Love School Lesson #8
Welcome to Love School. This is lesson #8 in our on our series about love.
As I explained, love has four distinct phases, which are based on the active neurotransmitters and brain activity. Today, we are going to look at the last phase. The phase I call real love.
Last week, I discussed the phase of falling in love. I referred to this phase as temporary insanity, because of what is happening in your brain. You go through a type of neurochemical upheaval while at the same time critical parts of your brain like your alarm system and judge shut down.
This is what gives you that unmistakable feeling of being in love. You adore your partner and life feels amazing…for awhile. I call the sensation of falling in love temporary insanity, because well it’s temporary.
One night you go to bed basking in the euphoria of new love, then wake the next morning to find that over night Mother Nature has sneakily returned your brain. Now all of a sudden, you go to breakfast and notice that your sweet snokum’s has seemed to develop the habit of smacking their lips when they eat cereal. And, to make matters worse, you find it annoying.
What once was charming can become alarming. I believe that’s the main reasons relationships end around this time. When you brain comes back you all of a sudden see things about your beloved you couldn’t see when you were in love.
But as dire as this sounds, you have an option. You can follow the those thoughts of judgment to their enviable conclusion, break off the relationship and try to find love again, just to be at this crossroads one more time.
Or, you can move bravely in to the next phase – real love.
This phase is very different from what you’ve experienced in the other three phases. Those other phases of attraction, dating and falling in love were basically involuntary. You have little control of the biochemical processes. But, in real love this all changes.
If we look at the functional magnetic reasoning images of couples that have been in long-term loving relationships, we see something incredible. The ventromedical prefrontal cortex, the judging part of the brain, the part that was dim when they fell in love is now quite active. Which seems strange. You would think if someone is judging his or her partner, maintaining love would be more difficult. But, what we see is just the opposite.
So researchers decided to investigate further so see what was going on. They discovered that although the brain activity has returned. It did not return with damaging critical judgment. One study looked at over 500 couples that reported being very intensely in love for over 10 years. They looked at over 20 different predictors of relationship happiness and the top predictor was thinking positive about the partner.
In other words, the judgment part of the brain returns but when you move into real love you have an option, you can judge harshly or you can choose to look at the good qualities in your partner.
Here’s the big difference, unlike those automatic responses felt earlier in the relationship real love becomes a choice. You get to pick and chose what thoughts you entertain.
In this way real love becomes a practice. In fact, if we look at brain scan we see that when couples practice real love, the activity is located in the same part of the brain as unconditional and parental love. You see the whole person and still choice to love them.
You’re vision is no longer clouded like when you fell in love. You can see your partner warts and all, yet still love them. This is a life-affirming nurturing love. Its also one reason couples in a loving relationship live longer. And, I think its what the other three phases were building up too.
Mother Nature was showing you what love is all about. She shows you that real love trust and that real love doesn’t judge. And, once you understand what love feels like, she graciously returns your brain. Now, you can practice love on your own.
Now that I have given you the science behind the four phases, next week I’ll start to address your specific questions when it comes to finding and maintaining love. In fact, if you have a question about attraction, dating, falling in love or maintaining love you can send it to Dawn@DawnMaslar.com and I’ll answer it in another episode. So, make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss a thing in Love School.