Living by the ‘Laws of Love’ Can Help Couples Deepen Emotional and Physical Connection
The partners in a couple have to discover experiences and create new feelings to replace old negative patterns. That discovery can heal and rejuvenate a romantic relationship.
Old routines that have gotten a couple into a rut, or even into negative relationship patterns, may be hard to break.
But therapist Susan Johnson, author of Hold Me Tight, says research has given us great insight as to how the brain works. That understanding opens the door to practicing positive responses that can create a dynamic, loving relationship.
Love is a primitive need, wired into our brains, that has to be felt emotionally and physically.
Thinking about better communication isn’t enough to create change in the way partners interact, Johnson says in a video presentation called “The Laws of Love.”
Instead of chipping away at a relationship with negative responses that renew childhood fears of loss and abandonment, the secret to lasting love is to create loving responses that repair the emotional bond.
Johnson has developed these basic principles about how love heals and deepens over decades:
Laws of Love
- Love is a survival connection: Romantic love is the grown-up version of the emotional bond between mother and child. It is the same longing for closeness and connection. Love is a safe haven that lessens fear and stress. Love is an ancient survival code that’s part of being human.
- The need to have someone respond to our needs is wired into our brain: Loving and being loved makes you stronger.
- Emotional attunement creates safety and better sex: A healthy love relationship means creating a safe haven for each other. Emotional responsiveness is the key to secure bonding. Emotional safety, not constant novelty, is the key to a satisfying sexual relationship. When you are safe, you can “play.”
- Reaching and responding solidifies love: A safe emotional connection helps each partner depend on the other, in a positive way, and meet the challenges of daily life. Over time, those positive emotional reactions deepen and expand love.
Johnson says scientific research has shown the physical effects of positive or negative interactions.
“Criticism from our lover is coded in the same way and in the same place in the brain as the same way as physical pain,” she says.
“Research has shown that emotional isolation is more dangerous to our health than smoking or lack of exercise,” says Johnson. “You are three times more likely to have a stroke or heart attack if you have to face the world alone.”
Emotional attunement and responsiveness is the key to secure bonding.
How to Create Positive Emotional Connections to Rejuvenate Love
The key to creating fresh new experiences that deepen love is to make the most of daily opportunities. The guidance of an experienced therapist can help a couple learn techniques they can use long after therapy.
- Be aware of moments of connection: Daily life provides constant opportunities to weaken or enrich a relationship. Pay attention and respond when your partner asks for help with an activity, like making coffee, or wants to share concerns or feelings. A positive response deepens the connection, while a negative response is a missed opportunity that can add to feelings of abandonment and loneliness. Choosing the positive response adds up to a healthy relationship over time.
- Understand that fights are never about sex, money or the kids: A fight is about one person in the couple protesting and the loss of a safe emotional connection. One person is saying, “Where are you? Do I matter to you?” Look beneath the surface and respond the real need for a safe haven. Ignoring the true need in a fight leads to more disconnection.
- Spend time making physical connections: Cuddle and spend time together. Emotional safety leads to good sex. Hormones from physical connection reduce stress. A loving relationship is the best recipe for a long and healthy life.
Science has helped us realize that we are born to connect, says Johnson.
“There is nothing more rewarding for human beings on this planet than having this longing for connection and to be seen and held and feel safely connected and have that responded to,” says Johnson.
The connection has to be felt emotionally. Then it becomes not a chore, but something to look forward to and build upon, because positive and loving interactions make life healthier and more joyous.
Johnson, Susan, From Psychotherapy Networker video Feb. 15, 2016.
Johnson, Susan, “The Laws of Love,” Dec. 26, 2013
Johnson, Susan, “10 Tips for a Strong Vibrant Relationship,” Creating Connections, drsuejohnson.com