If your relationship is going through a rough patch, maybe it’s time to consult something fluffy.

Bet you didn't think that when you woke up this morning you'd soon be reading an article on a study comparing the power of cute animal photos with sex toys.  Yet, here we are. 

Last week, a new study led by Florida State University and published in Psychological Science has shown that if you want to spice up a flat-lining or monotonous relationship, you should try adding some cute animal photos to the mix.

Looking at the well-known challenge of keeping passion alive in long-term partnerships, the team worked on a hypothesis that with a positive action, it might be actually be possible to retrain the immediate association that comes to mind when someone thinks of their spouse. Kind of like when you take a dog to the vet and shower them with treats or when Naboo gives Howard an anger management tool in Phillip in The Mighty Boosh...

 

"One ultimate source of our feelings about our relationships can be reduced to how we associate our partners with positive affect," says lead researcher James K.McNulty. "And those associations can come from our partners but also from unrelated things, like puppies and bunnies."
The team found that by repeatedly pairing a "positive stimulus" to an unrelated one, in this case, images of their subjects' (144 people under 40, married less than 5 years) spouses with positive words or images of doggos and bunnies, the nice words and adorable photos were soon associated with the pictures of the spouse and as such, subjects boasted a happier reaction to their partner. The findings were even associated with overall marriage quality and satisfaction, not just as a one-time thing.

"I was actually a little surprised that it worked," said McNulty, who admitted that the research was prompted by a grant from the US Department of Defence, looking at a way to help military families cope with the stress of deployment.. "All the theory I reviewed on evaluative conditioning suggested it should work, but existing theories of relationships, and just the idea that something so simple and unrelated to marriage could affect how people feel about their marriage, made me skeptical."
While it's still early days, the findings could lead to this type of intervention being used in marriage counselling and for those who have difficult relationship situations where contempt and negative emotions might build up. Until then, here's some cuties to get those hearts swelling. Happy Monday.  

A cute animal a day keeps divorce away, says science