For those of you who missed my last newsletter, I’m posting it here. There are links to articles and lots of exciting news about upcoming events. If you want to sign up for my newsletter, you can sign up here – under ‘Stay Inspired.’
Thank you for being part of this community! Keep reading for more on clinging to a flawed definition of love, news about upcoming summits, and updates about the This Way Up Audio Book! You can always find me at ThisWayUpBook.com.
Is Love All You Need? Not Really.
“Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don’t know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings.” ~ Mary Oliver
I was sitting in the seat of the car, looking out the window, pouting. The day was not going as I had planned it in my head. He should have known! He must have known how I wanted it to be. After all, we were married and he should know … he should be able to read my mind …
Lennon and McCartney tell us that “love is all you need.” But in the case of romantic love, is that true? Plenty of research and lived experience tells us: no, it’s not. Alain de Botton describes why we created and still live by the inaccurate, and often disastrous image of romantic love in his NYT article: “Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person.”
I explored the concept that we are clinging to a flawed definition of romantic love in my latest article on Thrive Global.
The idea of romantic love tells us that we all have a soul mate out there, that it is our task to find our one true soul mate, and we will know when we find him or her because we will have a very special feeling. Botton describes this search for romantic love in his very entertaining talk “On Love” from The School of Life. You can watch this insightful talk here.
We are led to believe that when we find our soul mate, we will never be lonely again, that person will understand us completely and practically be able to read our mind. (Flashback to me in the car pouting.) We will feel completely understood and loved. This love shall be one long romantic holiday …
Anyone who has experienced a romantic relationship knows that this logic is flawed in so many ways!
For a relationship to last, we need more than that outdated version of romantic love. So what do we need to make a lasting and happy relationship? Well for one thing, we definitely need good communication. The day out with my husband would have turned out a lot differently if I had communicated my vision for the day instead of assuming that he should “just know.”
But aside from good communication, science is showing us that lasting relationships come down to two things: kindness and generosity.
In Atlantic magazine’s article “Masters of Love,” psychologists John and Julie Gottman describe their work. Together they have studied thousands of couples in a quest to figure out what makes relationships work. From the data they gathered, they were able to separate the couples into two major groups: the masters and the disasters. The masters were still happily together after six years. The disasters had either broken up or were chronically unhappy in their marriages. Read more about this on my blog post.
Ultimately, if we are looking to live happily ever aftertogether, we need to ditch the antiquated idea of romantic love and move forward in the spirit of kindness and generosity.
Upcoming Summits: You’re Invited!
I am so excited to be participating in several events in February and March. Each summit or master class is completely free and full of amazing information from a host of experts.
Great Health Now: Reverse Aging, Feel Confident in Your Body and Have Fun Again!
Free master class series where you will discover how to get unstuck, expand your vision and live your greater potential. This intimate, high-value, high-profile master class series wil explore the topic of the unlimited creative power of women to help them activate and realize their deepest desires and dreams.
This Way Up is being made into an audio book! The book is being narrated by the fantastic character actress, Janice Kent. When it is ready, it will be available on my Amazon page and I will send a special link for the book in my newsletter. I can’t wait to share this new version of the book with you!
Buy the Book!
“Author Patti Clark is a cross between Elizabeth Gilbert and Julia Cameron.”
This Way Up is a story of healing for women who yearn to lead a fuller life, accompanied by a workbook to help readers work through personal challenges, discover new inspiration, and harness their creative power. . .
Women spend so much of life nurturing and giving to others that when they find themselves alone—because of an empty nest, the end of a marriage, or the death of a partner—they often struggle with feeling purposeless. This Way Up provides a step-by-step way out of this sense of loss and into a life filled with enthusiasm, creativity, and joy.
“Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don’t know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings.”
― Anaïs Nin
I was sitting in the seat of the car, looking out the window, pouting. The day was not going as I had planned it in my head. He should have known! He must have known how I wanted it to be, after all we were married and he should know . . . he should be able to read my mind . . .
Lennon and McCartney tell us that Love is All You Need. But in the case of romantic love, is that true?
Alain de Botton describes why we created and still live by the inaccurate, and often disastrous image of romantic love in his NYT article: “Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person.”
In the past, people married for practical reasons, but in the 1800s, we replaced practicality with the romantic version of love:
“For most of recorded history, people married for logical sorts of reasons: because her parcel of land adjoined yours, his family had a flourishing business, her father was the magistrate in town, there was a castle to keep up, or both sets of parents subscribed to the same interpretation of a holy text. And from such reasonable marriages, there flowed loneliness, infidelity, abuse, hardness of heart and screams heard through the nursery doors. The marriage of reason was not, in hindsight, reasonable at all; it was often expedient, narrow-minded, snobbish and exploitative. That is why what has replaced it — the marriage of feeling — has largely been spared the need to account for itself.”
Romantic Love tells us that we all have a soul mate out there and it is our task to find our one true soul mate, and we will know when we find him or her because we will have that very special feeling. Botton describes this search for romantic love in his very entertaining talk “On Love” from ‘The School of Life.’
The reality is though that what we are looking for when we fall in love is familiarity. We are not necessarily drawn to people who will make us happy, we are drawn to people who will feel familiar.
“What we really seek is familiarity — which may well complicate any plans we might have had for happiness. We are looking to recreate, within our adult relationships, the feelings we knew so well in childhood. The love most of us will have tasted early on was often confused with other, more destructive dynamics: feelings of wanting to help an adult who was out of control, of being deprived of a parent’s warmth or scared of his anger, of not feeling secure enough to communicate our wishes. How logical, then, that we should as grown-ups find ourselves rejecting certain candidates for marriage not because they are wrong but because they are too right — too balanced, mature, understanding and reliable — given that in our hearts, such rightness feels foreign. We marry the wrong people because we don’t associate being loved with feeling happy.”
For a relationship to last, we need more than that out-dated version of romantic love. So what do we need to make a lasting relationship? Well for one thing, we definitely need good communication. The day out with my husband would have turned out a lot differently if I had communicated my vision for the day instead of assuming that my husband should just know.
But aside from good communication, science is showing us that lasting relationships come down to two things: kindness and generosity.
In Atlantic Magazine’s article ‘Masters of Love’, psychologists John and Julie Gottman describe their work. Together they have studied thousands of couples in a quest to figure out what makes relationships work. From the data they gathered, they were able to separate the couples into two major groups: the masters and the disasters. The masters were still happily together after six years. The disasters had either broken up or were chronically unhappy in their marriages.
The masters felt calm and connected together, which translated into warm and affectionate behavior, even when they fought. Whereas the disasters were in a state of ‘fight or flight’ even when they were not fighting. It’s not that the masters had a better physiological make-up than the disasters; it’s that masters had created a climate of trust and intimacy that made both of them more emotionally and thus physically comfortable.
“Throughout the day, partners would make requests for connection, what Gottman calls “bids.” For example, say that the husband is a bird enthusiast and notices a goldfinch fly across the yard. He might say to his wife, “Look at that beautiful bird outside!” He’s not just commenting on the bird here: he’s requesting a response from his wife — a sign of interest or support — hoping they’ll connect, however momentarily, over the bird. The wife now has a choice. She can respond by either “turning toward” or “turning away” from her husband, as Gottman puts it. Though the bird-bid might seem minor and silly, it can actually reveal a lot about the health of the relationship. The husband thought the bird was important enough to bring it up in conversation and the question is whether his wife recognizes and respects that. People who turned toward their partners in the study responded by engaging the bidder, showing interest and support in the bid. Those who didn’t — those who turned away — would not respond or respond minimally and continue doing whatever they were doing, like watching TV or reading the paper.”
Gottman explains that masters have a habit of mind in which they scan the social environment for things they can appreciate and say thank you for. They are building this culture of respect and appreciation very purposefully. Disasters are scanning the social environment for partners’ mistakes. And it’s not just scanning the environment, it’s also scanning the partner for what the partner is doing right or wrong; criticizing versus respecting him and expressing appreciation.
The Gottmans have found that contempt is the number one factor that tears couples apart. People who treat their partners with contempt and criticize them will eventually kill the love in the relationship. On the other hand, kindness glues couples together. Kindness is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage. Kindness makes each partner feel cared for, understood, and validated. Kindness makes us feel loved.
So if we are looking to live happily ever after together, we need to ditch the antiquated version of romantic love and move forward in the spirit of kindness and generosity.
I’d like to close this post with the video by Alaine de Botton that I mentioned above. It is well worth the watch, both amusing and insightful.
“Men are from Earth, women are from Earth. Deal with it.”
– George Carlin
Ok, so I have to admit it. I have learned so much from this recent argument with my husband. I guess I can even say that I appreciated the argument!
Yes absolutely men’s and women’s brains work differently.
There are fundamental variations between male and female brains that mean we communicate and respond to situations differently. In a relationship, these differences can unintentionally cause misunderstanding and conflict. It’s generally accepted now that women tend to be wired towards empathy, whereas men develop stronger interest in systems, or how things work and that impacts on how we speak and deal with people.
Neuropsychologist Dr Anne Moir, who featured in the video I posted about men and women being wired differently, believes that a better understanding of how we are wired differently will help us argue less. Well it certainly helped me move to a place of compassion. After doing research and having a better understanding of how our brains differ, I was able to soften toward Jeff and better understand where he was coming from.
It also helped incredibly having a wonderfully rich and fascinating discussion with my dear friends, Jan and Trev. They are both interested in neuroscience. Jan with her background in Psychosynthesis; and Trev with an eclectic background and a wide range of studies, both helped me untangle and look at this stuff in a new way.
But actually the experience that really catapulted me into understanding was a situation I had with my own sister. We had a disagreement about something, and she pointed out accurately that I went straight to my head about the situation, while she went to her heart, and emotionally she did not feel met. I felt judged by her (as Jeff had said that he felt judged by me) and my sister said she felt like we were in completely different places while trying to communicate (the same thing that I had said to Jeff.) It was fascinating, and yes, rather uncomfortable. I had to really back-pedal on so much that I had laid on Jeff! What an incredible learning experience.
I have several videos that I found educational and enlightening that I would like to share:
There is an educational one just describing an fMRI and how it works.
Then there is an intersting video from animal planet about male and female brains
There are also two interesting videos from talk shows, Jane and The View that feature the Neuroscientist Dr. Daniel Amen, where he describes fMRIs of men and women and points out the differences.
Maybe you’ll find all of these videos overload, too much information. But I found it incredibly helpful. And navigating relationships is tough in the best of times. I can use all the help I can get!
I’d love to hear what helps you navigate your relationship. And as always thanks for stopping by, I appreciate it.