Young love floods the brain with a cocktail of neurotransmitters that enhance attraction, pleasure, and commitment. In young love, this cocktail can prove dangerous, blinding young lovers to the red flags and flaws of their partner. They are too “drunk on love” to truly discern what everyone around them already knows. But, as time goes on, this cocktail loses its potency. Neurotransmitter levels return to normal and feelings begin to level out. The love shared by young lovers becomes tested and their true level of commitment becomes apparent. Mature love, a love that transcends mere passion to incorporate commitment and investment into the relationship, can develop at this time. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying the feelings and passion of young love does not play a role in mature love. It just becomes supported by a foundation of commitment and investment. In fact, I really think it’s a great idea for every marriage to add an emotional, passionate cocktail of neurotransmitters to their foundation of commitment and investment. Not only do I think it a good idea, I have a recipe. It is composed of three ingredients (Taken from The Neurochemistry of Love).
- Dopamine is the first ingredient in this perfect love cocktail. Dopamine is a feel-good neurotransmitter. We experience pleasure when it is released. One author notes that dopamine is released in response to “the chase,” the pursuit of love. Dopamine also alerts us that our needs are about to be met. For instance, the smell of the charcoal grill alerts us that our hunger will soon be satisfied by grilled burgers or steak. Ahh, the joy…. Anyway, you can see how dopamine adds to the cocktail of love. You can add it into your love potion by continuing to pursue your spouse. Learn about your spouse and what entices them, excites them, or makes them feel loved ( Discover Your Love Language here). Then pursue your spouse by romancing them with your knowledge of their likes and interests. Put on the perfume he enjoys. Bring the gift that you know she likes. Say the words that “make their heart swoon.” Every time you do, you give them a shot of dopamine. They feel good. You feel good. The pursuit is on. Soon, your spouse will get a little shot of dopamine when you walk in the room with that smile on your face that says something good is on the way.
- Oxytocin, the “love hormone” itself, adds the second component in this cocktail of love. Oxytocin is triggered by touch. Something as simple as holding hands or a hug releases oxytocin. When you invest in repeatedly holding hands or hugging your spouse over years of committed relationship, you build an “oxytocin quick release system.” It is more easily released, which is good since oxytocin also promotes trust. Who doesn’t want trust in their marriage? So, bring on the touch and add a shot of oxytocin into your marital cocktail of love. Hold hands. Hug. Sit with arms touching. Put your hand on your spouse’s leg. Enjoy physical touch. (Read An Easy Way to Get in Sync for more.)
- Serotonin is the third ingredient in this love cocktail. Serotonin is stimulated by associating with a person of status. You can add this into your love cocktail by building a reputation of keeping your promises. Build a reputation as a kind person, a compassionate person, a patient person. Become known among your friends and community as a person of honor and integrity. As you grow in a reputation of a good person, you spouse will get a shot of serotonin to enhance your marital love cocktail. (More for men.)
These three ingredients will make a cocktail of love to keep your marriage young. Added to commitment, this cocktail can enhance your marriage and your love. Adding them in is simple: 1) learn about your spouse and continue to pursue them with romance; 2) engage in loving touch every day, and 3) build a reputation of honor and integrity.
Ever felt like you don’t have enough time in the day to enjoy romance with your spouse? I know the feeling! What we need are actions that can provide glimpses of romance anytime & anywhere. Actions that promote feelings of connection and adoration. Actions that fill the heart with romantic feelings. Actions that make deposits into the romantic bank of the heart. Oh man, getting carried away. Let me just share a few actions that will give you and your spouse a “glimpse of romance” even in the busiest of times.
- Respond to your spouse. Sounds simple, but sooo romantic. When your spouse says something, stop what you’re doing and respond. Even when they say something in a grumpy tone, respond with interest and concern. Let them know you hear them.
- Smile. There is nothing more romantic than walking into a room to see your spouse smiling at you! (Smile for a Happier Family shares more about the benefits of a smile.)
- Share a kiss. In fact, make it a six-second kiss for that extra romantic burst. I know I said these are good for even the busiest of times. But think about it…six seconds. Count them: 1…2…3…4…5…6. It has taken you longer to read this paragraph than it will take to share a six-second glimpse of romance!
- Share a hug. Now don’t just give a timid side to side hug or a glancing walk-by-hug, although they do give a glimpse of romance. Once in awhile give a bold hug. Pull your spouse in and give them a great big hug. Rest for a few seconds in one another’s arms and enjoy the feel of being entwined with your spouse in a hug.
- Hold hands in the car, walking through the store, watching TV, or whenever you want. Hand holding gives a glimpse of romance and has surprising super power (Read An Easy Way to Get in Sync for more).
- Share an inside joke. You and your spouse likely have many inside stories and jokes. When you share your inside stories and jokes it takes you to another place and time, one which only the two of you have experienced and now understand. You’re sharing a time and place with only you and your spouse, no one else …how romantic!
- Recall the story of how you met. It’s very romantic, even if it’s funny. Your kids will love it. More importantly, your heart will soar with romance. (The Story That Will Change Your Family Life explains more about the power of story for your family!)
Well, that’s seven “glimpses of romance” you can share with your spouse. What are some of the ways you like to share glimpses of romance with your true love?
I have a confession. Sometimes I feel out-of-sync with my wife. Sometimes for no identifiable reason we feel disconnected, distant from one another. Have you ever felt disconnected or out-of-sync in your marriage? If you have, I have great news! A study completed by researchers from the University of Colorado and the University of Haifa found a way to get more in sync. This simple activity synchronizes breathing, heart rate, and even brain waves when a couple engages in it. The researchers confirmed what I consider an additional bonus for this activity as well. When a woman felt pain and an empathetic spouse engaged in this simple activity, the synchronicity increased and the pain decreased! In other words, this activity activated “pain-killing reward mechanisms in the brain.” Nice bonus, right?
What is this powerful activity you ask? Holding hands! If you feel out-of-sync with your loved one, hold hands. If you feel disconnected, hold hands. Your heart, your breath, and even your brain waves will sync up. You’ll feel more in-sync and connected. As an added bonus, if you’re experiencing any pain, it will likely decrease as well. So reach out your hand and touch your spouse. Grab your spouse’s hand and hold it. Get in sync today. (P.S.—I think I’ll practice now!)
Ever see those parents who seem to have the whole parenting thing “down to the T.” They just seem to have it all together. Their efforts seem to flow so smoothly. I’m pretty sure it’s not always as it appears. But, it does get me thinking about to parent effectively, how to make parenting run smoothly, how to get our parenting efforts “down to the T.” If you want to parent “down to the T,” include these three “t’s” in your parenting repertoire.
- Touch Touch is one of our first connections to family. Gentle, peaceful, careful touch makes infants feel secure. Rough, impatient, nervous handling creates insecurity. Touch is not just important for infants. It remains important throughout life. One study demonstrated that harsh, aggressive touch from parents increased anxiety and somatic complaints in children while response and nurturing touch reduced withdrawal, decreased depressive symptoms, and decreased somatic complaints. Once again, healthy touch promoted a sense of security and positive emotional health. Even the NBA knows positive touch increases comradery and teamwork (Read A Page from the NBA Playbook for Your Family for more).
- Talk Keep the lines of communication open with your children from the time they are born until…well, never stop talking to your children. Tell them your plans before you start an activity. Talk over what will happen and the expectations. Then, when things happen as you said, your children learn they can trust your word. Talking about activities also lets your children feel included and respected. Tell your children what you admire about them and talk to them about areas of growth. Talking about strengths and areas of growth communicates how much you value your children and trust their ability to grow. Speak in a loving voice as often as possible. Even in the midst of anger you can speak with firmness and remain polite and respectful.
- Take it slow. Children move quickly, but they need more time to process information. They need time to transition from one activity to another. So slow down. Take your time. Talk about the transition and what to expect. You children will have more time to process what’s happening and they will transition more smoothly. Taking it slow also teaches your children the importance of pacing and resting. It builds a lifestyle of calm rather than a frenetic lifestyle of constant rush. A calm family life creates opportunities to connect and bond with one another. It will also reduce behavior problems (Read Managing Your Child’s Schedule for more).
Practice these three ideas and you will have parenting “down to the T.” Who knows, people may watch you and think, “Wow. They seem to have this parenting thing all together…right ‘down to the T.'”
Children who have a strong bond with their parents feel more secure. They listen to their parents better and internalize positive values more readily. Children with strong parental bonds are less likely to become drug users and tend to earn better grades. With all this in mind, parents want a strong bond with their children. Developing that bond can prove difficult at times; but, there are simple ways to begin building that bond. Here are 3 simple ways you can build a bond with your children at any age.
- Engage your children in at least one meaningful, eye-to-eye conversations each day. Eye-to-eye contact with babies helps them develop a stronger attachment with their parents. Eye-to-eye conversation with your teen lets them know you value what they have to say. Eye-to-eye contact is an intimate connection that communicates value and love for the other person involved in the conversation. When your children look you in the eye and see love, they believe themselves lovable. When they look you in the eye and see respect, they believe themselves respectable. When they see adoration in your eye, they believe themselves adorable. Give your children the gift of eye-to-eye contact and conversation each day.
- Practice “the three-cubed impact.” Spend three minutes, three times a day to express your love and interest in your children. Specifically, express your love for your children during the first three-minutes of their day. Show your interest in your children during their first three minutes home from school. Share an intimate moment with your children during the last three minutes of their day. That’s three minutes when waking, three minutes when transitioning home from school, and three minutes as they transition to sleep. Of course, you can spend more time with them throughout the day, but make these three times especially meaningful in your expression of love and interest.
- Give your children loving touch multiple times throughout the day. Loving touch comes in many forms. It can include a kiss good-bye as you leave the house or a hug hello when you reunite. Loving touch can also include a tender pat on the back, an arm around the shoulders, or simply fixing a collar. You can also give a high five, a fist bump, a gentle loving push, or a quick squeeze as moments of playful loving touch. Whether fun, congratulatory, or practical, loving touch brings us closer together.
Practice these simple actions every day to build a stronger bond with your children and watch them grow more secure and loving.
Michael Kraus (a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California in 2008) discovered a surprising way to gauge the potential success of your favorite NBA team. He tested many possibilities. Higher paid players did not predict success. Neither did preseason expectations or early season performance. The greatest predictor of a successful season for a NBA team was the number of times the players reached out and touched one another during the first games of the season. The higher the number of touches, the greater the chance of success. Touch somehow communicated trust and enhanced cooperation among the players. As a result, the team was free to focus on the game, free to pass the ball rather than take “an ill-advised shot,” free to work together. So, if you want to predict a winner in the NBA, count the number of times players slap one another on the back, chest bump, high five, fist bump, head slap, hug, huddle, or somehow engage in touch on the court.
Don’t we want an environment of trust and cooperation in our family? Don’t we desire a family environment that frees each family member to seek input rather than make “ill-advised” decisions? Maybe we can take a hint from the NBA play book and add some healthy touch into our family life. Give a fist bump, a high five, a hug, a loving slap on the back, or some other kind of creative healthy touch. That touch will build affection and trust. It will enhance cooperation. It may even predict a successful family season this year!
I constantly search for secrets to a better marriage and family life. I need all the help I can get. Recently, I rediscovered a profound lesson for creating a life-long marriage. I had heard this advice as a child, even learned it in the car with my family; but, I did not realize the wisdom behind the words until I was married. Of all the places, I learned this lesson singing along with the radio…and Charlie Pride was my teacher. You may have learned this song as well. He called it “the secret to his happiness.” It goes like this:
“You’ve got to…kiss an angel good morning
And let her know you think about her when you’re gone.
Kiss an angel good morning
And love her like the devil when you get back home.”
(Click here to listen to Charlie Pride sing the whole song)
This little chorus offers four secrets to life-long marriage bliss. Here they are:
- “KISS…” Show physical affection. Kiss your spouse in the morning. Kiss your spouse to greet her when you get back home. Kiss your spouse goodnight. In John Gottman’s “Magic Five Hours,” he recommends giving your spouse physical affection for at least five minutes per day. Kiss, hold, grab, and touch. Show some physical affection to your angel (AKA-spouse).
- “Kiss an ANGEL….” View your spouse as an angel. In other words, nurture your admiration for your spouse. Take time to recall what attracts you to your spouse. Think about those traits you admire in your spouse, those unique characteristics you adore. Then communicate that admiration to your spouse on a daily basis.
- “…let her know you think about her when you’re gone.” Keep your spouse in mind, even when you are apart. Text you spouse a message or two (“I love you,” “What are you doing?” etc.) just to let her know she is on your mind. If you see something your spouse likes that is small enough to buy, get it for her. If it is too big to take home (a sunset, a bird she likes), take a picture and text it to her. Little things like this can let her know she is “always on my mind…” (Oops, wrong song).
- “Love her like the devil when you get back home.” Don’t come home, sit in your chair, and vegetate. Let your actions reveal your love. Spend time with your spouse. Share what happened in your day. Help her with a project around the house. Watch a show together. Interact. Communicate. Serve. Oh yeah, show some physical affection. “Love her…when you get back home.”
When husbands and wives both practice these four tips, you can enjoy an intimate life-long marriage…and thank Charlie Pride for the advice!