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Can you fake your way into falling in love?

November 25, 2012, 2:00 AM

Once upon a time, my marriage was falling apart.

So my now ex-husband and I did what many couples do.  We sought out the services of a therapist specializing in marital issues.  Admittedly, it was an action of last resort.  We were at the point where I don't think we knew what else to do to right the ship.  I think it's fair to say that while we hoped for the best when we made our appointment, we pretty much had accepted the worst.

The therapist, after listening to both of us go on (and on and on) about what we saw as our core issues, gave us homework.  He told us that each night, after we had put our son down to bed, we were to hold hands for 10 minutes.  We could set a timer if we needed to.

If I'm honest, I was not fond of this therapist.  But, in fairness, I was not particularly fond of failing at my marriage either.  I may have come in with some bias.  But holding hands for 10 minutes?  I think I snorted with derision at the suggestion.  Our issues weren't going to be fixed with some hand holding.  I couldn't even remember the last time my spouse and I had actually spontaneously held hands.  I said as much out loud. 

"Sometimes, you have to 'fake it to make it,'" he said, tapping his fingers together in front of his face.  "Maybe taking that time to sit together, touching, will help you remember back to when you did want to hold hands."

The very idea seemed ridiculous. 

My marriage did not survive--despite our attempts at the suggested hand holding a few times.  But new research out of the University of Hertfordshire suggests that my marriage therapist may have not been so wrong with the "fake it to make it" idea--at least when love is in its beginning stages.

Richard Wiseman, a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire, observed 100 volunteers during a speed-dating night.  Some of those 100 participants were asked to do something quite simple:  to act as though they were already in love with the person they were matched with.  You know, to gaze into each other's eyes, whisper sweet nothings and hold hands.  Wiseman found something interesting.  While the normal rate of speed-dating success is about 20%--that is, around 20% of pairs say they want to see each other again--he saw a success rate of 45% in those who had faked a little love during their timed encounters.

How about that?

As previous work has suggested that plastering a smile on your face can actually improve your mood, Wiseman believes that not only can emotion lead to a behavior but a behavior can lead to an emotion. Love can happen in a variety of ways.

It's a compelling idea.  How many of wish that we could simply change our actions--and therefore change our results when it comes to our relationships?  Wiseman believes it is that simple.  Perhaps I would have done better to put a little more stock in some assigned hand holding. 

What do you think?  Can you fake your way into falling in love?

Photo credit:  Felix Mizioznikov/Shutterstock.com


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