Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Warm Heart, Cold Shoulder

Love is not in the air right now. Even in Austin, Texas, it is 30 degrees outside. My experience has been that new relationships tend to struggle in the cold of winter. I have experienced the “Turkey Drop,” which is where you go home for Thanksgiving and your girlfriend realizes your relationship is no good, then she drops you shortly after. In Texas, that is about the time the weather gets cold.

Several research studies have investigated the effect of temperature on relationships. One study concluded that merely holding a warm cup of coffee led participants to judge another person as having a more generous and caring personality, as opposed to holding iced coffee. The same paper reported that participants holding a warm therapeutic pad were more likely to choose to receive a gift for someone else instead of themselves (Williams & Bargh, 2008).

Another study reported that recalling an instance of being socially excluded led participants to estimate the room temperature as colder than recalling an inclusion experience. The same study also concluded that actually being socially excluded led participants to a greater desire for warm food or drinks (Zhong & Leonardelli, 2008).

Of course, there are several implications one could make from this research. One could make sure to go to  warm places and have warm drinks and food on dates. One could also be hopeful that one’s relationship drought might end when the warm weather returns.

More importantly, it says to me that real love must be more than just warm feelings. Warm feelings may be necessary, but they are fleeting because the winter will always come, even in Texas. One of the most beautiful  and timeless descriptions of love is in 1 Corinthians 13. This chapter says many things about love, but it does not say that love goes away when it is cold. Paul says love perseveres, is patient, and never fails.

So beware of the turkey drop, know that positive feelings are fickle enough to be affected by the temperature. Yet also remember that love should be bigger than a warm heart or a cold shoulder.

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