The beneficial effects of love are starting to be recognized. Love reduces blood pressure, prevents cancer, improves the immune system. It promotes healing and mental health. What songwriters have told us for centuries is true: love is magic.
The 1990s research demonstrating physiological benefit from marriage? Turns out that’s wrong. Recent research shows that just any old marriage won’t do. Those marriages where spouses are neglected or hurt are marriages where not only is there no physiological benefit, the body is actually damaged. Even emotional abuse harms the immune system, leading to disease. For people who are physically abused by their spouses, marriage is even more dangerous and can be fatal.
With bad relationships, the “marriage benefit” goes out the window.
It’s healthy, loving relationships that provide both partners with benefits. In other words, it’s the love they feel and share that’s important, not the shared address and Maytag.
But what if, like me, you’re single? If you wish to be in a loving relationship, but the man for you simply hasn’t come into your life? Is there any way to gather the benefits of love?
There is. Bear with me.
Close your eyes – whoops, you can’t. Okay, imagine your eyes closed while you read these five names:
George Clooney. Hugh Jackman. Johnny Depp. Ben Affleck. Brad Pitt.
Good-looking guys, right? And they’re all actors. What else do they have in common? For one thing, they’ve each had thousands – millions? – of women fantasize about them, eagerly read of their lives in People and Us, watch and buy their movies. They’ve been the objects of admiration and infatuation.
This isn’t love, of course, but it’s getting there. Interest and admiration, fantasizing, the urge to see the beloved, imaging oneself with him or her, all those are classic first steps on the way to love.
Amazingly, even if we never reveal them to others, those behaviors act on our bodies the same way they would if the object of our affection shared our bed. We may never meet George Clooney, but if we act as if we know him, if we imagine talking to him, dating him, involving ourselves in a loving way – and receiving love from him – our bodies create the same jolts of great hormones they would if George were our sweetie. We release dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, oxytocin and vasopressin. Our bloodstreams won’t be as flooded as they would were our lips really locked with Mr. Clooney’s, but even a small amount of these five hormones acts to encourage the body.
Maybe that’s another reason why women outlive men: they imagine themselves in love.
So if you’re single, go ahead. Pick a stranger and fantasize a great, healthy, loving marriage. As far as your physiological health is concerned, you’ll reap all the benefits of a genuine relationship.
With no socks on the floor.