What happens in intimate relationships when people fight? Why – suddenly – it feels like love has flown out of the window, and guards are up? Why does it become more important who is right, instead of how close we are? Why do we find so much pain when we look for love?
In a new love relationship we might be temporarily deluded that it’ll be an eternal paradise, but with growing commitment, sooner or later it will happen… A fight.
What is going on with the brain in love? All love-related neurotransmitters buzz the brain with ecstasy and pleasure; sometimes it affects us so much that the whole world around us looks different… And that’s ok, that’s great! Falling in love is a beginning of an intimate connection we long for, and accordingly to the relationships science – it is a necessary stage of bonding in close relationships, it’s a part of sense of fulfilment and belonging in our life journey.
When people in love get to better know each other, when the relationship naturally progresses towards closeness – the differences in character and opinions are brought to the surface of relationship. Add to this: different ways of looking at situations, different styles of dealing with issues, and differences between both partners’ family system patterns of living.
As soon as the initial feeling of being so alike is challenged by differences and misunderstandings – the brain jumps from perceiving blissful safety to perceiving a threat. Reality hits; disagreement, sarcastic comment, thoughtless judgement, miscommunication and lack of attention. The lover’s brain is frizzled. A threat is detected, and the brain jumps into threat-mode. From oceanic bliss – to hell…
When, in such situations, the brain suddenly switches from safe-mode to threat-mode – most likely in reality nothing happens, even if the brain signals: “Danger!”. The partner is the same person like before, but just behaves in an unexpected way.
As we grow in closeness and commitment – we need to recognise and deal with that shift in perception. This is just a perception matter (and perception of a threat is followed by a pattern of the brain response to threat). Experience of a sudden negativity in an intimate relationship needs to be followed by recognizing the internal shift in our perception. If we would understand that – we are able to start understanding more about our partner and our relationship. Relationship can grow further.
The threat detected by the brain is the reason for switching love-mode off; the threat is like a black cloud covering the sun in the sky. The art of cultivating psychological intimacy is to know – how to recognize that the cloud is there, but the sun is still behind the cloud. And not let the fearful brain hijack love.
Opening up to love is one of the best life experiences. The deepest longing of the human heart. We don’t have to worry about burning love if we don’t fall into a trap of the threat perception. Staying balanced and passionate at the same time is the way to love and happiness.
In following posts I’ll explore further the hijacking brain patterns.