Happy relationships are the result of Fairy Godmother intervention right?
Anybody who lives in the United States, or who has ever seen a Disney movie knows that the Fairy Godmother must decide to intervene for a happy relationship to happen.
Or if you grew up with a Hefner/Guccione print magazine influence, then maybe you thought that the brand of shirt or shoes you wore or model of car, or amount of money you had was the key to happy relationship.
Turns out that those things, including the Fairy Godmother, have minimal influence on happy relationships.
What does influence relationships, according to scientists like Helen Fisher,Ph.D., John Gottman,Ph.D., and Robert Epstein,Ph.D., is regular efforts to build intimacy.
Yeah, like a happy relationship workout. No pill or potion, although dark chocolate does impact your brain chemistry and tell your brain to anticipate something fun.
Even that early stage of relationship which we call infatuation is coming under the unblinking eye of the functional magnetic resonance imaging machine, and Helen Fisher,Ph.D. is saying that there is a rhyme and reason to what has heretofore seemed like the most irrational time in a human's life.
This is the time in a relationship where two people are extremely happy, and either can do no wrong. You know, your partner's doggerel is Shakespearean and you talk and do other stuff all night long.
Fisher says there is a evolutionary reason for such behavior, and it is designed to run for only so long, until the progeny have gotten a decent start, then the participants in a romantic love relationship wake up to each other and have a decision to make. This is where the couple may need to incorporate the Epstein and Gottman tools to build a continuing happy relationship.
However, Helen Fisher has proposed that we human's fall into four major personality types, each ruled by a different hormone, and her research says that we have the best chance of happy relationship if we begin with a compatible personality type.
If you want to find out what type personality you are, you need to take her quiz at Chemistry.com.
So it sounds like we may be able to eliminate some of the variabiltiy it the Fairy Godmother's application of magic, and even in Cupid's Aim.
But let's just say that you did not go to Chemistry.com to discover your partner for the romantic love experience, and you wake up one morning after another all night discussion of your and your lover's favorite novels, and you wonder to yourself, "How did I get here"?
Well, at that point the magic has worn off, and the participants have a decision to make.
Do we continue our coupleship, or do we move on?
If couples decide to work on their happy relationship subsequent to the romantic love stage, then they should definitely look at the work of Robert Epstein, Ph.D. and John Gottman,Ph.D.
Epstein has written some very intriguing articles recently, in Scientific American Mind, questioning how it is that arranged marriages in India last so much longer than ours here in the West.
Those folks in arranged marriages may have met once prior to the ceremony, but they stay together 95% of the time, reporting increased happiness.
Epstein says that is because those folks make some conscious effort to practice intimacy rather than waiting for a rapturous experience to fall randomly from heaven.
He says that all of us could practice intimacy doing exercises like soul gazing (not staring) where you take a couple of moments to look deep into the eyes of your partner hoping to see their soul.
Epstein has students in his class practice that exercise during the first day of classes, and the participants report an astounding increase in feelings of closeness.
Closeness is a great platform for happy relationships.
Epstein suggests a number of easy to do exercises that couples can do to increase feelings of happiness, including breathing synchronization.
I have my own version of that exercise, synchronizing heart beats and examining the heart beat of the relationship.
I use a heart rate variability biofeedback tool called Heartmath to teach my domestic violence counseling clients how to get their own heart beat in coherence, and then the heart beat of the relationship in coherence.
In that process they learn that the heart beat can move into and out of coherence in the proverbial heart beat.
So they are learning to pay attention to relationship happiness in much shorter increments than ever before.
John Gottman,Ph.D. has also been studying marriage and domestic violence and happy relationships for about 30 years, and he and his wife, Julie Schwartz-Gottman have put together a workshop that couples can do at home which teach about the skills that couples can practice together.
The skills are teased out from the observations the Gottman's have made of the folks they call the Master's of Marriage, and the point of the workshop is that we can repeat their efforts and have happy relationships.
No magic wand or potion needed, just regular practice.
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