How to Strictly Proof your Relationship

The Strictly glitter ball is getting ready to sparkle once again and so we asked our resident Clinical Psychologist, Dr Kerry Ashton-Shaw, to explain the science behind the infamous Strictly Curse.

Taking part in Strictly involves intense, physically intimate relationships between dance partners. Spending large amounts of time together, being part of an exciting, dramatic emotional rollercoaster of an experience…it’s not hard to imagine how this can lead to intense feelings developing between two people. 

But from a neuropsychological perspective what’s going on? Why do celebs in long-term, seemingly committed relationships put their relationship at risk or end it altogether when they have been part of Strictly? How powerful are those sequins?!  

At the beginning of a romantic relationship our brains can release ‘attraction’ chemicals that make us feel intense excitement and pleasure around this new person. Adrenaline can make our pupils dilate, our heart beat faster and set off butterflies in our stomach; dopamine can give us that intense rush of pleasure; serotonin and oxytocin can increase feelings of attraction and attachment. We want to spend more time with them, we feel alert and energised. This is exciting and addictive! Overtime these intense feelings (and the related chemicals) can change and develop into a more committed relationship. Vasopressin can come into play as the relationship moves from attraction towards something deeper and more committed. We feel calmer and more secure in the relationship.  

The intensity of the relationship between dance partners training and performing together on Strictly is the perfect opportunity for the ‘attraction’ chemicals to be released and, it seems in some cases, to move towards something more committed 

But, of course, not all relationships are stricken by the Strictly Curse. Why is that? We have to question a few things. Were the relationships in difficulty anyway? Did the challenge and achievement of taking part in Strictly boost self-esteem – giving certain celebs the ‘push’ they needed to waltz off from an unhappy relationship? 

One thing is for certain, we can all try to ‘Strictly Proof’ our relationships. If you’d score yourselves below a sev-en, talk about it. You may find a way to fall back in step. If on the other hand, it’s tens across the board – work at keeping those ‘attraction’ chemicals going. Date nights and doing new things together will do that. Why not even slip on some sequins and learn to dance with your partner? That glitterball can sparkle for us all! And don’t forget – keep dancing!

Dr Kerry Ashton-Shaw

Clinical Psychologist

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