Your Brain in Love
- 2009 28 Nov
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Dr. Earl Henslin's book, This is Your Brain in Love: New Scientific Breakthroughs for a More Passionate and Emotionally Healthy Marriage, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2009).
Although many couples simply expect passion to fade out of their marriages, that's not an inevitable fate. You and your spouse can experience lasting passion together if you understand how each of your brains work, and how to use that knowledge to keep passion alive in your relationship.
Here's how you can experience lasting passion in your marriage:
Recognize that your brain affects your relationships. When your brain is troubled, you tend to sabotage your relationships as you struggle with challenges like moodiness, anger, and inattentiveness. But when your brain is working correctly, you tend to invest well in your relationships through qualities like thoughtfulness, caring, and reliability.
Refuel your brain with the chemicals of love. Combining sexuality and spirituality - enjoying sex as a sacrament - floods you and your spouse's brains with hormones that make you feel more in love with each other. When you make love as a holy act together, your brain chemistry strengthens your bond as husband and wife.
Bring your best brain to your marriage. Both you and your spouse should try to balance your brain chemistry in healthy ways to make your marriage the best it can be. Consider getting a brain scan done by a qualified neurologist who can explain the results and suggest treatments. But you can start by observing behavior patterns that you and your spouse often notice each other display, and identify what emotions lurk behind those behaviors. If you can normalize your emotions by balancing your brains, your marriage will be much stronger than it would be otherwise. In fact, the problems that you may be seeking marital therapy for now may evaporate, making therapy unnecessary.
Heal if you're a scattered lover. A scattered lover (one with high amounts of energy who is often absent-minded) may be suffering from brain problems in the prefrontal cortex. Some possible treatments: Eat frequent meals and snacks to help you focus throughout each day. Use fish oil supplements. Get intense aerobic exercise for 30 to 45 minutes daily. Try to avoid distractions whenever possible. Make a daily to-do list. Give yourself a lot of extra time to get ready to go to appointments, and develop strategies that help you be on time. Allow time to rest between activities. Limit your screen time (on the computer, watching TV, etc.). Notice what time of the day is easiest for you to concentrate, and plan to use those times to have significant conversations with your spouse.
Heal if you're an over-focused lover. An over-focused lover (one with controlling thoughts) may be suffering from brain problems in the cingulated gyrus. Some possible treatments: Eat some carbohydrates to get extra serotonin (a relaxing neurotransmitter) to your brain. Take a supplement like St. John's Wort. Ask your doctor about prescribing a medication that increases the amount of serotonin in your brain. Talk to yourself in soothing ways, reminding yourself to relax and let go. Do some type of physical activity (like walking) to break up thoughts that loop around your mind and help you shift to a happier mental state. Regularly remind yourself of the good that your spouse has brought into your life, and let your gratitude help motivate you to forgive your spouse when he or she hurts you. Breathe deeply. Broaden your visual focus on what you see around you, since that will broaden your perspective on your circumstances, as well. Take a mental vacation to an island for renewal. Every day, tell God that you're giving up your own agenda and welcoming His plans for you.
Heal if you're a blue mood lover. A blue mood lover (one who is sad or depressed) may be suffering from brain problems in the deep limbic system. Some possible treatments: Do some meaningful physical labor, preferably outdoors (from gardening to working on your car) to elevate your mood. Eat frequent meals and snacks to keep your blood sugar levels steady and your energy up. Take a supplement like fish oil. Ask your doctor about prescribing antidepressant medication. Go outside each day to get some natural sunlight if possible, and consider using a therapeutic lamp indoors. Laugh as often as you can. Make love with your spouse regularly. Create an environment that fosters bright moods, such as by playing joyful music while you do household chores and decorating with colors that make you feel cheerful. Make your home, workplace, and car as attractive as possible, since being around beauty will elevate your mood. Avoid making any major decisions (especially in your marriage) until you feel better, since depression seriously skews your perspective on people and situations.
Heal if you're an agitated lover. An agitated lover (one who is easily angered or irritated) may be suffering from brain problems in the temporal lobes. Some possible treatments: Ask your doctor about prescribing appropriate medications. Take a supplement like fish oil. Avoid sugar in your diet as much as possible, since it leads to low blood sugar, which leads to aggressiveness. Play classical music to calm down. Go dancing with your spouse, because the combination of movement and music calms your brain. Get seven to nine hours of deep, restful sleep every night. Use a biofeedback device to manage your stress. Take anger management classes. Celebrate the good memories you have each day to turn negative thoughts into positive ones.
Heal if you're an anxious lover. An anxious lover (one who is panicked or fearful) may be suffering from brain problems in the basil ganglia. Recognize that you have the power to control your anxiety through techniques such as adding something familiar to an uncomfortable situation to make you feel more comfortable. Turn your worries into prayers. Question your anxious thoughts, asking yourself: "Is there another way to think about the same situation that might be more true, kind, uplifting, or positive?" Focus your attention on the area of your body that feels most anxious, and imagine a warm, healing light melting it away. Talk through an issue that's bothering you with a friend. Consider adopting a pet, since studies have shown that they help people reduce their anxiety levels. Exercise. Take a bath. Get a massage. Drink some hot tea. Use calming nutrition and supplements, and consider anti-anxiety medications.
Practice key behaviors toward your spouse. Show your spouse kindness, patience, forgiveness, and honesty as often as you can. When you make these behaviors habits, you'll fuel the flames of passion in your marriage.
Adapted from This is Your Brain in Love: New Scientific Breakthroughs for a More Passionate and Emotionally Healthy Marriage, copyright 2010 by Dr. Earl Henslin. Published by Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tn., www.thomasnelson.com.
Dr. Earl Henslin is a licensed counselor and author of six books and numerous professional articles. For the past fourteen years, working closely with brain imaging research pioneer, Dr. Daniel Amen, Dr. Henslin has been integrating brain imaging in patient treatment.