Better Relationships

Are you looking for home made better relationships? Any guidance available? As a domestic violence educator/counselor, which research or programs do I recommend?

These days all kinds of relationships are getting a hard look, including dating and marital relationships, from the work of Helen Fisher,Ph.D., who has looked at just-in-love brains through the unflinching eye of the functional magnetic imaging machine (fMRI) to John Gottman,Ph.D., who has done in depth psychological and physiological studies of couples for 30 years at the Gottman "Love Lab", to Robert Epstein,Ph.D., who is teaching better relationships skills based on his study of how couples in arranged marriages make their unions so successful.

Participants in arranged marriages may have met once prior to their marriage ceremony, but their marriages are successful 95% of the time, meaning no divorce, while our western model of better relationship through Fairy Godmother intervention fails 50% of the time, in first, second, and third iterations.

Epstein says we would do well to study what those folks in do, and repeat it regularly in our own marriages.

Sort of like an intimacy workout.

Better Relationships Through Chemistry

But before we get to intimacy workouts, perhaps we should look at what Helen Fisher,Ph.D. has to say about romantic love, what it is, how it works, and her personality types.

Fisher's work indicates that we humans fall into four broad personality types, and we better relationships happen when we build that romantic love chemistry with a compatible personality type.

After researching why people fall in love with one person rather than another, Fisher and her colleagues Arthur Aron and Lucy Brown, came to believe men and women are a combination of four personality types associated with four specific neurotransmitters and hormones: The Explorer (dopamine), The Builder (serotonin), The Director (testosterone) and The Negotiator ( estrogen). So once you have taken Fisher's personality test at, and begun the process of relationship, then perhaps it is time to consider what Epstein and Gottman have to say.

Gottman has been following some couples for 30 years, and has teased out from his research a number of exercises, like one called discovering your partners love map, that couples can do together to increase intimacy and build better relationships. Gottman also has determined how to tell when relationships are in trouble, by observing the number of expressions of contempt, stonewalling, criticism, and disgust in the relationship.

I have used the Discovering Your Partner's Love Map exercise with many couples, and it is always interesting to watch them move from argument to fond memories as they ask each other the questions.

Robert Epstein, Ph.D. advocates that couples take time to work on exercises like what he calls soul gazing, which he has students in his class do. They sit fairly close to one another and look into each other's eyes for a couple of minutes, working to see the other person's soul.

After completing that exercise the students always report an increase in closeness, if not love.

Another of the Epstein exercises involves an attempt to synchronize heart beats, which I have been doing in my office for about eight years, since I discovered Heartmath, a wonderful heart rate variability biofeedback tool.

Heartmath is a feel good tool, easy to learn, which allows me to work with the brain in my heart.

Didn't know your heart had a brain? It does, and that sophisticated nervous system is large enough to learn and make decisions independently of any other brain I have.

The heart's intelligence is affiliative and cooperative and when I access it for building relationships, the impact is magnified.

I like to teach individuals to do their Heartmath individually, then hook them both up to a computer, get themselves coherent, and then hold hands so they can see that the relationship has a heart beat of its own, which needs to be attended to heart beat by heart beat.

The participants get to see their joint coherence as a constantly changing, evolving process, which can be made coherent or incoherent heart beat by heart beat, thought by thought.

So building relationships moves out of the realm of large blow and into the realm of minor adjustments of thinking and physiology.

Gratitude for your partner's gifts becomes the attitude.

There is a link to the Heartmath tool in the right column.

Mind Sparke Brain Fitness Pro - Software that makes you smarter

Would You Share What You Are Most Grateful For?

Very early in my personal growth experience, a wise person taught me to use the phrase "gratitude is the attitude" when I was resentful or afraid and that phrase has helped me feel better tens of thousands of times.

Would you share your favorite gratitude story by clicking here? Your story may be just what another person needs to renew themselves.

Your story becomes part of this website (which shows the site's most recent pages) and a permanent part of Ask Mike the Counselor2 for others to read!

And I'll tweet your Web page at my Twitter account, too!

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