In successful relationships, partners take the basics seriously, and handle the yearnings of each to feel heard and understood as unique beings as really, really important; in short, they treat one another with dignity, recognizing their own and one another’s personal power.
As top trial lawyer Gerry Spence notes, what we face when we interact with one another, is what we most fear in our relationships, and that is: the power of the other as an agent of their choices.
The other has the power, for example, to choose to say no, to deny some need, want or yearning, and so on, and because this directly challenges our own sense of personal power (to realize dreams, wants and needs), it touches our deepest intimacy fears, such as fear of inadequacy, rejection, abandonment.
Not surprisingly, this dynamic is particularly intense in couple relationships.
This post lists the last 6 of 12 science-backed wedding vows, and is a continuation of Part 1. They are
7. “I vow to disallow my past to negatively influence our present and future together as individuals and a couple.
This vow stems from research on couple communications and forgiveness. Consciously or not, early experiences in interactions with primary caregivers can subconsciously shape our lives, particularly events that were emotionally intense. Many or most core beliefs about who we are, what we are capable of, how we want life to be, and so on, originate in formative years of childhood. Some affect us in positive ways, giving us stamina to overcome challenges, while others block or limit our growth and happiness.
Often the impact of negative (and positive) childhood experiences remains dormant until problems in an intimate relationship surface, making it imperative that we take a fresh look at some deeply painful aspect of ourselves or lives, perhaps ones we’ve disowned or kept well hidden deep inside.
With this in mind, let’s explore what defensive patterns in your couple relationship are saying to you and your partner. To be sure, your brains and emotions, thoughts and feelings, are doing what they’re designed to do whenever you or your partner perceive a threat, in this case, a threat to meeting a core attachment or intimacy (love) need.
What does reactivity say about what’s going on beneath the surface of your couple relationship?
A recent article on Science of Relationships outlined a list of ten research-based wedding vows. Based on findings, Samantha Joel outlined vows that, if followed, would best guarantee marital bliss. The below list of 12 vows is adapted from the original.
1. “I vow to think highly of you, and seek to know and appreciate you for who you are, as well as who you aspire to become.”
This vow draws from research on the power of imagination, more specifically, the use of positive illusions or imagination, as a creative force, a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. Based on the findings of Dr. Sandara Murray and colleagues, partners who maintained positive illusions of the other and their relationship were more likely to eventually create it. When you view your partner in a positive light, whether you do so consciously or not, the benefits include not only giving your partner a personal feel-good, but also increasing their sense of security in relation to you.
Like or love it, you and your body are a highly sophisticated communication network that operates 24/7 around the clock every day of your life.
Neuroscience and other studies of the brain and human relationships have taught us a lot about the brain in the last two decades. We know that to understand and organize our thinking experience of the world, we must necessarily learn language—and all of its syntax and grammatical complexities. In much the same way, we must learn to understand and organize our experience of our body’s own language — emotion and sensory cues — with its unique grammar and syntax rules.
When you and your partner discuss a hot topic, do you handle it in a way that enriches your relationship — and ultimately your happiness — or does your experience put more emotional distance between you and polarize your positions? Many couples fall in the latter category.
Think about it. It’s tempting, isn’t it, to use our capacity for logic to build a case against the other? The feel-good neurochemicals in our brain pull us in this direction, particularly, if we’ve experienced this reaction in early experiences with parents (and who hasn’t?).
As it turns out, social sciences and religions alike have been seriously wrong when it comes to labeling humans as inherently “bad,” “selfish” or “aggressive,” and so on, by nature or from birth. Similarly, scientific thought has mislead us at times into thinking that our instincts for survival have been the primary motivating force of nature, to include human nature.
(It begs the question: Is it coincidence that we’ve been simultaneously taught to think of love as fluffy, secondary or an optional add on to our nature?)
Conceivably, love is a primary evolutionary force. For humans, it is the primary reason to live, and the quest for meaning in life shapes most all of our behaviors, and not merely to survive.
More than likely, our physical instincts to survive are there to serve our higher ones. A handful of psychological theorists, such as Alfred Adler and Abraham Maslow, had it right. They understood certain essential instincts revealed our social nature as human beings, such as our yearnings for belonging, acceptance, making contributions, etc., substantiated by recent findings in neuroscience.
The work of Dr. Marco Iacoboni, published in his most recent book, Mirroring People: The New Science of How we Connect with Others invites us to look at human nature with new reverence and awe.
In contrast to codependency tendencies, described in a previous article as a rigid pattern of relating to key others (and self) with little or no sense of own wants and needs as valuable, significant or even viable, those with indicators for narcissism have a rigid pattern of relating to others as extension of themselves, wants, drives, desires, and so on. When it comes to feeling others’ feelings, those with narcissistic personality disorder seem to relate from a place that is as lifeless and cold as an ice sculpture.
It is perhaps no surprise that the codependent and narcissist often find themselves in an irresistible yet toxic dance together in life. Whereas the codependent enters a relationship with little or no sense of self, the narcissist enters with little or no ability to empathize, “see” or treat others as separate persons with feelings and vantage points of their own. Perhaps even more significantly, they have no desire to do so. If you consider their key traits, why would they?
Thoughts are much more than airy pieces of information that enter our minds and then disappear. The words and ideas we think, and the accompanying feelings they spark, subconsciously shape our lives.
They can literally activate chemical processes that affect us at every level, emotional, physical, mental, and thus can drive us in the direction of overall success and happiness — or failure and distress.
Thoughts are energy. Emotions are energy. Physical feelings are energy. Together, they energize us to action accordingly, and even have the power to immobilize us. How you think (and thus feel) can have a profound effect on your ability to recognize an opportunity, perform to the best of your ability, or achieve the outcome of the goals that you’ve set for yourself.
Mindfulness makes living a happy and health life and relationship easier, and more effortless. Yet it is more than the vital practices that it is most commonly associated with, such as cultivating a sense of effortless presence, awareness, connection to mind and body, breath work, and the like.
It also requires us to become conscious and aware thinkers, and this requires effort. consistent and conscious effort to become aware and conscious thinkers.
Essentially, it is, if anything, a transformation of old thought and belief patterns that activate our fear response unnecessarily, and thus prevent us from a deeper relationship and connection to our self, mind and body, and life around us.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a learned ability to live in the present moment, an inner connection to our experience of life in and around us.