How do those folks in arranged marriages keep love alive?
In our culture, so rich with the Disney Dynamic of Prince Charming finding Cinderella, and living happily ever after with the help of the Fairy Godmother and her magic or the Hefner version, Go Do It, it is anathema to think of arranged marriages.
Our parents or a marriage broker arranging our marriage? As my five year old says, "YUUUUCK!"
But Robert Epstein,Ph.D. in a recent Scientific American Mind article challenges the yuck factor.
He says that based on longevity and happiness, those arranged marriages beat our Disney and Playboy/Playgirl arrangements on two very important criterion, happiness and longevity.
Those disgusting arranged marriages last 95% of the time, even with divorce as an option, while our versions last 50% of the time in their first, second, and third iterations, and the participants in the arranged marriages, who may have met once prior to their ceremony, report increasing happiness across the years.
Epstein argues that the growing happiness is because those couples make a regular effort to build intimacy.
Now wait a minute, you mean intimacy is not what we did when we were in the stage of love described very well by Helen Fisher,Ph.D. as romantic love, which is driven by three parts of the reward system of the human brain? (The lust, love, and trust systems?)
You mean love letters agonized over for hours, drenched in perfume/cologne, long phone calls, e-mails, or texts in today's romantic life, staying up all night, flying off to Paris on a whim, those are not the foundation of intimacy?
Epstein would say that all those things we in the West associate with love are totally unnecessary to intimacy, happiness, and marital satisfaction.
What is necessary according to Epstein are regular practices of exercises like what he calls soul gazing, where the participants sit fairly close together and stare into each other's eyes to see the other's soul.
Julie and I have tried that and it does do wonders for our closeness.
Epstein also suggests another exercise, heart rhythm synchronization, which I really like because I have used something similar for several years.
In my version, using a heart rate variability biofeedback tool called Heartmath, I teach each of the participants how to access the affiliative and cooperative brain in their hearts, and make their own heart rate variability coherent, which feels excellent by the way, and then I have them come together and get hooked up to separate computer, get themselves coherent, and then hold hands.
(Your heart has a very sophisticated nervous system, sets its own beat, and this heart intelligence can learn and make decisions separately of any other brain we have).
What those couples see is a "heart beat" of their relationship emerge which moves into an out of coherence based on the thoughts and breathing patterns of the participants.
Couples learn that coherence is incredibly dynamic, and that it changes very rapidly.
In other words the relationship heart beat could be adjusted heart beat by heart beat.
Keeping love alive is easier in small increments, and it is not anywhere near as loud at this early stage of adjustment.
John Gottman,Ph.D. has been studying couples at his 'love lab' for 30 years and has put together a workshop that he calls The Art and Science of Love, which includes a number of written and video exercises for couples to do together.
The idea is for couples to learn the behaviors that Gottman has observed his Masters of Marriage doing. Those behaviors, once learned, are repeated too.
Those Masters achieve something akin to what those couples in arranged marriages achieve, which is a happy and long marriage.
That marriage may have begun in Helen Fisher's romantic stage, but at some point, the Masters of Marriage moved into some conscious choices.
For example, Gottman suggests that 69% of marital issues will never be resolved, so we can move into the behaviors which Gottman says destroy intimacy like contempt, stonewalling, defensiveness, and criticism, or we can negotiate an arrangement that works for today, and renegotiate as needed.
To me, that sounds like moving into and out of heart rate variability coherence.
Helen Fisher,Ph.D., has given us a new road map of what most of us with some life experience sometimes avoid as foolishness, which she calls romantic love.
This stage of love can of course move into something deep and rich, and Professor Fisher says we have the best chance of doing that with a compatible personality type.
We can have romantic love and more if we narrow the odds.
Her research has indicated to her that humans fall into four personality types, each governed by a neurotransmitter or hormone, and chemistry is best with compatible personality type.
Fisher is the Chief Scientific Officer for Chemistry.com, and to take her free personality test, and to begin the process of finding potential matches, go to Chemistry.com
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