Why do many of us make the transition from romance to marriage?
The real reasons for this primary relationship may surprise you.
Sustaining our joy in life – and increasing our happiness over time – hinges on our ability to be extremely honest with ourselves.
One area in particular where humans find it difficult to be honest with themselves is: the relationship.
What Drives Our Desire to Mate for Life
Understanding our true relationship motivators is challenging because, though we like to think that we have complete clarity about why-we-want-what-we-want, the fact is our beliefs about romance are an ideology born from of our:
- biology (especially our hormones)
- childhood experiences
- family of origin
- current circumstances
- and – let’s face it – the thousands of hours of television and movies we’ve watched over the years.
This ideology we’ve created in our brains may or may not be compatible with how relationships actually work successfully.
In the beginning of a courtship especially, we desire romance.
Romance has a delicious, hard-to-define quality that goes beyond just attraction. There’s a spontaneity there. A mystery that we want to hold as a mystery, without ever solving it.
Why We Turn Romance into Modern Marriage
We delight in romance – even crave it – because we have an intrinsic need to have our feelings cherished and our thoughts respected by a person with whom we are sexually bonded.
Romance blends passion with friendship. A deep interest in one-another’s thoughts and feelings is what makes it more than merely a sexual adventure.
But like all reductive approaches to understanding, what we come to find is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and dissecting these motivations will only take us so far. So fear not: the mystery is still alive!
In his book, The Evolution of Desire, David Buss examines research results from a Harvard study involving 10,000 participants. Each was interviewed extensively to determine their true motivations for taking that step from romance to marriage – and their answers were not what one might expect. While you might assume answers like:
- “it’s what people do” (social convention)
- “to symbolize our love”
- “to demonstrate our commitment”
However, the most common answers were actually far more pragmatic; mostly, people confided that their primary reason for marriage was one of these two:
- dependable sensuality
- financial security
Sex and money: the two big energy systems on the planet that – though they’re not exactly politically correct topics when speaking of marriage – can be deeply spiritual systems through which we experience and demonstrate our compassion and understanding in earthly ways. Buss’ research has been validated by the work of Dr. Pat Allen, who has counseled many thousands of married couples over her long career and who has also written books about her findings.
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Emergence: That Certain Something-Else in a Relationship
Many couples work to take to their relationships to another level – beyond convenience, beyond romance, beyond co-parenting. They want something else.
“In love” is often little more than code for romantic chemistry based on biological bonding that is deeply rooted in sex. Likewise, “security” is often code for financial freedom.
No, this something else runs even deeper. It’s a sort of spiritual teamwork, but it reaches even further than values. Perhaps, ultimately, it’s about being a piece of whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.
It could be that a marriage is most spiritual when what emerges from it leaves the world a better place – as a result of its dynamic love.
What do you believe is the real, primary reason that many humans choose to mate for life?
Are You Magnetic? (How to GRAB a Lover’s Attention)
Many men tune-out of the conversation after listening to the first 12 words.
Should women take this personally?
Active listening is one of the most important social skills that exist. Men who have excellent listening skills are generally well-regarded by their peers and abundant in meaningful relationships.
However, it’s a good idea to be respectful of all men regardless of their listening style.
Many men have brain styles that are wired for action – for doing rather than being – and it’s important to understand this as more of a biological event, instead of something to be taken personally.
Why Men Stop Listening
Approximately one-third of men have a brain style that is relational – meaning they can track long conversations while effortlessly holding direct eye contact.
However, when interacting with the majority of men, your wisest strategy is to try to load the most important information in your opening sentence.
People Who Think Out Loud
If Mary is calling her friend Kate from the car to tell her that she’s going to be 20-minutes late to their appointment, she begins the conversation by telling the funny story of the zany and unexpected things that have happened to her so far that morning. Kate has no problem tracking Mary’s tale, and laughs along with her friend at the highlights of the story.
In the same scenario – except Mary is phoning George instead of Kate — Mary phones George and instead opens with “I’m running about 20 minutes behind.”
When speaking with a man, Mary knows to hit the main bulletpoint of the conversation right at the beginning (instead of first telling the story of what happened to make her late).
It’s not always easy to train oneself to speak in this bulletpoint style, but it is possible to learn with time and practice.
Are You a Non-Linear Thinker?
Learning a bulletpoint-style of conversational speaking is especially challenging for non-linear thinkers… like me!
When I’m relaxed and comfortable with someone, I like to share my process, and sort of think my way – out loud – to a new idea or conclusion. My brain is very holistic and I often circle around a thought as I find my way to it.
However, I’ve learned when speaking with other, more linear-minded men, that this does not work so well. Many men are always listening for the “kernel,” the essential point that you are (or aren’t) making.
For this reason, thinking out loud is a style of communication which often backfires.
It feels good to get everything off of your chest, but the person with whom you’re sharing this stream of consciousness – particularly if he happens to be male – tunes-out of the conversation early by half-listening and, then on some unconscious level, takes you a little less seriously next time you speak.
How to Be Truly Heard
Researchers have been able to identify brain-style differences:
- men and women process information differently and use conversation for different reasons
- approximately two-thirds of women use conversation as a means of affection – to be relational
- approximately two-thirds of men use conversation as a means of imparting tangible information
- right-handed men process differently than left-handed men
- straight men process differently than gay men
All of this diversity makes life rich and interesting, but it can also make it frustrating if we communicate with everyone as though they process exactly like we do – they probably don’t.
If you enjoy the sensation of being fully heard by another human being, of having people be genuinely interested in what you’re saying, then a useful rule-of-thumb in conversation is to make your point in 12 words or less.
Men’s brains are wired in such a way that when they listen, they’re listening for the “nugget” – the part of what you’re saying that is most relevant to them.
Therefore, the trick to being heard is to take the very most important part of what you’re about to say and put it at the very front of your conversation.
It’s the classic principle they taught us in journalism class: the lead sentence of your opening paragraph has to have punch – what happened? to whom? where? when? why?
Is there a problem you want solved? Something you need? A feeling to share? Whatever is most important: lead with it.
“…most people have never really been listened to. Because listening can bring about such powerful healing, it is one of the most beautiful gifts that people can give and receive. When parents listen to children, valuing the children’s feelings as much as their own, they convey to the children the sense that their processes of responding to life are respected. The children can trust themselves to deal with experience and conflict. It is this faith that helps children to move in the world, knowing that they are alright, and feeling that they can deal with whatever comes. There is no greater gift that parents can give than to help their children develop this faith” ~ Carl. A Faber, On Listening
For many women (or yin-energy men, like myself), casual conversation is a form of affection and fondness. For many men, domestic banalities and idle small talk suck the romantic energy clean out of the room. Because everyone is different, we need to be aware of each other and compromise when we can. It takes a bit of self-discipline and lots and lots of practice!
This has valuable implications for everyone in business, but it also has the potential to help partners feel heard in their romances, and friends to better understand each other in their friendships.
The Art of Concise Conversation
Research suggests that right-handed men use less than half as many words as women do. 90% of men are right-handed. So, if you’re a woman in a relationship with a right-handed man, this is something to be aware of. It’s not that these reticent men don’t have a broad vocabulary – it’s that they find fewer words get the job done (this same advice applies to a left-handed man conversing with a right-handed man).
Instead of a monologue about why you can be ready by 7 o’clock, why not simply state: “I can be ready by 7”? This way, he knows what he needs to know and his mind hasn’t wandered by the time you’ve arrived at your bottom-line (he can sense when you’re about to launch into a diatribe…and he usually stops listening after the first 12 words anyway).
One could argue that it’s the right-handed men who should adjust, not everyone else. But I think it’s often simpler to consciously change speaking habits than listening habits, and a shift to the concise route makes for more efficient communication regardless.
For me, I’m a person who likes to figure things out as I speak. Sometimes I find my way to a new, larger point as I’m speaking – a different point that I intended to make before I opened my mouth.
Many people are like me in this way, but I also recognize that many people are not. How I negotiate this (when I’m speaking to someone who has a communication style that’s different than mine) is to try to put what I expect will be the most important part of what I’m going to say in my opening line. It’s a more respectful way to speak with people; you might be surprised to find how well that works for you, too.
Why One Marriage is More Romantic than Another Marriage
It’s not so difficult to keep a relationship exciting in the early years. The trick for any marriage (including same-gender ones) is to create a thriving, healthy, joyful and passionate relationship decades into the marriage. To do this, each spouse needs to understand “The Loop” – how romantic partners exchange energy within a union of souls.
To keep passion robustly alive within a marriage, partners do well to honor the mysteriousness of attraction by choosing words carefully:
- the partner who isn’t communicative enough, needs to stretch and share their internal process more often;
- the partner who chatters too much needs to become grounded enough to create more relaxed, empty spaces.
Desire and attraction are sensitive, mercurial dynamics that are generated in large part by the looping of yin/yang energy. Or, to put it in more western terms: the mutual exchange of respectfulness and cherishing.
The best marriages are those that recognize that sex and money are energy systems within which self-improvement opportunities exist.
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“Alchemy of Love and Lust” ~ Theresa Crenshaw https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/theresa-l-crenshaw-2/the-alchemy-of-love-and-lust/
“Teaching and Brain Research” ~ Michael Grady http://teacherlink.ed.usu.edu/yetcres/catalogs/reavis/301.pdf
“The Right Mind: Making Sense of the Hemispheres” ~ Robert Ornstein http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-15-100324-2
“Sex Difference in the Corpus Callosum / Journal of Neuroscience” ~ MF Richey http://www.jneurosci.org/content/11/4/933.short