In this busy age, it is more important than ever that we learn how to make love "work". Our lovers are often our main source of connection in a world that gets lonelier by the hour. It's hard to depend on sound-byte friends and "community" is a word we use less and less. The good news is that just when we need it the most, science is offering us a revolutionary new map to love and loving. The big questions that seemed unanswerable just a few years ago are suddenly not so daunting. Let's look at a few that all lovers struggle with.
What is love?
Is it just a mystery that you fall into and out of? A sexual fever that has to subside? A foolish adolescent illusion? No, it's an ancient mammalian survival code designed to keep us close and safe to the one who will come when we call, protect us from fear and danger, and help us keep our balance in a constantly changing world. Can we keep it? Yes — if we know how to foster and repair it.
Our thirty years of research on emotionally focused therapy or EFT shows that 70-73 percent of couples can repair their bonds once they have help to understand the story and dance of love.What is the most important element in love? Is it sharing chores or sexual compatibility? 50 years of research into adult and infant-parent bonds, as well as studies of the elements that predict newlyweds marriages' success rates, say it is emotional responsiveness. So we can give advice and instruction or pragmatic help and still miss the mark. It is emotional support our partner needs from us. It is us they want and need — not our help program. Partners like Sarah tell their loved one, "I just need you to listen, tell me you care about my feelings, and help me with my hurt. Just be there for me. That is what counts."
What destroys love?
The most common answer is conflict. But happy couples fight too, and in fact, no fights at all are a good indication a relationship is asleep! Differences and fights are inevitable, and they are fine, if connection can be repaired. This usually means that a couple can see the dance that they both set up and give their partner the benefit of the doubt rather than framing them as The Enemy. Master couples can then reach for each other and help each other move back into safety. It helps to know that in love you have the power to push your partner off a cliff of rejection and abandonment; scaring each other half to death goes along with the territory. Anger most often arise from a sense of threat and feeling of desperation about reaching our lover. Withdrawal comes from a sense of hopelessness and fear of rejection.
Is monogamy natural and possible?
Yes — if we know how to do it. Affairs are not inevitable; they start with emotional disconnection rather than rampant lust, and we do know how to heal them and create not only forgiveness but long term satisfaction after this kind of injury. Once we understand love, we can be successful at keeping passion alive through the lifespan of our relationship. Passion is best defined as emotional longing for connection and secure connection, combined with intense erotic connection. The best sex happens in long-term, loving relationships. It takes emotional presence and practice to shape the intricate, coordinated dance called love-making.
How important is love anyway?
The new science says that it is more powerful than we ever imagined. The quality of your closest relationship plays a major role in your physical health, mental and emotional well-being. Emotional isolation is toxic for human beings. On the site of 9/11, for example, those who could turn to others and lean on them recovered from this trauma just fine; those who did not feel like they could depend on others still suffered from the effects of their nightmare. A good love relationship offers us emotional balance so we can turn and respond to anything that comes up in our world with grace and resilience
The news we can use from this new science is that we can make sense of love — and we can shape it. How will you apply these findings and facts to your own love life? Leave a comment below!
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