Remember when, once upon a time, we believed that technology and new media would magically make our lives easier and improve our connection to our loved ones? Turns out not so much. Life in these modern times is complicated and downright hard. We're more distracted, depressed and stressed than ever before, and you know what's suffering most? Our relationships.
Divorce rates are climbing; texting is the new flirting; we smile, wink and cry using emojis; and our innermost feelings and special moments have turned into status updates, filtered Instagram pictures and hashtagged tweets (i.e. #soinlove). We disappear into our laptops seeking approval and "likes" from online acquaintances that we call "friends" while our partner sits on the couch right next to us, zoned out watching TV. If this is what evolution looks like, it's no wonder we feel so lonely.
Maybe it's time we take a cue from our hunter-gatherer forebears (and their modern-day culinary counterparts, the Paleo Dieters) and send our love lives back to the Stone Age. Is putting our relationships on a Paleo Love Diet the secret to re-cultivating true caveman connection? It turns out our ancient ancestors have some worthy approaches to relationship happiness.
1) Protect Instinctively
Forget everything you think you know about caveman dating rituals. They never actually ran around yelling "ooga! booga!" while conking each other on the head. Our ancient ancestors were definitely fierce, but the true cornerstone of their hunter-gatherer culture was using that primal fierceness to protect each other. Anthropologists tell us that in prehistoric tribes, every member was looked out for and everyone pitched in to share that responsibility.
When it comes to our desire for protection, not much has changed since the caveman days. A desire to feel safe is still one of the core emotional needs driving human interaction and behavior. With that said, when was the last time you made your partner feel truly cared for and protected?
Having each another's back helps cultivate trust, loyalty and intimacy. And this isn't just physical protection; don't forget to shelter your partner's emotional vulnerabilities too. Remember, even with all of the creature comforts available in these modern times, it's still a harsh world out there. Look out for each other.
2) Keep it In the Cave
While some might argue that our Paleolithic predecessors might be the true, early inventors of social media (though back then, "posting to your wall" meant sharing images on actual cave walls), one thing our caveman cousins did far better than us is share in moderation.
Sure a few stories were occasionally worthy of having a cave painting (in order to, you know, document the origins of humanity), but the majority of their life experiences were lived in the moment and shared only with their closest cave companions. And maybe that's as it should be. Maybe it's time we return to the days of keeping some of our stories close to our chest and in the intimate cave of our relationship.
Next date night, give it a try: skip the Instagram picture, the tweet and the Facebook post. Just be there, fully present, with the one you love and enjoy, and let the moment shared between the two of you be enough. Remember, the only "like" of approval you ultimately need on any of your relationship moments is the smiling face of the person you are sharing them with (no emojis necessary).
3) Have Primal Sex
Caveman sexual encounters probably didn't begin with fine wine and roses, but it was also less wild and adversarial than we've been led to believe. In the book Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality, researchers Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá reveal that our ancestors were promiscuous and polygamous but cooperatively so, and cavewomen initiated copulation as often and as enthusiastically as the fellas (women have been wired for multiple orgasms since the dawn of time, after all). So, does Paleo Love mean we should all become swingers? Not at all (unless that's your thing, of course). But research does show that both men and women crave novelty in the bedroom to keep sexual interest vibrant. So talk to your partner openly and welcome a little variety into your sex life. Doing so with less inhibition is a wonderful way to cultivate intimacy and primal desire.
Another Paleolithic advantage our ancient ancestors enjoyed was heightened senses, which helped them thrive in a harsh and constantly changing environment. Apply this finding to the modern day bedroom by tuning into (and then taking action on) your partner's sounds, scents and subtle movements to help pull him out of his own head and back into his body.
According to Ryan and Jethá, when it comes to sexual positions, our ancestors were actually sexual innovators, establishing humans as one of only two animals species who have intercourse facing each another allowing for greater physical and emotional connection. Hmm. Caveman cowgirl position anyone? Yabba Dabba Doo!
4) Hunt and Gather Together
Want to know what kills connection in a relationship faster than a Saber-tooth tiger attack? When your partner makes you feel unappreciated and taken advantage of; in these cases, resentment breeds quickly and intimacy goes the way of the Ice Age.
Life certainly has its hardships and responsibilities, but what gives that effort meaning in a relationship is the knowledge that you're shouldering life's challenges together. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors knew this well and they shared the day-to-day life tasks cooperatively. There were no "man caves" where dudes hid out playing fooseball while the unlucky women were left to shoulder the bulk of the work. Cavemen and women took part in both sides of the hunting-gathering duties and shared child-rearing (some researchers even argue it might have been the most gender-equal time in human history). As a result, prehistoric tribe members knew that everyone's well being was an equal priority.
Renew your commitment to your teammate and life partner. Don't just divide chores mindlessly and go your separate ways; take time to reflect on your shared goals and dreams and then acknowledge how those seemingly minute chores contribute to creating the life you both want together. If one person feels emotionally or physically depleted, brainstorm ways to adjust or redistribute daily tasks. Often, the best way to restore your sense of balance is simply to notice and acknowledge the effort your partner puts in every day. Build intimacy by looking your partner in the eye and say, "thank you! Your effort makes our lives so much better." Because it does.
5) Explore the Wilderness
Ok, sure. Our Paleolithic ancestors were likely lacking a bit in the personal hygiene department, but they absolutely led a cleaner and fitter lifestyle than us. One of the most admirable aspects of hunter-gatherer culture is that physical activity and time spent together were intertwined and central to everyday life. Days were spent outside, close to nature and close to each other. That's a far cry from our modern habit of lethargically lingering indoors and ignoring one another in favor of flat screens and digital devices.
Tear a page out of the Paleo Love playbook and turn off the TV, back away from your iPhones, and step outside of your cave. There's a whole world waiting for you to explore together. Go on a walk around your neighborhood. Ride your bikes to the farmer's market to pick up produce for a picnic dinner. Make a game of tackling a hands-on project in the yard together. Or decide on a fun fitness fad to try (like standup paddle boarding). A little sun, fresh air and playful activity does wonders to get your heart pumping and mood-elevating endorphins circulating. You'll get a happy high that makes time spent together feel more enjoyable, rewarding and intimate.
More Paleo content on YourTango: