I hope these blogs will help you to open up your consciousness to see adultery as a challenge in life, which does not have to be a destructive force but a source of learning potential and be able to seal with yourself and your partner the difficult issues that come with a mature and deep connection.
I will use the term "marriage" or "relationship" to describe an "intimate committed relationship", regardless of its contractual nature or the gender of the parties involved (homosexual/heterosexual/bisexual/transgender).
I will start my first blog on the topic by presenting some of the most common theories in regards to mate selection. I will narrow down the focus to one main theory, which has the common denominator with the Core Energetics Approach (Wilhelm Reich’s Character Formation) and other body-oriented concepts.
Biological Theory: Some biologists contend that there is a certain “bio-logic” to courtship behavior. According to this broad, evolutionary view of love, we instinctively select mates who will enhance the survival of the species. Renowned anthropologist Helen Fisher, explains the biochemical dynamics of what she calls “the brain in love”: when we fall in love, specific areas of the brain "light up" with increased blood flow. Romantic passion is hardwired into our brains by millions of years of evolution. It is not an emotion; it is a drive as powerful as hunger.
Social psychology explains mate selection through the exchange theory. This theory gives us a more comprehensive view of mate selection than the simple biological model. It is not just youth, beauty, and social rank that interest us, but the whole person. For example, the fact that a man has a low-status job can be offset by the fact that he is a charming, intelligent, and compassionate person.
Persona Theory adds another dimension to the phenomenon of romantic attraction: an important factor is the way a potential suitor enhances our self- esteem. Each of us has a mask, a “persona”, which is the face that we show to other people. We choose a mate who will enhance our idealized self-image. The question here is “What will it do to my sense of self if I am seeing this person?”
Imago Theory: what accounts for the intensity of romantic love, for those feelings of ecstasy that can be so overpowering? ... and also for the emotional devastation that frequently accompanies the breakup of a relationship? We seem to be highly selective in our choice of mates. In fact, we appear to be searching for a “one and only” with a very specific set of traits. As suggested by Harville Hendrix, we unconsciously search for a person that matches our “imago” and behind this is the unconscious desire to heal our childhood’s wounds. The primary reason we select our mates is that they resemble our caretakers. Their positive AND negative personality traits.
For this high degree of selectivity to make any sense, we need to understand the role that the unconscious mind plays in mate selection.Let’s take a brief look at the structure of the brain and divide the brain into three concentric layers (neuroscientist Paul McLean’s model):
- The “Reptilian brain”: The inner and most primitive layer. It is the part of the brain that overseas reproduction, self-preservation (fight/flight instincts), and vital functions such as the circulation of blood, breathing, sleeping and the contraction of muscles in response to external stimulation.
- The “Limbic brain”: its function is the generation of vivid emotions. The capacity to recognize emotions in others and feel them in our self (empathy) is located here.
- The “Neo cortex” or Homo Sapiens brain: it functions most of our cognitive functions, abstract thinking, being able to plan (past/future), strategic thinking, logical thinking, deductive thinking, organizing, etc.
From now on, I will call the “old brain” the portion of the brain that includes both the reptilian brain (1) and the limbic system (2). I will refer as “new brain” to the cerebral cortex (3).
The old brain, is ever on alert, constantly asking the primeval question “Is it safe?”. The only thing the old brain seems to care about is whether a particular person is someone to nurture, be nurtured by, have sex with, run away from, submit to or attack.
Another important principle of the old brain is that it has no sense of linear time: today, tomorrow and yesterday do not exist; everything that was, still is. The past and the present live together in our minds. The new brain is intrinsically logical and tries to find a cause for every effect and an effect for every cause. To some extent, it can moderate some of our old brain's instinctive reactions. This part of the brain is the one identified with the "I AM".
Our old brain, trapped in the eternal now and having only a weak awareness of the outside world, is constantly trying to recreate the atmosphere of childhood. It's a pressing need to heal old childhood wounds. So, in the search for a partner, what we are doing is looking for someone who has the predominant character traits of the people who raised us. We fell in love because our old brain had our partner "bonded" with our parents! Our old brain believed it had finally found the ideal candidate to compensate for the psychological and emotional damage experienced in childhood.
Questions for Reflection:
As we have seen, there are different theories that explain the phenomenon of "falling in love" and partner selection:
- Why, what qualities did you fall in love with your partner?
- What qualities are similar, both positive and negative, to your parents' qualities?
- What gift does your partner give you by reflecting on the qualities of your parents that you most loved and disliked?
In my next article, I will address the definition of "trauma" from the body psychotherapy approach and how childhood wounds follow one another in our adult relationships.
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Sources / Reading suggestions:
- "Love yourself, and it doesn't matter who you marry" - Eva Maria Zuhorst
- "Getting the love you want: A Guide for Couples" - Harville Hendrix
- "Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love" - Helen Fisher