There are a number of very interesting courtship marriage researchers and writers out there now.
Since courtship usually comes before marriage, we can start there, with Helen Fisher's work.
Helen Fisher,Ph.D., has used functional magenetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, to exam brains that have recently fallen in or out of love, and she has put together a brain based model of this experience that we call love.
It turns out that three systems of the brain are activated in courtship, the lust, trust, and love systems, and each of those systems is associated with a hormone which can be encouraged by engaging in certain activities.
For example, the lust system is associated with androgen or testosterone, which can be increased by engaging in athletic events.
So we can foster the brain and body chemistry that prepares us for courtship, and then if we take a look at a further development of Professor Fisher's, her personality types, we can find a personality type best suited to engage in athletic events with.
Fisher's study of brain and genetics led her to believe that people fall into roughly four personality types, each governed by a different brain chemical.
She called them the Explorer, Builder, Director, and Negotiator.
To determine if there was any statistical validity to her beliefs, Professor Fisher created a survey which went out to Oprah followers, and to folks landing on her work at Chemistry.com, and Professor Fisher reports that the results were very surprising to her.
The data from the survey gave her confidence to say that using the questionaire can help folks find someone with whom to build lasting chemistry.
So it is possible for science to guide us in courtship? Sure is, but remember that we are built to size people up rather quickly, and sometimes chemistry leading to marriage takes some time to cook.
So once the courtship chemistry has been maximized, perhaps it is time to take a look at what Robert Epstein,Ph.D. and John Gottman,Ph.D. have to say about marriage.
Epstein has written recently about how arranged marriages in India are successful because the folks in them dedicate some regular time to building intimacy doing exercises like "soul gazing" and 'heart beat synchronization'.
John Gottman,Ph.D., and his wife Julie have been studying couples for about 30 years, and have determined that the folks they call the Masters of Marriage have some basic skills that all of us can replicate. That is Epstein's point, that the intimacy building skills must be learned and regularly practiced.
Our Western model of courtship and intimacy, prior to research like that mentioned here, was predicated on the Prince Charming/Cinderella model requiring the intervention of the Fairy Godmother to make a marriage work, and the result was a 50% divorce rate compared to the arranged marriage model which has a 95% success rate.
I think there are some real parallels between what Epstein and the Gottman's are describing, which is great for those of us seeking an answer to the lasting marriage question.
The wonderful thing about the exercises involved in building intimacy is that they are fun.
You can feel joy while doing them. My wife and I have tried soul gazing and heart synchronizing and they are far less stressful than couple counseling where we complain about the failings of each other.
If you are intrigued about the heart synchronization exercise, and want to learn it the way I have been teaching it to my clients, then check out the Heartmath link below.
I came across Heartmath, or heart rate variability biofeedback, in 2000, tried it out, and loved it, then I asked my couples to learn it individually and then work together on the heart beat of the relationship.
That is a little different than what Epstein prescribes, which doesn't offer the computerized feedback.
I think the Heartmath computerized feedback adds an extraordinary dimension to intimacy exercises, because the participants get to see that the relationship does have a heart beat of its own, which is impacted by each and every thought they have.
If either their individual or couples coherence becomes incoherent, they can adjust it to coherence again in a heart beat!
It turns out that the heart has a brain of its own, and that sophisticated nervous system can learn and make decisions independently of any other brain we have.
In fact the heart sends more emotional data up than the brain sends to the heart.
While the Heartmath process is learned initially on the computer, once it is learned, it can be cued anywhere necessary, like when your partner is agonizing over a shopping decision while your favorite NFL team is getting ready to start a play off game. Just do your Heartmath and you will move into an affiliative and cooperative physiology, and you will keep your marriage richer and deeper.
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