So you have seen happy marriages and you want to know how they do that so you can copy it for yourself.
You know that a good marriage has tremendous health benefits for the participants, and you would like to partake, but you look around and you see a ton of self-help books and Disney movies which indicate that boy and girl will live happily ever after, because the Fairy Godmother will intervene.
Somehow self-help and Disney just do not fit with what your real life relationship experiences say about happy marriage.
Because even the folks best suited for each other need to work on their thinking and feelings and behaviors regularly in order to assure happy marriages.
So what knowledge is available that can guide us without sugar coating? Robert Epstein,Ph.D., has some very interesting ideas about that question.
John Gottman,Ph.D., has done long term research on the Masters of Marriage, and has developed some exercises that help couples based on his research, and Helen Fisher,Ph.D. has done some very powerful research using fMRI or functional magenetic resonance images of folks who are newly in love.
Dr. Fisher suggests that three brain systems are active in the early days of love, the lust, trust, and love systems, and each of the three systems has a hormone or neurotransmitter associated with them.
So engaging in behaviors like athletics, which increases testosterone for both men and women, and is associated with the lust brain system increases the possibility of...lust, for example.
Fisher also says that we have our best chance for successful relationship when we match up personality wise too, and you can determine your personality type by completing a profile at
Robert Epstein,Ph.D. has some very intriguing ideas about happy marriages in India, where couples may meet once before they are married.
Marriage brokers and parents seek out partners with an eye to compatibility and sustainability.
So what is it the helps those arranged marriages increase in love for the partners, so that they stay together 95% of the time, while we in the U.S. divorce 50% of the time in our first, second, and third marriages even with the intervention of the Fairy Godmother.
Epstein says that couples grow their love by doing some very basic exercises like one he calls 'soul gazing", sitting quietly and looking into the eyes of your partner, trying to see into their soul. His exercises help couples attend to the four pillars of marriage, Commitment, Realistic Expectations, Intimate Knowledge, and Essential Relationship Skills.
Another of Epstein's exercises involves synchronizing heart beats.
I have used a tool called Heartmath, or heart rate variability biofeedback to teach couples to do just that.
Heartmath is based on discoveries from the new field of neurocardiology, and it is a feel good tool that takes minimal time to learn, and couples can practice it together anywhere.
In other words, exercises like that help a couple grow and nourish a connection that is like what John Gottman,Ph.D., calls "emotional love in the bank" which is there to tide couples through the inevitable periods of disillusionment.
John and Julie Schwartz-Gottman have created a workshop called The Art and Science of Love which can walk couples through a series of exercises which I think parallels Epstein's work, as the Gottman's have been studying the Master's or Marriage to see what they do and do not do, and to help folks understand that they can do more of the small and regular behaviors which grow that emotional bank account.
The Gottman's also speak to behaviors to avoid, like contempt, criticism, defensiveness, and stonewalling, which are powerful predictors of divorce, and the Gottman's suggest some very interesting ideas about how to handle flooding, or Diffuse Physiological Arousal.
Most of us would call that rage, or fight of flight, but again there are tools available which we can use to build happy marriages.
When do we need to use those tools? I make sure to resort to my Heartmath for example to return to my affiliative and cooperative heart based physiology anytime my wife asks me to relinquish control of the remote, so she can watch HGTV.
That is the station where you can see folks ripping apart and remodeling perfectly O.K houses to do expensive and unnecessary changes.
This process is most acute when their is a Packer's game on.
I know I will experience the Diffuse Physiological Arousal that the Gottman's speak to, so I better go do something athletic to foster testosterone for more of Helen Fisher's lust.
Happy Marriage saved.
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