Happy Marriage Recipe

What is the happy marriage recipe, and what role do chocolate and chemistry play in a happy marriage recipe?

Most folks associate chocolate with romantic love, that early in love stage that Helen Fisher, Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer of Chemistry.com has studied and written so much about, which usually happens before participants are comtemplating a marriage.

It turns out that chocolate has a molecule in it, PEA, which alerts the brain for something exciting to happen.

Dr. Daniel Amen suggests that a square or two of dark chocolate could be part of any couples date night, especially for husbands of wives whose cingulate gyrus can get stuck.

I am not going to go into the subtleties of Dr. Amen's argument, but I do want to illustrate that research has taken us to the brain and its chemicals as part of our happy marriage recipe.

Apparently we are past the breathless advice of mavens and gurus and into brain science for our happy marriage advice.

In fact, Dr. Fisher has suggested, based on her analysis of data that we humans fall into four large personality types, each associated with a particular hormone or neurotransmitter, and that our happy courtship should begin by finding matches that we are compatible with chemically.

Now that is a far cry from Ann Landers, the advice guru of my childhood, and it is also a far cry from the Hefner or Guccione model, and also the Disney model of happy marriage recipe which requires the intervention of the Fairy Godmother.

Robert Epstein, Ph.D. Says a Happy Marriage Recipe is...

that the recipe to a happy marriage in India, where marriages are arranged, and couples may meet once prior to their marriage, is the regular practice of intimacy exercises, like 'soul gazing' or 'heart rate synchronization', which leads to a successful marriage, with increasing levels of happiness in 95% of marriages in India, even though divorce is an option.

John Gottman,Ph.D., another researcher with vast amounts of experience studying marriage has put together a workshop called "The Art and Science of Love" which couples can purchase and do themselves. The workshop takes couples through many exercises and videos that I think are very similar to what Professor Epstein describes.

Gottman has culled his exercises from observing what the Masters of Marriage do in their relationships which makes the relationship work, and he also talks about a recipe for unhappy marriage based on the number of times he sees expressions of contempt, defensiveness, criticism, and stonewalling.

Happy Marriage Recipe by the Heartbeat...

I was very intrigued to read Dr. Epstein's ideas on heart rate synchronization. I have done that with couples using a heart rate variability biofeedback programs called Heartmath.

Turns out folks that we can learn to regulate our physiology heart beat by heart beat, because our heart actually has a brain of its own, actually a very sophisticated nervous system, which sends a huge amount of data up to the brain about how we are feeling, and that heart brain is affiliative and cooperative, which is a great physiological platform for our happy marriage recipe to happen.

I have taught the individual members of couples to do Heartmath, then had them come together to work on the heart beat of the marriage. I hook them up to tandem computers, have them get coherent individually and then hold hands to see what emerges on their computer screens.

If they attend effectively to their own inner coherence, then a heart beat of the relationship emerges which is like a third heartbeat, moving into and out of coherence based on what the individuals are thinking about.

Most couples are quite amazed to experience that their relationship has a heart beat, that it changes into and out of coherence so fast and so frequently, and that they can make small internal adjustments that have a huge impact on happiness for both participants.

Heartmath has many other applications also, for test taking and golf, to name a couple, and work place stress management.  There is a link to the Heartmath suite in the right column of this page.

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