Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Falling Back In Love

Thanks to J&B for letting me use their photo
A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.
- Mignon McLaughlin
Remember that time when you were madly in love with your partner? It was enough to be in the same room with them to feel happy. Going for hikes, skiing, dancing, cooking together, having fascinating conversations, learning about each other, laughing at silly things, and staring each other in the eyes... Sometimes looking back it may be hard to believe that you two actually enjoyed each others' company so much... Things have changed. Some of it is time, some of it is habituation, but some of it is the gradual decrease of effort. Drifting apart is not uncommon amongst couples who spent many years together, however the real question is: can this be reversed? Is it possible to fall back in love? Even though I do not have the answer to this question, I have decided to play with an interesting idea that actually may turn out to be a part of the solution...

Fake It Till You Make It

According to psychologist Amy Cuddy we can change our reality simply by faking the desired outcome. In her TED Talk on body language, Cuddy claims that tweaking our posture a little bit can significantly change how our life unfolds. Nonverbal expressions of power can actually impact our actual sense of powerfulness. Another example of a similar mind-body link is that we smile when we feel happy, but when we fake a smile we will also feel better. According to her findings, the common catchphrase "fake it till you make it" makes a lot of sense. Cuddy explains that the rule behind this is simple: our nonverbals govern how other people think and feel about us, but they also govern how we think and feel about ourselves. She concludes that you don't really fake it till you make it, you fake it till you become it. What does faking confidence have to do with falling back in love? Well, if we can "trick" our bodies to make us feel happy, and "trick" our minds to think that we are confident, we may also be able to "trick" ourselves into falling back in love! I know, the word "trick" may be triggering some negative reactions as it may suggest that deception is involved, which is not the case. The idea is to simply start acting like a person in love, in order to rebuild the connection that was lost when you and your partner stopped acting like people in love. Simple? Probably too simple, but I believe it's definitely worth the try. 

Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviors

What Cuddy describes is really an example of the tight relationship between our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. What we think impacts how we feel and how we behave; how we feel impacts what we think and how we behave, and how we behave impacts what we think and how we feel. Although it is very difficult (if not impossible) to change one's feelings, changing one's thoughts, or especially behaviors, does not seem as challenging. The relationships between thoughts, feeling and behaviors are not unidirectional. They work both ways as illustrated below: if we change one area of functioning, e.g. behaviors - the change will also affect feelings and thoughts. And now a little bit about how it relates to falling out of love...

What is one of the first signs of falling out of love? We stop acting like people who are in love. We don't look each other in the eyes anymore, we get into a routine, we cease to make the effort to be romantic, we stop prioritizing the relationship, etc. Now is this happening because we stopped loving each other? Or is it possible that behaving "out of love" (out of habituation) is causing us to feel "out of love"? If the latter is the case, what would happen if we started to behave like we used to when we were in love? 

By Acting Like a Man in Love, He Became a Man in Love Again...

Before you read on, watch this brief video.  It's only 5 minutes long, and it's worth it.

In this fictitious example, a man ready to leave the marriage becomes a man in love again, simply by acting like a man in love. It may seem too simple to be even considered a valid solution. However, how many people have really tried it? The cognitive-behavioral model of therapy assumes that we can change our thoughts, and by changing them we can improve our lives. I absolutely agree. However, there are instances when focusing on thinking leads to overthinking. It may be especially the case in regards to relationships, where there is usually a plethora of experiences, both good and bad, to analyze. Instead of getting into a trap of your own thoughts (memories, worries and predictions), you can focus solely on your behaviors. You want to be in love again? Act like a person in love! Depending on your unique relationship's situation it may or may not work (sometimes it is better to separate, sometimes additional support, e.g. therapy, may be helpful), however it seems to be worth a try!




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