is that true, you’re working on a, on some sort of publication around this, yes?
Dr. Arthur Aron: We have lots, I mean, we publish mainly scientific journal articles. The handbook came out a couple years ago. The one thing I would add is, you were talking about exercises. What I would suggest couples do, we don’t have directories, but it follows from everything. First thing to do, sit down together sometime. Make a list of all the things that you would both like to do that you haven’t done in a long time or you’ve never done before. If you go to the Opera all the time then why don’t you go to the horse races. If you go to the horse races all the time think about going to the Opera. Look for something really different that’s doable. You know, sometimes that means taking a trip for a weekend, sometimes it’s something you can, you know, maybe you never have gone to, you know, since you were young people, never going to a bar to hang out. Go to a bar to hang, do something that, make a list together, that would be the first step. And then once a week see if you can do something from that list.

Chip August: I’d add to that, make a list of things that you would like your partner to do and have your partner make a list of things that they’d like you to do, a list that are things that have you feel loved, appreciated and excited about your relationship, give each other the lists and then periodically, once a week, once every two weeks, do something on that list. Like actually take a moment, look at your partners list and go, “Oh, alright, yeah, she likes me to do this, great. I’ll do that”, and, again, it’s that opportunity to really talk about and look at what would be new and different and exciting ‘cause it’s, I completely agree with Art here that anyway we keep our relationship new and exciting, we stay in love, love just builds and builds and builds and builds and builds. Thank you. Thank you for being here, thank you. If people want, a lot of people don’t actually have any idea where to go to read any kind of scientific research, how would they find you or research or, you got any suggestions?

Dr. Arthur Aron: You know, if you don’t, most of the stuff, the work we do, is not inaccessible to people with a little bit of education, it’s not that technical. You know, any university library, but certainly on our website, through State University of New York at Stoneybrook, I’m not sure even what the website is, but relationship researchers typically, and you’ll see on my website, but if you were to go to Psych Lit or Immevline or any of the search engines and put in relationship words, you’ll get more than you could ever imagine coming back.

Chip August: And just so you all know, I think you all know this, if you’ll go to the Personal Life Media website, personallifemedia.com, we’ll have a link to Art Aron’s website and a link to the Stoneybrook things that he just talked about. Also there’ll be a transcript of this entire interview, so, ‘cause we transcribe every episode of Sex, Love and Intimacy, so if you want to print it out or cut it or forward a copy to people, if there’s something we said that you want to hang on to, why, you can find it on my episode pages at personallifemedia.com. Also if you want to contact me, you can reach me, [email protected]. I’m always interested in hearing your comments or show ideas or ideas for other guests. If sending me an email doesn’t work so well for you, there’s also a voice mail line, 206-350-5333. Please leave your name, your question, your comment, the name of my show, Sex, Love and Intimacy. And we do listen to every message and I do respond to every email, so please let me know what’s going on. The audience for the show is growing, which is really wonderful and you can help me grow by, if you think of somebody who might like this kind of information, please send them a link, send them, or at least let them know that the show exists because we think we could reach a lot more people. If everybody who listened and liked to send it to one other person, why, we’d be, we’d be talking to a lot more people, so please forward the show. Dr. Aron, I really appreciate you spending this time. It’s been an interesting challenge to find the time for us to do this and I’m just really pleased to have you here. Thank you so much.

Dr. Arthur Aron: It’s been my pleasure Chip. Thank you.

Chip August: And that brings us to the end of another show. You’ve been listening to Sex, Love and Intimacy. I’m your host, Chip August, and I hope you’ll join us again.