What is it that we can do to build love? Can research into romantic love or relationship give us some guidance about love building?
Robert Epstein,Ph.D., has some very interesting ideas about that, as does Helen Fisher,Ph.D. and John Gottman,Ph.D., has contributed some powerful research to this debate also.
And for that matter, what role does chocolate play in building love? Or Heartmath?
From Science Daily; "A study led by Professor Ian Macdonald found that consumption of a cocoa drink rich in flavanols — a key ingredient of dark chocolate — boosts blood flow to key areas of the brain for two to three hours."
People tend to bond emotionally when aroused, through exercise, adventure, or exposure to dangerous situations, and what arousal means is increased blood flow, (but not to the extent of fight of flight) so why not get that arousal physiology going with chocolate?
Helen Fisher,Ph.D. has done some powerfully illuminating work on 'in love or just out of love' brains using fMRI, or functional magetic resonance imaging.
What she has discovered is that romantic love (what we usually call infatuation) is a function of activation of reward centers of the brain, and she says romantic love functions like an appetite, and can serve to help us propagate the species.
Fisher has created an application which is designed to help us find a person who we are most likely to experience that "chemistry" with. Her work is available through the commercial dating site called Chemistry.com
Robert Epstein,Ph.D. has been studying the science of relationship, based on the idea that arranged marriages in India, for example, achieve a 95% success rate, that couples who have met very infrequently can build very successful, loving marriage relationship by engaging in love building exercises.
Epstein says those exercises revolve around the "Four Pillars of Relationship"; Commitment, Realistic Expectations, Intimate Knowledge, and Essential Relationship Skills.
Epstein argues that we can build love, and engaging in conscious exercises, like the 'soul gazing' exercise that he has students in his class do, can be part of building love, and Epstein cites the work of other researchers to validate his ideas.
Soul gazing is done sitting about two feet away from each other , looking deeply into each other's eyes, trying to look into the very core of your beings. Do this for about two minutes and then talk about what you saw.
The results for students in Epstein' class, who were paired randomly, were a modest increase in loving of 7%, an 11% increase in liking, and a whopping 45% increase in closeness.
There are many other exercises for couples to do.
John Gottman,Ph.D., has teased out activities engaged in by couples that he and Julie Schwartz-Gottman call the Masters of Marriage by following and observing couples for 30 years at his "Love Lab". Gottman's work is both psychological and physiological. He and his team measure physiology by EKG, blood tests, urine tests, history taking, and observation through two- way mirrors.
I have used his model with domestic violence clients/couples, and invariably doing an exercise like discovering your partners love map brings them to a cordial and affiliative interaction, even though there are real life issues going on, and they may just have been going through a discussion in regards to those issues.
I like Gottman's work for couples who have been together for awhile and who have real conflict going on. Soul gazing for example, may be a bit too intimate at an early stage of rebuilding.
Another aspect of Gottman's work that has been very useful is his description of what he calls Diffuse Physiological Arousal, which is more commonly known as fight or flight physiology, and his antidote for DPA (diffuse physiological arousal) is for the participants to take their pulse, and if the pulse rate is over 100 beats per minute, to take a time out, which needs to be at least 20 minutes for men, who go up the arousal ladder higher and faster and stay there longer than women.
This is where I like to use an exceptional tool called Heartmath which helps people become more aware of and able to manage a usually unconscious physiological process, the time between their heart beats.
It turns out that the heart has a brain of its own, a very sophisticated nervous system, which can learn and make decisions independently of any other brain I have.
That heart intelligence is affiliative and cordial, and I can learn to cue it on any given heart beat for Epstein or Gottman of Fisher love building exercises.
In fact, I like to teach my clients to do their own Heartmath process, then I have them do it together holding hands and attending to the heart beat of their relationship heart beat by heart beat, for up to twenty minutes.
Couples learn some very interesting things about themselves and the heart beat of their relationship while doing an exercise which expects attention to their affiliation and cooperation heart beat by heart beat.
So it turns out that there are several great models to follow for love building and lots of great exercises, counseling or non-counseling, to engage in.
If you are looking for a person to have chemistry with, best go here. Things are heating up for Valentine's Day.
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