Turns out our caveman ancestors had some pretty modern ideas.
Technology — it's a wonderful thing, right? Well, when it comes to maintaining healthy relationships ... not so much.
It's not really surprising. After all: Texting is the new flirting. We now smile, wink and cry using emojis. And we quickly convert our innermost feelings and private moments into status updates, filtered Instagram pictures and hashtagged tweets all in the name of #relationshipgoals.
We disappear more and more into our laptops seeking approval and "likes" from so-called "friends" (a.k.a. random online acquaintances we hardly know), while our partner sits on the couch right next to us, neglected.
If this is what evolution looks like, it's no wonder we feel lonelier than ever, and so many relationships are failing.
Maybe it's time we put technology aside and take a cue from our hunter-gatherer forebears. Let's send our love lives back to the Stone Age. It turns out — our ancient ancestors had some pretty impressive and progressive ways to keep their relationships happy.
Here are five ways they cultivated true caveman connection with one another:
1. They defended and protected each other
Forget everything you think you know about caveman mating rituals! Men never actually ran around yelling "ooga! booga!" or dragging women around by their hair. 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 (emotionally and physically) is still one of the core 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. They kept it In the cave
While some might argue that our Paleolithic predecessors were the true inventors of social media (of course, back then, "posting to your wall" meant sharing images on actual cave walls, not Facebook), one thing our caveman cousins did far better than us is share in moderation.
Sure, occasionally a few stories were "cave painting worthy," but they lived the majority of their life experiences 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, in the intimate cave (if you will) of our relationship.
Next date night, give it a try: Skip the in-the-moment Instagram picture, the tweet and the Facebook post. Just be there, fully present, with the one you love and enjoy. A moment shared between the two of you is enough.
Remember, the only "like" of approval you ultimately need on any of your relationship moments is the smiling face of the person you're sharing them with (no emojis necessary).
3. They had primal sex
Caveman sexual encounters probably didn't begin with fine wine and roses, but it was also less wild, violent and adversarial than we've been led to believe.
Researchers Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá reveal, in their book Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality, that our ancestors were definitely promiscuous and polyamorous, but cooperatively so. In other words, consent and pleasure mattered. Here's what we know:
First, cave women initiated sex as often (and as enthusiastically) as the fellas. So express your sexual self, ladies!
Second, our ancient ancestors enjoyed a notable Paleolithic advantage — heightened senses. Sure, this helped them survive in a harsh, ever-changing environment. But it also made sex a far more sensual experience. Bring this into your modern day bedroom, by tuning back into your partner's sounds, scents and subtle movements. The secret to great sex is getting out of your heads and back into your bodies.
Third, according to Ryan and Jethá, when it comes to sexual positions, our ancestors were actually sexual innovators! Humans are 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. They did the hunting and the gathering ... 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 for granted.
Life if full of hardships and responsibilities, but shouldering life's challenges together gives it all meaning. 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 did the bulk of the work.
Current research actually tells us that cavemen and women took part in both sides of the hunting-gathering duties and shared child-rearing (some researchers even argue it was the most gender-equal time in human history). Every tribe member's well-being was an equal priority.
Renew your commitment to your life partner. Don't just divide chores mindlessly and go your separate ways. 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. They were active and spent time outside
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.
So, 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.
There you have it — the secrets to reviving the intimacy and connection in your modern relationship.
Give caveman lovin' a try!