Making Relationships Work
There are some great models out there for making relationships work, and the most recent ideas that I have seen are from Robert Epstein,Ph.D., who has studied arranged marriages in India, which have a 5% divorce rate, when our model based on Prince Charming, Cinderella, and the intervention of the Fairy Godmother has a 50% divorce rate in first, second, and third iterations.
What do those couples do that we can do, is the question Epstein asked.
It turns out that those couples in India, who may have met once prior to their marriage ceremony, work on intimacy.
They put regular effort into behaviors which enhance their connection, like a workout if you will.
So come hell, highwater, or inlaws, those couples engage in regular repetitions of behaviors like what Epstein calls 'soul gazing' which means that a couple sits close together and looks into each others eyes for two minutes.
Try it, you will enjoy that one, and another exercise is designed to synchronize heart beats, which I have done in my office using Heartmath, a heart rate variability biofeedback program.
Using Heartmath, both partners first learn to make their own heart rate variability coherent, then I hook them up to separate computers, and the partners hold hands and look at their own heart rate variability, and slowly a heart beat of the relationship emerges, which is a combination of their own coherences.
Couples learn how fast they move into and out of coherence based on what they are thinking about. To a person, folks are amazed that a thought can have so rapid and powerful impact on their physiology, even when they are sitting quietly.
(Heartmath is great for golf and test taking too).
One of the great benefits of Heartmath is that it is so easy to learn and repeat,for example I can simply remember a memory of a time I and my wife were close, to cue heart rate variability coherence, when I am away from her, and perhaps stressed at work.
Practice like that makes our in person practice that much stronger.
Masters of Marriage
John Gottman,Ph.D., and his wife Julie Schwartze-Gottman have been following couples for 30 years at the Love Lab, where couples come to spend a weekend where they are observed by the Gottman team doing as they usually do.
Out of the voluminous data, the Gottman's have discovered what the masters of marriage do that keeps their union going strong, and have put those ideas together in a workshop called The Art and Science of Love, which I have used with my domestic violence counseling clients.
Those clients are often amazed that relationship skills, listening skills, intimacy skills, Heartmath, ect. can all be learned and practiced, and some are a little chagrined that we actually have to give up the Prince Charming/Cinderella model for relationships.
In fact, I have used the Gottman exerercise called Discovering Your Partners Love Map with couples who were arguing a moment before, and watched them move from confrontation to fond memory.
The Gottman's also speak to what they call the Four Horsemen. Expressions of contempt, disgust, criticism, and stonewalling are markers for divorce, so those are negative making relationships work skills.
The Chemistry of Love
What if making relationships work could begin with an effort to find someone you had chemistry with?
Sounds like a bad T.V. or internet advertisement doesn't it, but perhaps we should read the research that Helen Fisher,Ph.D. has done on 'in-love' brains.
Fisher has done a huge amount of scientific evaluation of fMRI or functional magenetic resonance images of folks who have just fallen in or out of love.
It turns out that our brains activate very powerful systems involved with lust, love, and trust, and each of those systems has a hormone or neurotransmitter associated with it, and we can engage in behaviors which enhance the presence of that hormone or neurotransmitter.
For example, the hormone associated with trust is oxytocin, which is the milk let down hormone for women, and which both partners get a burst of during orgasm, or during intimacy exercises like what Epstein and the Gottman's prescribe.
(So do eye gazing and make love, and that will help make the relationship work? Sounds like fun, right?)
Fisher's research says that we can actually enhance the opportunity for chemistry if we work to find someone with a personality profile complementary to our own.
She has evaluated ten's of thousands of profiles at Chemistry.com and come up with some personality types.
So making relationships work can be enhanced by taking Fisher's personality type test, and doing the Epstein and Gottman exercises?
And what will the Fairy Godmother have to say about all this?
Would You Share What You Are Most Grateful For?
Very early in my personal growth experience, a wise person taught me to use the phrase "gratitude is the attitude" when I was resentful or afraid and that phrase has helped me feel better tens of thousands of times.
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