When you’re first attracted to someone, your eyes can pop out of your head! You take in every inch of them. You can’t stop looking!
That intense first attraction is high-powered stuff, and as such takes a lot of energy. We burn through a great deal of our stored oxygen and glucose to run that sensorial engine. But the human body is designed to conserve energy. So when the honeymoon is over, we stop looking.
Turns out what’s good for our body is not always good for our relationships. Eventually, without looking, listening, or paying attention to our partner, we begin to make assumptions. We rely on our internal memory of the person, colored by past experience all the way back to our childhood. We start to have a relationship with a fabricated model of our partner. And when that model doesn’t match reality, we have a big problem.
This is the reason most couples get into arguments and find it hard to stop fighting. As a couples therapist in Pasadena, CA, I see it all the time.
So, what’s the fix doc? Simple eye contact! Try it! The next time you’re fighting with your partner, remember to look into their eyes, and see if you can get them to do the same. Notice if anything changes. If you’re like most people, the intensity of the argument will decrease. You will hear better and feel heard. You will actually be responding to your partner, not some fabricated model held in your mind.
Make a policy with your partner – we can only argue when we are face to face, hand in hand, and eye to eye. Don’t let your very powerful human survival mechanisms run your relationship.