Category: Relationships

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What makes a relationship healthy?

Relationships are hard. They take time, commitment, and consistent work. But when you think about it, anything that we truly care about takes time, commitment, and dedication.

So why would we think relationships would be any different? With what we see on the movie screen, watch in television sitcoms, and read in romance novels; romantic love comes easy, there is no fighting, just blissful, passionate love that sweeps you off your feet. That’s unrealistic.

Back to reality; Great relationships take time, commitment, and dedication.

What do I mean by time?

Time together is essential. Not just time spent text messaging, surfing the web, or spacing in front of the television – spend quality time together. Quality time is creating novel and fun memories.

According to Helen Fischer, novelty pumps dopamine in the brain and fun infuses positive energy. When freshness is generated as a couple, intense feelings of romantic love is fostered.

Touch

Touch is also crucial while spending quality time together. Holding hands, cuddling, walking arm in arm are all ways to increase oxytocin levels in the brain. Oxytocin is the bonding hormone that new mothers exude to their infant and that couples release when affectionate.

Sex

Sex is another way to spend valuable time together. Sex is great for the body, the mind, and the relationship. Pleasant exploratory, sensual stimulation, and orgasm evokes the release of dopamine and oxytocin. The relationship gets a double whammy of deep attachment and a sense of romantic love.

Talking and Listening

Talking about feelings about yourself and sharing your emotions such as joy, peace, anger, and sadness to your partner brings you closer together. Listening with an open heart, open mind and attuning to your partners’ perspective also creates intimacy.

There are several methods to communicate effectively. One is called the imago dialogue. This process emphasizes one person being the sender (talking person) and the other being the receiver (listening person). The sender speaks using “I” statements and talks in small, digestible pieces.

The receiver then mirrors what the sender has spoken. Mirrors means that what you see in the senders’ facial expression, body language, and words are repeated back. The sender then checks in with the receiver to make sure they heard and felt is accurate. If not, then you repeat the step.

Once you have reached a point where the sender has fully grasped what the receiver has said, then the receiver asks, “Is there more?” or “Tell me more.”

The final step is empathy. It is important to imagine how the other person feels and to accurately convey that to the sender. If not, repeat the process.

Finally you can switch. The person who was the sender is now the receiver and vice versa.

What do I mean by commitment?

Commitment means you value the relationship and make it priority. While committing to the relationship, you also commit to zero negativity according to Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt. Zero negativity is threefold.

Be Aware

First, shift your point of view when you notice yourself falling into the trap of criticisms, blames, defenses, demands, or angry outbursts.   Instead of focusing on the other, see your role in the source of your agony.

Personal Responsibility

Take responsibility of your part. Rather than pointing your finger, facilitate change on your part.

Mindfulness and Gratitude

Use your brain to your advantage. Our brains are built for deception. Use mindfulness and gratitude practices to train your brain to focus on the positive and shift your vision to love and attraction. An example may be that your partner doesn’t clean their morning dishes, choose to appreciate the cup of tea they prepared for you instead of the dishes left in the sink.

What do I mean by dedication?

Dedication is having a feeling of strong support and loyalty to the relationship. You are dedicated to the process and journey together. You set guidelines and commit to those rules.

Relationships are difficult but with time, commitment, and dedication to your couple contract you are on your way to a healthy relationship. If the relationship is more work than fun or you become someone you don’t like, then the relationship is unhealthy and may need some guidance.

If you know someone who would benefit from learning more about creating a healthy relationship, please pass along the information.

I am a Licensed Psychotherapist and Mind/Body Performance Coach. I enjoy helping people whether it is for pain management, performance anxiety, and the loss of a loved one or fine-tuning relationships. Relationships include the relationship with you, spirituality/God, family, coworkers, friends and partners. I provide individual, couple, and group coaching and counseling.

April Wright, M.A., LMFT

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist MFC96155

www.aprilwrighttherapy.com

april@aprilwrighttherapy.com

 

couple in love

Neuroscience Demystifies the Neuro-chemical Changes of the Brain in Love

Have you ever drifted into a dreamy thought of someone you recently met? You can’t explain why, but they just pop into your head. You feel a surge of joy, a slight queasiness in your stomach, and your face lights up with each playful thought of your new mate. A rush of neurochemicals stimulates this euphoric behavior.

Is this stage of love fleeting or can long-term committed relationships uphold blissful adoration?

The Stages of Modern Relationships

Whether you identify yourself as heterosexual, gay, lesbian, or bi-sexual, there are various stages to each relationship. According to research, during the initial meeting, it takes between 90 seconds and 4 minutes to decide if you want to move to dating and/or sex and not always in that particular order. During this lustful stage, testosterone and estrogen drive your behavior.

As your attraction deepens and you decide to become sexually exclusive or not, your stress response stimulates the release of the neurotransmitters; adrenaline, cortisol, dopamine, and serotonin.

Throughout this stage, your stress response is activated. Blood levels increase with adrenaline and cortisol, hormones secreted by the adrenal glands. The secretion of adrenaline and cortisol provide that rush of energy, increase in heart rate, sweaty palms, and dry mouth when you suddenly think of or startlingly bump into your new attraction.

Dopamine

The neurotransmitter, dopamine is increased with ‘love struck’ mates. Dopamine stimulates an intense rush of pleasure, triggering desire and reward. A brain on cocaine has the same effect.

“couples often show the signs of surging dopamine: increased energy, less need for sleep or food, focused attention and exquisite delight in smallest details of this novel relationship” ~ Helen Fisher

Serotonin

Serotonin plays a key role in this early stage of love. Low levels of serotonin explain those constant thoughts of your lover. According to Dr. Marazziti from the University of Pisa, blood samples of couples that claimed to be madly in love for less than six months were comparable to the blood samples of patients who have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

Furthermore, newly love-struck couples often idealize their partner, magnify their assets and overlook flaws.

“It’s very common to think they have a relationship that is closer and more special than anyone else’s.” ~ Ellen Berscheid

Oxytocin

Next, a couple decides upon exclusivity, engagement, living together or marrying. The attachment of the twosome instigates the powerful hormone, oxytocin.

Oxytocin is released during childbirth and creates the bond between a mother and her child. The chemical is also secreted by both of the sexes during cuddling, hugging, and sex.

Oxytocin is important because couples that exhibit high doses of oxytocin have a strong bond and attachment that can withstand the ups and downs of life. For the release of oxytocin, it takes between 19 and 23 seconds. Thus to ensure your couplehood survives the test of time; hug, cuddle and have sex regularly.

Vasopressin

Finally, vasopressin sets the stage for long-term committed couples. The hormone is released after sex and like oxytocin creates stable bonding with your partner. Vasopressin also creates the actions of devotion and protection.

The stages of a relationship change as do the release of chemicals in the brain. The surge of dopamine in the initial lustful state creates a rush of pleasure that stimulates, even more, desire and reward. Adrenaline causes the physical reaction of sweaty palms, racing heart, and dry-mouth.

Serotonin creates those compulsive, idealizing thoughts of your partner and oxytocin makes for strong bonds. Finally, vasopressin deepens the connection and generates long-lasting love.

Therefore it is possible to love and to be in love with your partner ‘til death to us part.’ Give your loved one a 30-second hug every day to ensure your love lasts.

If your bond is broken, your trust has been shattered, or your connection is lost, couples counseling can help to mend those bonds, build trust again, and create a lasting connection. Call (424) 258-5416 or email april@aprilwrighttherapy.com and let’s start your pathway of change.

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