What is this thing called ‘love’? Plato labeled love an ‘irrational desire,” and song titles such as “The Things We Do For Love,” as well as lyrics of songs such as “Why Do Fools Fall In Love,” convey the befuddling impact love relationships can have on human brains. For human beings, men and women alike, there is perhaps no bigger fascination or obsession for the senses, heart and mind, body and spirit.
The good news from fields of neuroscience and intimacy (known as social neuroscience, attachment, affective neuroscience and cognitive neuroscience) is that up-close studies of the brain mechanisms underlying behavior in social relationships have taken much of the mystery out of our quest to understand couple relationships.
As Dr. Sue Johnson states in a recent book, Hold Me Tight, quite the contrary, love relationships seem to be governed by an “exquisite logic” that follows rather precise algorithms. Bonding behaviors, it turns out, are less of a mystery and more a science.
We now understand, for example, there are neurochemical reasons why we tend to make poor decisions in certain relational contexts.
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.
Thanks to advances in research methodology and neuroscience, relationships are now a science. The science of love relationships has identified several specific behavior patterns of partners that succeed in creating healthy, mutually enriching couple relationships. Partners who think and act in certain ways nearly guarantee themselves love relationships in which they feel fulfilled, loved and appreciated.
First, the good news is both you and your partner are wired for love, your body’s health depends on it.
Second, you are wired to release a certain love hormone, Oxytocin, the chemical known as the “cuddle hormone,” in response to certain behaviors.
Feeling loved and secure has everything to do with knowing how to create an Oxytocin response that makes you and your partner feel loved and secure.
Okay, the details may be different, but overall do you get into a scripted dialogue in which you can guess what your partner is going to say or do in reaction to something you say?
(Most likely, by the way, your partner likely feels the same way too.)
The stuck feelings seem all too familiar to couples in a relationship. Like others, both of you likely wonder, at times, whether there’s a chance of ever getting the love, understanding, acceptance, appreciation, romance, etc., you want. You know, the feelings you had at the start of your relationship. It seems you’ve tried everything. Is it too much to ask to feel valued, important — and connected — in your relationship?
Gratitude is an emotion we use to express appreciation and thankfulness and joy in response to receiving a gift. It’s much more, however.
A powerful agent, gratitude can propel us with unstoppable momentum to find ways to express, exclaim and proclaim it to the world, or another person, perhaps shouting from the rooftops!
Words may not suffice to express gratitude, but this cannot stop us from trying.
In Part 1, we considered three areas of the brain that work together to produce feel-good chemicals, and that, depending on the circumstances, can literally alter our emotional states of body and mind to the point of putting our ability to make choices (personal power) out of reach. The automatic release of this chemical mix can lead us to making poor and potentially dangerous decisions, and even worse, form an addictive habit or pattern.
To retain our choice making capacity, it helps to understand that a key underlying issue in relationships, based on decades of research on attachment and intimacy, is the connection.
Human beings get unhinged about a lot of things, yet nothing seems to compare to the actions of desperation, and the emotional roller coasters in the dance of romance.
Where in life are we suddenly in the most intimate of circumstances, contemplating dramatic shifts to our lives and future plans, with someone who was a total stranger a relatively short time ago?
A new sort of infidelity has been on the rise for decades, and it’s one of the biggest threats to marriage: ‘emotional affairs.’ Today’s workplace has become the new danger zone of opportunities for ‘emotional affairs,’ surpassed only by the Internet.
A relationship without sex can be just as intense, or more so than a sexual one. Not surprisingly, in most cases, approximately 80% according to Dr. Shirley Glass, author of Not Just Friends: Rebuilding Trust and Recovering Your Sanity After Infidelity, the dynamics of these platonic liaisons crosses over into sexual love sooner or later.
Why the crisis?
To understand the intensity of emotional infidelity, it helps to see the dynamics as an addiction, a form of addictive love. That’s because it’s easier to let go of a toxic pattern when you depersonalize the experience.