We all have theories about what makes a successful relationship tick--romance, communication, what have you. But those theories are more than mere musings: they influence how—and how hard—we fall in love.
The evidence comes courtesy of a trio of New Zealand psychologists. They assessed how important passion and intimacy were to subjects in long-term relationships, and then asked them whether a series of adjectives applied to their current relationship.
Response speed, it turned out, depended on whether a given adjective was related to the subject's relationship theory. For example, when subjects who believed strongly in passion decided whether terms irrelevant to passion, like unique or organized, accurately described their relationship, they took longer to answer when simultaneously engaged in another mental task, like memorizing a six-digit number, that also demanded some thought.
But when presented with passion-related adjectives like fun or affectionate, they answered just as quickly when burdened with the memory task.
The reason, according to University of Canterbury psychologist Garth J. O. Fletcher, Ph.D., and his colleagues, is that people with strong relationship beliefs are particularly attuned to whether their own relationships reflect these ideals. If passion is important to you, no matter what else is happening, you're more likely to notice how often you and your partner share candlelight dinners or how exciting your sex life is.