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The Science of Love: how to fall in love and stay in love

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Estimated read time: 5-6 minutes

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SOUTH JORDAN — Nate Bagley from South Jordan travels the country asking a simple question, "Does true love really exist? And if it does, can it last?"

"I had questions I wanted answers to," Bagley said, who admits to being single for a long time. "There's always a handful of people whose relationships I looked up to and admired, and I wanted to know what they were doing differently from everyone else. I figured the best thing to do would be to go out and ask them."

For his Loveumentary podcast, the 31-year-old, who has been dating someone for a few months, features couples like the Schenzels, in Omaha, Nebraska, who met in grad school.

"Her skin was bronze, teeth just white," Ty Schenzel said about their first meeting.

They were both studying in the seminary and worried others might be too academically focused. Terri, especially, wanted to have fun. "We met each other and it was like, 'Good, there's another kindred spirit out there.'"

They became close friends, and Terri, at first, dated Ty's roommate, until he got up the courage to tell her he wanted more. That's when they began falling in love.

Falling in Love

When we fall in love, scientists say 12 areas of the brain work together to release chemicals like: adrenaline, oxytocin, dopamine and vasopressin. That's what makes us feel so euphoric. But how to we make love last?

Researchers wanted to know what happens when we fall in love. New York psychologist Arthur Aron, of Stoney Brooke University, asked complete strangers to share intimate details about their lives for 45 minutes and stare into each other's eyes without talking for four minutes. Afterward, many said they felt deeply attracted and two subjects married.

That's why we use the term "falling" in love, said Melissa Lambson, LCSW with New Leaf Counseling in Sandy. "It feels out of control. We have obsessive thoughts, we may do impulsive things, in order to get close to that person." Lambson counsels couples and helps them reignite the spark.

Ever felt crazy in love? There's science behind that too.

Donatella Marazziti, a psychiatrist at the University of Pisa, won the Nobel Prize in chemistry for finding the hormone levels of new lovers were the same as those in people with obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Seth and Amy Spangler of Cottonwood Heights met at the University of Utah and continued dating when she transferred to BYU. They each wrote letters during back-to-back missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"For me, the physical attraction was instantaneous," he said. Amy, snuggled on the couch next to him, laughed.

Staying in Love

The Spanglers have kept the romance alive for almost 17 years of marriage and have five children. But they agree it takes effort.

"Through those ups and downs of recognizing when we're far away and we need to come back together — that's where we've been able to say, 'It's time to refocus,'" Seth said.

The couple said they sought counseling when they hit a rough spot to learn how to better communicate. That's a wise choice, experts say.

"Falling in love is very easy, but that wears off," said Lambson. "It can wear off in a few months. The important part is that we're continuing to keep the flame alive."

Researchers also looked at the chemistry behind staying in love. Scientists at Florida State University studied prairie voles, which form strong, monogamous bonds like humans. They gave the male prairie voles drugs to suppress vasopressin, the bonding hormone that's released after sex. Their bond with their beloved deteriorated immediately. The take-home?

"Getting that vasopressin going, getting that oxytocin going," Lambson said. "Making sure there's a lot of physical touch and that we're having a lot of intimate conversation and that we're keeping that connection alive."

The Spanglers do weekly date nights, often at their favorite restaurant, Tsunami. They also take trips without the kids at the beginning of each year. Long walks are another favorite way they reconnect.

"For me, I feel happier when I'm focused on his happiness and making him feel loved," Amy said.

Putting each other first is key, counselors say. And instead of always looking for 'the one,' strive to be 'the one.'

Being 'the one'

Early in Terri and Ty Schenzel's 27-year marriage, Terri made a powerful promise, which she talked about in Bagley's Loveumentary podcast.

"At the end of Ty's life, I want him to be able to say, 'Terri was the greatest earthly blessing in my life, the best thing that ever happened to me, and I'm a better man because of how she loved me," Terri said.

And she kept that promise.

Bagley said, "I got a phone call from my friend Melissa and she was tears and she said, 'Ty and Terri are dead,' and I was like, 'What?!' They got in a car wreck. Someone got on the freeway going the wrong way and they hit them head-on and they're dead, they're gone."

Hundreds gathered to mourn them. The Loveumentary podcast is the most popular one ever.

"Now their legacy is going to live on forever," Bagley said, pushing back tears. "It's still impacting people."

Ty founded the Hope Center for Kids in Omaha, a charity for kids in need. On her blog Terri wrote that Ty was her best friend and the love of her life.

The Schenzels are proving that true loves exists and it lasts.

Every couple Bagley spoke with for his podcast has endured a major problem together like bankruptcy, depression, death of a loved one and even infidelity. What made the difference was commitment, communication, forgiveness and looking for the good in your partner.


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Heather Simonsen


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