Tag Archives: showing love

Genes May Contribute to Relationship Empathy

A new study out just this month that appeared in the online journal Emotion, published by the American Psychological Association, suggests that our genes may determine how inclined we are toward empathy. This means that the level of connection we have toward our spouse’s negative emotional state may have more to do with their biological makeup than with how much they care.

Researchers suggest that our genetic makeup may make some people more responsive to their partner’s emotional states and others less so. Their theory is that the serotonin transporter gene 5-HTTLPR might play a role in making us either less or more responsive to our spouses’ emotions.

The study involved data from 172 couples who remained married after 11 years. Researchers found some people have one variant of the gene, while others have a second variant. Depending on which variant you or your spouse has, your emotions may be more or less connected to your partner’s emotions. The gene appears to control how long your reaction lasts, and how responsive you are to your spouse’s emotional cues.

While we can’t blame our actions on our biology, Bradbury says we do need to realize that who we are is in large part a makeup of our biology, and that our reactions are sometimes outside our control. However, researcher Tom Bradbury says, “It’s much more complex than a single gene.”

The reason this understanding is important, say the psychologists, is not so that we can explain away our own behavior, but instead that we learn to be more forgiving of our spouse. “This research may imply that we should be forgiving of the behavior of a loved one and not demand that a spouse change her or his behavior,” said the psychologists.

  “Who you are and how you respond to me has a lot to do with things that are totally outside your control,” said Bradbury. “My partner’s biology is invisible to me; I have no clue about that. The more I can appreciate that the connection between who I am and who my partner is may be biologically mediated leads me to be much more appreciative of invisible forces that constrain our behavior,” he added.

Researchers believe multiple genes are at play in helping to contribute to our reactions. They say that if you realize how hard it is to change yourself, you may see that your partner can’t control this aspect of him or herself either.

There’s much more to the full research study that I’ll write about later, but this biological component is important to helping understand why we need to have a forgiving bent within marriage. It’s difficult at times to see things the way our spouse seems them, and at times we would like them to be more emotionally understanding of where we are. However, this may be harder than you realize for your partner to accomplish.

From my own experience, I believe my husband to be very empathic with others, but I don’t believe we are always emotionally on the same page. So, this research helps remind me that we have a different makeup and that he can’t always choose to be where I am emotionally. It doesn’t mean that he can’t understand my emotions, but rather that we may have to work harder to maintain emotional connection and understanding.

Do you find these results interesting or enlightening—or dull and unhelpful? Does it help you view your spouse’s reactions in a new light? Or, do you think individuals can exercise much more control and choice over the way they respond, and shouldn’t rely on biological excuses?

Photo by Photostock courtesty of freedigitalphotos.net.

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. The book tells the true stories that demonstrate that marriage can thrive even in the most difficult circumstances. Learn from 12 inspiring couples who experienced child loss, infidelity, drug addiction, cancer, financial crises, brain injury, stranger rape, military service, infertility, opposing religions, unsupportive families, interracial relationships, raising special-needs children, and much more. These couples found the pressures of life didn’t destroy them; instead, they crystallized their commitment to each other.

Best Posts of 2011

I encourage you to read Best Marriage Quotes of 2011 from Sheila Wray Gregoire of To Love, Honor & Vaccuum. She pulls insightful quotes and 50 of the best links on the topics of perspective, sex, commitment, acceptance, and marriage tips.  While you are there, you may want to check out her other articles. This site is very helpful, particularly for women who want to improve the intimacy and sexual quality in their marriage.

One of the quotes Sheila mentioned also struck me as very important: “What you do EVERY DAY matters much more than what do ONCE IN A WHILE.” This is from an interesting post at Simple Marriage offering The Secrets of Marriage.

For those of you inclined to set goals, make changes or resolutions for 2012, it’s great to keep this point in mind that it is daily actions that matter most to our marital happiness and our overall happiness. While it’s great to plan an annual family vacation or a monthly chat with a friend, these may not be enough of a stress reliever to deal with the everyday problems we face. On the other hand, if we can adopt (or increase in frequency) some behaviors that help us on a daily basis, we may have a happier year. Think of SMALL, DOABLE actions you can do daily to benefit your marriage this year.

Many of us don’t need to revamp our lives or change our entire lifestyle. But by finding small ways to improve our day, to encourage each other, to reduce stress and to show gratitude and joy, we can make a big difference in an entire year. For example, maybe you can discuss an ideal greeting for each other when you meet at the end of each day–making time for a real hug and kiss. Or perhaps you can share a cup of coffee in the morning or carve out a few minutes daily to connect.

The most popular blog post from Marriage Gems for 2011 was: Why are women less happy then men in marriage? This was an interesting discussion, and you can still add your opinion.

I want to wish you and your family a fabulous year ahead full of love and good health.

If one of your goals for 2012 is to give your relationship a shot of inspiration, I hope you will consider purchasing my book, First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage , which tells the stories of a dozen amazing couples who used adversity to improve their marriage. Go here for links to Amazon print version or e-books for Kindle, iTunes, Sony, Nook or PDF. If you’ve already bought the book, don’t forget to email me for your 7 free marriage improvement gifts, including everything from an e-book to improve your sex life to date night suggestions, an iPhone app with daily marriage tips, a marriage refresher workbook, a video to hone your communication skills, and tips for how to connect on a daily basis with your spouse in just 15 minutes a day.

Photo by Salvatore Vuono courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Can You Show Love with a Sticky Note?

I apologize if you received this post twice. The e-book was unavailable last week, but was just improved and re-released. If you add a comment, you will be qualified for a free e-book giveaway!

I recently read an e-book called Sticky-Note Love by Matthew French-Holt. In it, Matthew shares advice about how to please women, after realizing he needed to be regularly reminded about simple ways to please his wife. (I don’t know if any guys out there can relate, or if you have us women figured out.) Because Matthew says he tends to forget how to keep the romantic streak alive in his own marriage, he  created a simple system to help. He believes other men have similar tendencies and can benefit from the same model. (You can find Matthew encouraging all kinds of adventure at Adventure-Some.com.)

The gist of his advice is to write your wife a love note every single day. While that can seem daunting, Matthew gives tons of simple suggestions, and even says a one-sentence love message on a sticky note will surely do the trick. The key is to write from your heart and to be consistent. As in every single day. I was surprised how easy and doable Matthew’s idea is; the hard part is in keeping it up.

The e-book isn’t quite as simple as that one piece of advice, as he gives you some of the reasonings behind why it works, as well as many tips and suggestions so you don’t have to sit holding that piece of paper wondering what to say each day. The three pages of ideas for your love notes is one good reason guys should consider getting the e-book! Of course, you want to be honest with your feelings, but it’s a great start.

In essence, the goal is to create a virtuous cycle rather than a vicious cycle. In the vicious cycle, your wife may be seeking acknowledgement that she is loved. When she doesn’t receive affirmation and hear what you love in her, she may question that love and be slow to give affection. This cycle can slowly make you feel out of touch. The virtuous cycle means that as you regularly express love, she becomes more secure and confident in your love. She then becomes increasingly affectionate toward you, which causes you to share your affection and feelings of love even more. In this cycle, you feel ever more bonded to one another.

One of my blogging pals, marital therapist Dr. Michelle Gannon, shares a story in an article for Hitched Media that seems to support Matthew’s theory.  She explains how to have more gratitude and positivity in your life and marriage. Then, she shared this story:

My husband and I were presenting at a conference, and I met a lovely 70-year-old gentleman who told me that he had been happily married for 50 years. I asked him what was his secret to success? He immediately answered that when he was married for one week, his new wife came to him and asked, “What are three things that you love about me?” He answered, “You are beautiful, smart and a great cook.” The next week, she asked the same question. He gave the same answer, and she responded, “You already told me those three things. Tell me three new things.” So he did–week after week, year after year. He claimed that every week for 50 years he has given her three new compliments or expressions of appreciation and gratitude.

So whether you want to be put on the spot by your wife, or whether you want to think in advance and make one grateful comment or write something you love about her every day, it seems clear that this kind of activity makes a wife feel more loved and appreciated. Interestingly, the act of sharing your love and gratitude will also help you as a husband. (See my past post about the benefits of gratitude.)

The e-book is available for $19.99 at: http://snl.adventure-some.com/.

Decide how you plan to express your love and gratitude today. Then figure out a way to be consistent. Whether it’s a sticky note on the mirror, a daily verbal expression, a text sent every day at the same time, or a love note under the pillow each night, you’ll find these expressions go a long way to strengthening a marriage bond.  What are you waiting for?

Photo credit: ©Chad McDermott/PhotoXpress.com