(Part 1 here
)LOVE AND MARRIAGE
Episode 3 was about love and relationships and focused on four different couples:
Couple #1: a newlywed couple of people who'd met, fallen deeply in love, had a kid, and gotten married all in the space of a year and were still very much in love
Couple #2: a young couple who'd recently separated after the male admitted infidelity
Couple #3: a middle aged couple on the verge of a break
Couple #4: a cute old couple who'd been married for over 70 years
They did a number of studies on the couple. The first study asked whether how you feel about someone alters the way you see them. The researcher separated the women and men into different rooms and gave them each a number of fairly identical images of their mates some of which had been computer altered to make the person look better looking and some which had been altered to make them uglier. As predicted the newlyweds picked the idealized images and the elderly couple (who at first refused to play along thinking ALL the pictures were hideously bad) picked the idealized ones as well. The young couple who'd recently split picked the uglier images, as did the woman in the middle-aged couple on the fritz. However the man on the fritz picked a more idealized image of his wife saying he wanted to pick the picture that did her the most justice, just "give her a little credit".
The second thing they did is a brain scan of the newlyweds as they were staring at pictures of the other. This was incredible. Now I think I'd heard from uberdionysus
that love affects your brain chemistry, but it didn't click for me that love floods your rewards center with positive chemicals and suppresses your critical faculties.
I had no idea. It's actually kinda scary. Apparently this only lasts for 2-3 years tops and then just wears off. The elderly couple said: "When the infatuation is over that's when the true love comes in and when the relationship really starts."
(I'm telling you they were RIDICULOUSLY cute)
The rest of the program seemed to focus more on the troubled couples. They took pictures of the couples, both together and as children to psychology Professor Dacher Keltner (from my alma mater, UC Berkeley) who claimed that he could help couples' predict their success by looking at pictures of them at children and pictures of them together. He claimed that looking at the way people smiled as children gives a sense of the type of stress they had as children and thus how they now deal with stress. The way people respond to stress obviously has major implications for how people deal with their mates. Professor Keltner did however say that big events (quite often meeting their mate) can sometimes have a profound effect on a person and cause a major shift in how they deal with their stress and their overall happiness.
The couples went on to undergo stress tests that confirmed what Professor Keltner had deduced from their childhood photos. So the couples went on to undergo counselling with someone named Howard Markman who wrote a book about finding the danger signs in your relationship which are:
2) escalation of negativity
3) sweeping negative interpretations (ie. "You never loved me!")
Howard gave the couples different assignments and while the young couple made a lot of progress (resulting in the husband moving back in with his family), the middle aged couple didn't seem to be doing well (as Professor Keltner had predicted). During the middle aged couples segment, I found myself screaming at the television quite a bit because the woman just looked such a damn mess. She looked only a step above a man in lazy drag, and she seemed to not even put in any effort. They went out on a date and the woman didnt even slide any lipstick on. The man admitted on the show that he'd cheated on her a few times because they weren't getting along and also because he was not happy with the way his life had turned out and needed an escape from it. The guy was fairly attractive and seemed nice and the woman just seemed like this hideous "Cat lady/ romance novel" type". I can only hope they are divorced by now. Yeesh!
Unlike the previous episode (on attraction), there were a lot more scientific and psychological hypotheses proved correct here. Not sure whether that is better or worse for the researchers, but it made it a lot more illuminating for me. Best of all was to see the couple that'd been married for a long time. They had a lot of great things to say and I wish they'd focused on them more. It was interesting to hear them say they argued every day, I've always believed that people who stay together aren't necessarily together because they get along magically every day but because they find ways to deal with disagreements.
So anyway, coming up next post is my big conclusions about myself.