In recent years more and more research has been done in the intersection of neurobiology and psychology, explaining the connection between how our brain and nervous system work with our emotional world. Out of the vast amount of information out there, there are certain key insights that I usually share with couples coming to counseling — and I would like to share them with you also.
So what can the scientists working in the lab teach us about love?
1. 'Are You There For Me?' The Relationship As A Safe Place
Our brain is designed for survival. But we usually think of survival in terms of being physically attacked or hurt. We now know that feeling connected to the people we love is as important as physical survival. When we need our partner and they don't respond to us, or when our partner threatens to break up, our brain reacts as if we are in danger and therefore operates in emergency mode.
To create emotional safety, make sure not to threaten your relationship even when you are angry or fighting. For a great relationship, you need to give your partner the feeling that you are there for them no matter what.
2. 'I'm Ok When You're Ok' Sharing Emotions Is Crucial
Have you noticed that when your partner feels anxious or stressed, you will feel it too? And when they are happy, some of that rubs onto you also. There's a system in our brains called mirror neurons, which is designed to create empathy — meaning to feel what other people are feeling, and especially the ones that are close to us.
This means that it's in your best interest to know how to calm your partner down or cheer them up. Yes, it's their responsibility first, but since their emotional state affect you so much, it's really useful for you to have some tricks in your bag for making them feel happy or getting them out of distress.
3. 'Look Me In The Eyes…' Non-Verbal Communication Matters, More
Have you ever had this experience — your partner says to you, "what's going on with you? Why are you like that?" And you think to yourself "what? I didn’t do anything". The automatic, emotional side of our brain is constantly checking our partner for signs of safety and connection. The key to understanding that is to know that it's not what they say, it's the non-verbal communication that really affect us. It's enough to see something on our partner’' face, the look in their eyes or the tone of their voice to make us feel cared for or set us off.
Here's one tip: When you're having important conversations make sure to maintain enough eye contact with each other. It helps to break the trance of your thoughts and it also gives your partner the message that you're present with them.
In conclusion, brain research brings us closer to having a map for successful relationships. Among others, it can help us understand the hidden causes to our love (speaking your partner's love language) as well as our fights.
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