What is the difference between two people who fall madly in love and two people who are just friends? Beyond the obvious qualities of physical attraction and mutual chemistry, what creates the deepest emotional intimacy is the level of courage it takes to be completely vulnerable with the other person.
Men, being vulnerable is about as appealing as a nail in the foot. Ladies, you know all too well how fragile you are when vulnerable. For either gender, displaying your imperfections for potential ridicule and revealing your authentic emotions for someone else requires courage and trust. Your fears, pains, dreams, and passions are on display in a way you would never dare to share without being confident that sharing those vulnerabilities won’t be exploited.
Some people have described love as a form of courage. Certainly, bearing your soul requires an amount of courage. When you are willing to get past the ambiguities of life and say, “I love you,” you have taken the first step onto the dance floor of being vulnerable.
What makes people fall in love?
As a general rule, women are more comfortable being vulnerable than men. Boys are taught not to cry, and girls are conditioned to communicate emotionally.
This isn’t just psychological fluff; there is actual neuroscience behind it. When testosterone enters the womb as a baby is being formed, it will split a boy’s brain right to left, leaving more of a compartmentalization between their logical and emotional centers. Women, on the other hand, have a stronger connection between the logical brain and their emotional brain. This leaves women with a need to connect emotionally. Consequently, they also retain a fear of disconnection. Men, on the other hand, tend to be more shame-based and rein in their emotions more readily than women.
When a man gets introduced to a problem or something negative, they normally feel a deep seated urge to “fix it.” If they cannot, their masculinity is challenged and they feel imperfect, defective, and lacking in control. A woman, on the other hand, has a need to open up to another, share for the sake of sharing and connection. When it comes to a relationship, a man who understands this need will not only allow her to open up to him but, when he feels safe, will open up to her as well. This mutual vulnerability and trust always creates a bond.
The vulnerability/trust bond need not be escalated to love, of course. Friendships, business relationships and child/parent relationships are all based on a foundation of trust and vulnerability. While varying degrees of trust and vulnerability may not affect a non-romantic relationship, for a romantically involved couple, however, the ability to be vulnerable and trust is paramount to growing that relationship into a solid union.
Trust is foundational from birth. It becomes internalized very early around the secure attachments we form as infants. When we have such secure attachments, we can securely connect with others.
Research with infants has show us the building blocks of attachments and trust in the brain. MRI brain scans have mapped an infant’s experience of trust when there is comfort, trust and proximity to the mother.
Reactive attachment disorders, where babies are abandoned or rejected, show quite a different scan. The scans display a pattern of large black spots on the brain map; these correspond gaps create a hard-wired difficulty with trust and their ability to create attachments. If our brains were simply computers, these black spots would be significant glitches in the programming.
Trust is our safety net. “Will you trust me if I fall?” “Can I be 100% open and honest with you without getting hurt?” Neuroscientists have discovered that the human brain is a social brain that constantly searches for safety, comfort, and connection. When those qualities are present and experienced, trust follows naturally.
How trust is engendered differs between a man and a woman. Women normally look for 5 foundational factors:
Men, on the other hand, trust for a woman who:
– Is Compassionate
– Connects with him physically
– Validates him
– Respects him, his masculinity, and his ability to provide.
Mutual trust is reached with these two viewpoints converge. A woman will respect a man when he fulfills her needs. In turn, that respect makes the man more prone to trust her and provide more of her needs. Trust is similar to two magnets; properly aligned they will pull each other closer with ever-increasing force, but face them the wrong way in and they will continue to repel.
Connecting: What Each Wants
Generally speaking, men and women want something different from the other. Women want face-to-face communication, an intimate connection. Men, on the other hand, often want a playmate, someone to be there in their adventures and other activities. He needs a companion and a cheerleader.
When there is gender-based conflict, men are far more likely to emotionally stonewall the relationship. A man’s silence is often perceived as rejection. Rejection creates disconnection. Disconnection creates more fear. Fear causes more complaints. More complaints create more withdraw.
The vicious cycle spirals down.
The silence-rejection-disconnection-fear-complaint-silence cycle is similar to a computer program stuck in a logic loop. The relationship sits there like a computer — doing nothing but eating up memory and computer resources until you get fed up and power it off.
A good connection is formed by equal amounts of love and respect. She needs love, connection, and belonging, he needs respect, significance, and to feel needed by her. The first step to interrupt the downward spiral is to recognize it. Once recognized, you can reboot your love machine.
Chemistry Of Love
The physical chemistry behind love is also called limerence. Limerence can be explained chemically by oxytocin being released with touching, cuddling and sexual contact. Research shows this results in the “reward” part of the brain lighting up as it’s being flushed with dopamine. Couples in limerence can continue to feel the effects from 12 months to 2 years. Once the limerance dissapates, many people fall “out” of love. Serial daters and short marriages are often victims of this limited type of love.
In order to build a meaningful relationship past this endorphin-induced love, couples must build strong commitments, emotional connections, and an effective manner to resolve conflicts. Limerence isn’t necessarily a shallow or insignificant type of love, but limerence without the other types of love won’t be strong enough to support a long-term relationship.
If your limerence fire has flickered or smoldered out, here is a quick 5-step pattern to rekindle that spark.
1. Think back to when the love came from a place of desire and not a place of demand.
2. Recall clear experiences in your past and relive them in your mind in as much detail as possible.
3. Physically go back to any location where limerence was shining and anchor your mind to that time/place.
4. Use all of your senses to rekindle those memories and create a new, loving and intimate experience while recalling your past limerence.
5. Capture your new memories on camera and be 100% present in the moment so you can recall your new experience in as much detail as possible in the future.
Closeness is both physical and emotional. Sometimes, a good cure for fading limerence can be a simple touch. Often, a physical reassurance will fight off the uncertainty and anxiety of disconnection. The same example can be said for emotional closeness. Reaching out and “touching” your partner emotionally on a consistent basis will do wonders for your connection.
For example, suppose circumstances occur and you don’t communicate for a day or more. If this is out of the normal closeness your partner is accustomed to, you may get a, “Why didn’t you call me?” This isn’t a battle for dominance or blame, it is a fight for connection.
In order to remain close, get closer. In order to connect fully, keep connecting.
To connect without words, experience each through playful experiences. You put your cold feet against your wife’s legs in bed at night and she’s laughing telling you to “Stop that!” It’s light fun, connecting through humor, and allows defense mechanisms to melt away.
Men in particularly tend to connect more through play and sports, just as they did as boys. If a woman leaves a message, “We need to talk” in man’s mind, that is code for “I’m in trouble.” He may instantly withdraw behind his emotional barriers. Instead of drawing a line in the sand, pick up a frisbee, head outside and ask some questions. All of us are more likely to chat when sensitive subjects are discussed in an open and non-confrontational manner. Play. Laugh. Have fun.
Ah…sex. The main event. After a couple gets over the awkwardness of learning what makes the other’s motor run, sex is certainly one of the more exciting areas of intimate relationships.
Relationships based on sex can also disintegrate quickly when it fails. Most successful relationships also have good sexual compatibility. Sexual intimacy keeps the oxytocin pumping. As we’ve discussed, however, limerence, by its very nature, does not improve with age. Add a few children, career challenges, and “father time” to the equation and you’ll understand that sexual desire and sexual connection is never constant.
Sex without love is never a good long-term plan. Sex with increased emotional intimacy raises a couples connection and bond. In order to raise the bar sexually, couples should explore their mutually vulnerable areas. Sexual vulnerability is not much different than emotional vulnerability and it’s cousin-trust. Sexual connection increases with increased vulnerability and trust.
While all human beings require an amount of certainty, we also need, to varying degrees, an amount of uncertainty. For many women, the desire for certainty is larger than uncertainty. In the bedroom, a woman definitely needs to feel safe and secure in order to open up to a man. While a man’s masculine tendency of adventure and uncertainty is generally higher, he must be aware of the feminine requirement for safety (certainty) before leading her into the adventure of uncertainty.
Sexually, knowing how to make each other orgasm is one of the first milestones of an intimate relationship. However, being able to flip that switch with a new dance is what makes the oxytocin flow. If you don’t change things up and continue to play the same tune over and over again, sex becomes a tradition, an act and even a chore instead of a thrilling dance of discovery, intimacy and the ultimate dance of closeness.
Balance each other’s needs for certainty and uncertainty. It’s fine to employ your favorite position because you know it works, but it’s equally playful and exciting to try the “Padlock” Kama Sutra position and see what happens!
You may be experiencing some or all 7 elements of love. Regardless of where you are in your relationship journey, keep all 7 in mind as you explore, build and strengthen your relationships.
– Connecting: What Each Wants
– Chemistry of Love
Creating strong and healthy relationships, like your computer, require anti-virus software, cleaning and maintenance. Neglecting your relationship is as good as destroying it. Let’s dig a little deeper into what makes a good relationship great.
For more information, contact Dr. Savannah at (415) 877-4004 or email@example.com