The science of intimacy

With a divorce rate hovering at close to 40 percent, it’s clear that many Canadian couples experience a critical disconnect somewhere after the initial infatuation and before they reach their golden anniversary.

Obviously, there are many complicated reasons behind the break-up of relationships and I will not delve into those today. But it is safe to say that in general many relationships fail because we go into them without some important relational skills and with unrealistic or unhealthy expectations.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were some simple ways to increase feelings of love and intimacy regardless of the state or stage of a relationship?

According to some new information published last month in Scientific American, there may be just such a thing.

This article examined the results of several studies on love and intimacy, which identified commitment, communication, accommodation and vulnerability as important elements in healthy relationships. Sharing adventures, secrets, personal space and jokes were also identified as ways to build intimacy.

Study authors found they were able to help people increase feelings of love and intimacy on demand using a few simple exercises based on study results.

One exercise called soul gazing involves two people gazing deeply into each other’s eyes for two minutes. Sounds simple – and it is. These researchers found even when people who were complete strangers participated in this exercise they reported an immediate increase in feelings of love and intimacy for one another.

As for why this exercise works – it is based on the premise that people bond emotionally when they feel vulnerable together. When we see someone else who is in a vulnerable position, we typically feel like comforting or protecting that person. Likewise, when we ourselves are vulnerable, we react positively to someone else reaching out to comfort us. If two individuals are both feeling vulnerable, the feelings of comfort and positive reaction occur simultaneously and are compounded.

In the soul gazing exercise, this dynamic is achieved by each person giving the other the permission to enter a private space to gaze at one another. When you let someone else look deeply into your eyes, it requires a certain amount of vulnerability.

More than 80 scientific studies have demonstrated similar results and soul gazing is not the only exercise that works. Other experiences that are known to increase emotional bonds include engaging in physical activity together, being in frightening situations together and doing new things together.

Researchers writing the article for Scientific American also spent time interviewing people in arranged marriages where love has grown over time and believe these couples were able to make love grow stronger by taking responsibility for their feelings and taking control over the love process rather than relying on the initial intensity of physical attraction and leaving the rest up to chance as is so often what happens in typical relationships here.

These can be helpful tools for anyone and while they may not save every relationship, strengthening emotional bonds and increasing intimacy certainly won’t hurt.


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