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Light a fire in your relationship: Wayne State University research says double dating may be the answer to a perfect Valentine’s Day

February 12, 2014

DETROIT — Romantic relationships often start out exciting, but later often become routine and boring. A Wayne State University study reveals that going on a double date may reignite passion in a couple’s relationship more effectively than the classic candlelit dinner for two. According to their research findings, integrating other couples into their social life can make couples feel more passionate toward their own romantic partners.

“Passionate love is one of the first dimensions of love to decrease in couples over time as the newness of a relationship begins to wane,” said Keith Welker, a doctoral student at Wayne State University and lead author on the study. "Relationships have widely been thought to flourish and develop in a broader network of social relationships, while emerging research has suggested that novel, arousing experiences can increase feelings of passionate love.”

The research, conducted by Welker and his advisor Richard B. Slatcher, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology in Wayne State’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, brings together these two research areas, which show interactions with other couples can increase feelings of passionate love. Such interactions, the researchers say, may cause partners to view their and the relationship in a new and positive light.

The study will be presented this week at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) annual conference in Austin.

Double dates may reignite passionate love

Slatcher and Welker previously studied how self-disclosure increased closeness within couples. They extended the research to investigate how self-disclosure between couples affects closeness and feelings of passionate love.

"We were expecting that the formation of a friendship between two couples in the lab would increase closeness and relationship satisfaction,” Welker says. "However, we found the robustness of the effects on passionate love surprising.”

In two studies, the team investigated nearly 150 couples using the "Fast Friends" activity, originally developed by Arthur Aron of Stony Brook University, a co-author on the new study. In 45 minutes, couples answered basic "get-to-know-you” questions, and then more progressively deeper, personal questions.

In one study, couples who met each other through the high-disclosure, Fast Friends activity, reported higher feelings of passionate love than those in the low-disclosure task, which involved non-emotional, small-talk questions. In a second study, the researchers found that how responsive another couple was to personal disclosure predicted an increase in passionate love following the Fast Friends task.

“The more that the other couple responds to your self-disclosures in a validating and caring way when on a double date, the more passionate you feel about your own relationship,” Welker explains. “Although we still need to investigate why responsiveness from other couples predicts increases in passionate love, one possibility is that having another couple respond positively to yourself and your partner may provide you with a fresh, positive view of your partner and relationship.”

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Wayne State University is one of the nation’s pre-eminent public research universities in an urban setting. Through its multidisciplinary approach to research and education, and its ongoing collaboration with government, industry and other institutions, the university seeks to enhance economic growth and improve the quality of life in the city of Detroit, state of Michigan and throughout the world. For more information about research at Wayne State University, visit http://www.research.wayne.edu.