Good news on the relationship intimacy front. Robert Epstein,Ph.D. and John Gottman,Ph.D. and Helen Fisher,Ph.D. have made some very interesting discoveries about what we can do to increase relationship intimacy.
Decreasing relationship intimacy is something we appear to need no research or guidance in.
But Epstein has written just recently in Scientific American Mind about his studies of couples in India whose marriage is arranged.
Those couples may have met once before their marriage ceremony, and those unions last 95% of the time, compared to our marriage success rate of 50% of the time, even with the intervention of the Fairy Godmother.
Epstein thinks there may be something we can learn from those folks in India about building relationship intimacy, rather than waiting for it to arrive via magic potion or magic wand.
So he makes a rather daring proposition, that couples should dedicate time to relationship intimacy building exercises on a regular basis and he even offers us some exercises to try, like the eye gazing exercise, where you and your mate look deeply into each other's eyes for a couple of minutes, attempting to see each other's soul.
Epstein uses this exercises with students in his classes, and there are very interesting reports about increases in love, comfort, and especially closeness for the students who participate.
Another if the exercises that Epstein prescribes is working to synchronize heart beats.
The Heart Beat of Relationship Intimacy
I was very excited to read about that one, because I have been doing that kind of work with clients in my office using a tool called Heartmath, or heart rate variability biofeedback.
My thought was that I could teach the partners how to do their own Heartmath process, which is easy to learn, and feels good, and then have them hook up to two computers, get their own hearts in coherence, and then hold hands to get a picture of the "heart beat of the marriage".
The parters get a chance to see that it is possible to be in synchrony for periods of time at the level of heart beat, and they get a picture of how the thoughts of either partner can impact that synchrony, and most importantly, they see how fast that happens.
They begin to attend to relationship intimacy more frequently, rather than waiting for a blow-up to make complaints, so repairs to relationship intimacy are much easier to make, because the adjustments are minor.
I was using the Heartmath tool as an adjunct to John Gottman's work with the Master's of Marriage.
John and Julie Schwartz-Gottman have put together a workshop they call The Art and Science of Love, which I have used frequently in my domestic violence psychoeducational programs to demonstrate that there are exercises that couples can learn and practice that increase the experience and feeling of intimacy.
In particular, I have used their work on moving a problem out of gridlock, and into solution, and their work on flooding, which can lead to a breakdown of relationship intimacy in a as little time as 1/18th second, and Heartmath, once learned, is a very effictive antidote to flooding.
The point being that a number of researchers are deriving models that allow us to learn relationship intimacy skills, and those relationship intimacy skills can be enhanced by a reading of Helen Fisher's Ph.D. research on romantic love, which is based on fMRI readings of 'in-love' brains.
Fisher says that romantic love is the function of three parts of the reward system, the lust, love, and trust parts of the brain, and each part of the system is associated with a particular neurotransmitter or hormone.
For example, the oxytocin is the hormone associated with the love reward, and it can be stimulated by skin touch, which is what I have asked my clients to do when training on the Heartmath process.
Fisher's work actually goes a step further, and says that romantic love has the best chance for success when we work to find a compatible personality type using her model at Chemistry.com.
It you want to explore Fisher's quiz, just click on the link below, and underneath that is a link to the Heartmath store, where you can see videos of Heartmath in action.
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.