Abandon the myth that love is something that just happens to you.
Cutting-edge science tells us that romantic love is no longer a mystery. And it’s right. You can learn its rules. You have more control over this rush of emotions called love than you think! It’s no longer just about falling in and out of love. What you understand, you can shape. The first step is to decide to learn about what love is and the new science of connection.
Every day try, with an open heart, to approach someone and ask for their attention or affection. Take the risk – it’s worth it.
Accept that you are a mammal and that love is an ancient code for survival. You are happier, healthier, stronger, cope better with stress and live longer when you take care of the relationships you develop with your loved ones. It’s OK to need them; they are your greatest resource. We are not designed to be self-sufficient. The strongest among us embrace this need for connection and risk getting close to others.
The next time you feel insecure or worried or anxious, just try saying this to your partner and take their hand, or notice their emotional signals and reach for their hand.
Love bonds provide a safe haven where we can take shelter and regain our emotional balance. The latest study from our lab shows that just holding your loved one’s hand can calm our brain and soothe our emotions of fear.
See if you can notice when you find it hard to open up, when you become defensive, distant or shut down.
We know that openness and emotional sensitivity are the soil on which strong, lasting bonds are built. See if you can take the initiative and share with your partner, helping them to understand, what makes it hard for you to be open at this time. Tell your partner one thing they could do to help you be open with them, rather than doing something against them or pulling away from them. Remember that distance and disconnection are often more toxic than differences of opinion and arguing.
Try talking to your partner about how you influence each other.
You both give each other clues to feeling safe or in danger, which our brains pick up as survival information; we are all vulnerable when we are alone. When do you convey a true emotion of joy or gratitude to your partner? When do you convey danger – a sense of being rejected or left alone? Our brains encode this kind of emotional hurt in the same cortical area where physical pain is felt.
When you argue, take a deep breath and try to see the argument as a fly on the ceiling.
Often, beyond discussing problematic situations, one of you is asking for more emotional connection. See if you can be curious and notice what “dance” is created in your argument; maybe it’s that typical boogie rhythm where one presses the pedal to get contact, but the other hears criticism and takes a few steps back. You see how you both feel a sense of loneliness and are a little scared. Talk about it.
Invite your partner to get closer once a day by playing a simple game of empathy.
Each person thinks about an event they had that day. Then, taking turns, each will try to intuit from the expressions on the other’s face one of the six basic emotions: joy, surprise, sadness, anger, shame (embarrassment) or fear. Then check that you have correctly guessed the emotions felt by the other person. You will learn to understand each other better!
Take a moment of silence, try to tap into your emotional reservoir and see if each of you could share with the other what each of you needs most from the other.
Keep everything in a simple tone and be concrete. Do you need comfort, reassurance, support and empathy, a clear message of how important you are to him/her? If you find it too hard to share even these things, then share how hard it is for you to open up and ask for these needs to be met.