Welcome to my first Hold Me Tight blog. Where to begin?
The world of science and love relationships is hopping. And it is about time. Until a few years ago there was very little serious attention paid by scientists to love and love relationships. Surveys tell us that having a loving relationship is ranked right at the top of life goals by most of us. Love is also the most used word in the English language! But this emotion that we long for, struggle for, weep over, was long thought to be simple sentimentality or just sexual desire dressed up. Not the stuff of serious science. This has now changed.
I am going to be writing in this blog about relationships, the real issues in relationships, what does wrong, how we can have better relationships and the new science that is changing how we shape the most important connections in our lives. And I will be telling stories and sharing insights from my clinical practice of couple therapy using a powerful tested approach called Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy (EFT). As a relationship expert I will also comment on what is in the media, in fact, I am going to have fun commenting on anything that grabs me. The focus will be on how we connect, or fail to connect with those we love. One week I might chat about a new study that tells us how love impacts the strength of our heart – literally! Another week I might comment on an opinion or concern voiced in the media, such as the idea that we have now found a gene for having affairs (so in a few years we will be able to inoculate you against this virus at the altar ??????). I have pretty strong opinions after thirty years as a researcher, therapist, writer and teacher in this field so I will make it clear when I am giving an opinion and when I am relaying actual niffy nuggets of science to you all.
For example, I read in my local paper that a pharmaceutical company has come up with a nasal spray so that we can all stand around and spray the “cuddle hormone” called oxytocin up our nose. I found this a little alarming. There is real evidence that this hormone, released when we make love, breast feed our babies, or even just come close to a loved one turns off stress hormones and turns on feelings of calm, contented bliss. It really does seem to be the chemistry behind the business – or should I say the unending drama of love. There is even evidence that people are likely to be more trusting with others after a dose of oxytocin. My opinion is that the spray won’t work as a quick bottled cuddle. A latte with caramel and whipped cream from your favorite coffee store will probably be more effective. The brain isn’t that easy to trick and when it comes to love, our responses are wired in by millions of years of survival rules and regulations. As every poet will tell you, love is all about life and death.
After 30 years of obsessive struggle and amazing fun studying relationships, I must also confess that I am pretty sure of what I know. Thousands of wonderful couples who have transformed their relationships have taught me well. At last, we really do know what love is all about. And just in time! We can’t afford to let love and loving stay an intriguing mystery. Science also tells us that loneliness isn’t just an inconvenience. It’s a killer. And, for so many of us, our world seems to be getting lonelier all the time. When I see couples, the most poignant moment of all is when someone looks at me and murmurs, “This is not really about the fights you know – it’s about this terrible unbearable aloneness. It is killing me.” This hurts me just to listen to it. But I also know that chances are, I will help this person heal the connection with their partner. That is how far we have come!
I hope you will all join me regularly for this blog on love and loving.
Dr. Sue Johnson