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Timeline of a Love Affair

Ties That Bind continued...

But not all long-term relationships are carefully calculated. Some couples commit. Others "get committed" by circumstance or inertia. That can keep relationships on the shelf past their best-by date. "People have to be aware when these things are happening," Bartell says. "It may seem inconsequential that you get a dog with your boyfriend, but it's really not."

Making a conscious commitment is important. Research shows that solidly committed couples are less vulnerable to relationship threats than more uncertain couples are. Threats may include partners' potentially "fatal" flaws, hurtful things they may say or do to one another, temptation from sexy other men or women, pressure from anyone who disapproves of the relationship, and all the sundry misfortunes that can befall people.

In other words, a love affair has more staying power when lovers aren't questioning whether the other is "the one."

Take Heart

The big limitation of science in the study of love affairs is that it can't predict what will happen to any particular love affair. Averages tell us what's normal, but they flatten out all the tragic and triumphant love stories that have been sung about for millennia. That's a good thing if you have high hopes for love. The next great love affair could be yours.

Reviewed on February 04, 2009
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What physical changes do you experience when in love?