136. Sex & Dating: The Psychology of Love & Phases of The Breakup Process

11 important lessons from this video:

00:02:30 Love isn’t just one thing – one emotion, but “a variety of different feelings, states, and attitudes that range from interpersonal affection to pleasure,” and varies from brothers and sisters to boyfriends and girlfriends to grandparents to best friends.

00:03:32 A loving relationship is a mutually-beneficial partnership where the partners make each other a better person.

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 Sternberg’s triangular theory of love identifies intimacy, passion, and commitment as three fundamental elements of love which can be combined in multiple ways to create multiple relationships. 

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(photo edited from Wikipedia)

To increase the probability of love sustaining itself, it’s important that your love have more than one element (intimacy, passion, and commitment) to it because over time each of these three elements

wane. 

00:10:10 Dignity and abuse cannot go hand-in-hand. Physical and emotional abuse cannot be present if love is present.

00:10:54 Humans love as a means of:

  1. Survival – Humans have a drive to live in communities because as a species we are really inadequate. We are neither fast, strong, have large teeth, skillful hiders. Humans have survived through the development of our brains and by congregating into groups.
  2. Procreation – Survival is also dependent upon passing our genes into the next generation, and so have created marriage and other cultural norms which correlate the baby process with a coupling process. 
  3. Socialization – having people to spend time with, share experiences with and learn from.
  4. Affirmation – Beyond survival and socialization, the friendships we form and keep affirm who we are, helping us feel good about ourselves.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Recall in Robert Sapolsky’s lecture Human Behavioral Biology: Intersexual Competition & Male/Female Hierarchies for Stanford University that evolutionarily speaking, an animal’s objective is to:

  1. Do whatever is possible to pass as many copies of its genes into the next generation.
  2. Help its relatives pass their genes into the next generation; this can sometimes be the best way to ensure that its genes are passed on into the next generation.
  3. Reciprical altruism: You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours which allows un-related and dissimilar animals to peacefully coexist.]

00:13:28 Do birds of a feather flock together, or do opposites attract? For basic mating purposes, opposites do/can attract in the short-term if their smell is distinctly different from ours because of the biological need for genetic diversity, but considering the above four points on survival, procreation, socialization, and affirmation, love relationships with opposites don’t make for sustaining relationships because opposites are not affirming.

Familiarity breeds affection. Attraction is generally caused by:

  1. Proximity – Humans have a tendency to naturally gravitate more towards people who are constantly in closer proximity to them than people who aren’t.
  2. Interaction – the more time you spend with people, the more you tend to like them.
  3. Anticipation of interaction – the mere expectation of interaction is enough to increase the perceived likeability of a person.
  4. Mere exposure – the more you’re exposed to something, the more you like it. Advertising, people, songs, brands…
  5. Exclusionary criteria – in addition to a checklist of things you look for in relationships, you equally have a checklist of things you will not settle for. This list you refuse to settle for tends to be even stronger than the list of things you look for. It follows that the longer your list, the more picky you are and the less chance you have of finding a partner.
  6. Similarity – Religious beliefs, introverted or extroverted, personality profile, etc. are a major imperative for any long-term relationship. If part of the reason why we choose someone is because they affirm us, then we will only choose them because they are like us. How long can a relationship expect to last when one partner prefers staying in and reading at night while the other likes going out every night?
  7. Reciprocal liking – we like people who like us. In fact, simply believing that a person likes you causes you to like them more, again because of affirmation – if this person likes me, there must be something really smart about this person for liking me. This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because believing somebody likes you causes you to like them, which in term causes that person to like you.
  8. Social exchange – this depends on your answer to the question “what kind of partner do I believe I deserve.” If you believe you deserve better than a person, or if you believe that a person is too good for you, you’ll be less likely to pursue a relationship with that person. During your relationship you periodically reason with yourself “Should I settle for this person, or should I hold out and wait for somebody better to come along? What is the probability that I will find somebody better?”  
  9. Attractiveness – humans are attracted to attractiveness. Studies have shown that babies spend more time looking at culturally attractive than unattractive faces. We tend migrate towards attractive people and find attractive people who look similar to ourselves. Attractive people are attributed to being smarter, more philanthropic, more friendly, more successful, even less promiscuous. Women tend to say attractiveness doesn’t matter, but their behavior shows that it is just as important to them as it is to men, who say attractiveness is among the top 3 most important traits in a partner.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: In his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert Cialdini looks at how these 9 causes above can be used to great effect in persuading people.]

00:30:58 Successful relations depend on your ability to form attachments. Babies are innately attracted, both physically and emotionally, to its care givers. Those attachments developed when you were very young stay with you throughout your life, and are broadly defined as either:

  1. Secure – you feel good about other people and about yourself, and you trust yourself and other people in relationships.
  2. Anxious/ambivalent – you feel good about other people,  but not so much about yourself, worried that other people may hurt or leave you. As a result you tend to be clingy and ‘do everything you can’ to keep a person interested in you.
  3. Avoidant – you don’t trust other people, and don’t really care whether or not you have a relationship.

While the baby’s early years are critical to which of these attachment strategies are formed, they are not absolute and with effort can be re-orient. Likewise, a series of really bad and disappointing relationships can cause you to begin questioning your values, which would also re-orient your attachment style.

00:35:14 Successful relationships depend on whether or not we feel like we are in an equal relationship. Equity can be defined as:

  1. Equity-based – In the beginning of a relationship while you’re cautiously assessing whether or not the other person is abusing you, you’re in a tit-for-tat relationship where each person keeps a score sheet of who did what – both good and bad.
  2. Communally-based – healthy, long-term relationships develop beyond the early tit-for-tat equity where partners expect equity, but are no longer keeping score (Example, I took the kids to soccer practice, but you mowed the lawn and washed the clothes). The long-term success of any relationship can be predicted simply by measuring the depth of the communal equity in the relationship. Couples who, after several years still keep score sheets, haven’t yet developed into a mature, nurturing relationship.
  3. Self-disclosure – the ability to create intimacy by sharing your beliefs, goals, feelings, and secrets with your partner. Intimacy breeds passion, and tends to be the primary focus of most healthy relationships. Your pre-frontal lobe is your greatest sex organ you can have.
  4. Acceptance – Successful, happy couples tend to have a less harsh, above-average optimism when talking about their partner. 

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Recall in Robert Sapolsky’s lecture Human Behavioral Biology: Where Game Theory & Evolution Collide, tit-for-tat (TFT) starts off by cooperating with the individual. If that person cooperates with you, you begin by cooperating with that individual again in the next round, and so on until a round occurs where the person cheats against you, in which case you cheat against them the next time. If they cheat against you, you continue cheating against them until they return to being cooperative with you, at which time you return to being cooperative. The TFT strategy is the optimal strategy for cooperation.]

00:39:52 Unbeknownst to many people, studies have shown that statistically, you are happiest in your marriage at the beginning. The happiness bottoms out on your 5th year of marriage and, if you survive, slowly climbs upwards, with a major bump up when your children leave the house. But, you will never be as happy as the first day you were married.

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Despite this bad news, there are some important things you can do to sustain your relationship:

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: Helen Fisher gives an informative TED talk about how intimacy wanes and the three different types of love.

https://embed-ssl.ted.com/talks/helen_fisher_tells_us_why_we_love_cheat.html

Or watch it on TED.com.]

There are also some important behaviors and things you can look out for to determine if your relationship is becoming unhappy:

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For every negative comment you make, you need to make 5 positive comments to bring equality back into your relationship.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: If you’re having difficult staying positive, or if your marital arguments turn into hurtful fights – insulting each other rather than addressing the real issue, I would highly recommend reading the book The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense by Suzette Haden Elgin.]

Argument, when done properly, is a conversation about an issue that we want to resolve. Arguments, even in love, need to be looked at in a very analytical way.

Abuse is me exerting my authority over you; emotionally and/or physically.

00:49:35 Normal relationship breakups following a similar cycle:

1. Breakdown – Aspect(s) in the relationship causing unavoidable disatisfaction:

  • Intrapersonal – one or both of partners in couple focus on dissatisfation with the relationship, ranging from ‘I’m unhappy,’ ‘I can’t stand this anymore,’ to ‘I deserve better.’ 
  • This may be from external changes in life, expectations from your partner, expectations you make, or have made, upon yourself, etc.
  • Cost/benefit analysis – the person considers the consequences of ending the relationship such as financial, children, legal, etc. As long as the consequences of ending the relationship are greater than the inconveniences of being in the relationship, the person will likely continue in the relationship.
  • This very process is stressful because the partner is lost with themselves. “I’m unhappy and I’ve mixed feelings about what to do.”

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Recall in Oussama Ammar’s talk How To Start A Startup: Managing Your Professional & Private Life, when it comes to running your own business, having a clear timeline and definition for success is extremely important when it comes to explaining it to your friends, family, husband or wife. Not having clear definitions means that the people you love and care about don’t understand what you are doing and why. As an entrepreneur, if you don’t have clear goals and definitions to communicate to people who aren’t in the startup environment, they will simply compare you to Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg. This unfair comparision will only lead to misunderstandings, disappointment, judgement and arguments.]

2. Threshold – the person feels adequately justified or prepared for the breakup; the consequences of staying together have become greater than the inconveniences of ending the relationship:

  • Dyadic – these feelings are expressed to the other partner, and there, hopefully, is a discussion with an attempt to reconciliation of the relationship.

3. Threshold – attempts to reconcile the relationship have not worked, and the partner is now more convinced in the necessity of ending the relationship. “I’m serious.” or “I mean it.” It is common for the other partner not to fully understand the scope of this threshold:

  • Social – The breakup is negotiated (who gets what, when, how, etc.) and the breakup is announced (officially or unofficially through gossip) to friends and family. This is a major reason why you cannot get a true account of the actual reasons for the breakup and who is truly at fault because each person is creating the gossip which benefits their reputation and reassure ourselves that “I’m doing the right thing.” 
  • Social reaction – how friends and family react to this further compounds the cost/benefit analysis and factors on when/if the relationship should end. Assuming the news is met acceptingly by friends and family, the breakup becomes inevitable.
  • Social division – friends and professional networks will inevitably be pressured into choosing which side of the relationship they will take.

4. Threshold – “Now it’s inevitable.”:

  • Intrapersonal – each partner writes their own story of the breakup to help them make sense and cope with it.
  • Self-evaluation is conducted in an attempt to understand why did the relationship end? Why did I accept to be in this relationship to begin with? What lessons can I take moving forward to avoid the same mistakes?

00:54:07 Steps to take when faced with an abusive relationship:

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Concerning an abusing person, the issue is not you; the issue is a deeply-rooted problem within that person who is abusing you. Something that isn’t going to just magically disappear.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: In her informative TED talk, Leslie Morgan Steiner explains Why Domestic Violence Victims Don’t Leave.

https://embed-ssl.ted.com/talks/leslie_morgan_steiner_why_domestic_violence_victims_don_t_leave.html

Also, Jackson Katz explains how violence against women is as much a ‘man’s issue’ as it is a woman’s:

https://embed-ssl.ted.com/talks/jackson_katz_violence_against_women_it_s_a_men_s_issue.html

Watch Leslie Steiner’s and Jackson Katz’s talk on TED.com]

So what can I do to find love?

  1. Believe that you can and should be loved. Pay attention to the words you use when you talk and think about yourself.
  2. Work on yourself. Reading books, exercizing, etc. Get to the point where you feel confident about yourself.
  3. Be around. Nobody is going to knock on your door and ask you out; you have to go out and do things.
  4. Learn how to show (and decode) interest
  5. Get the person to do something for you. Contrary to the popular belief of doing something for the person such as buying them flowers, ask that person to go out of their way to do a favor for you. Cognitive dissonance causes the person to reason that because they chose to go out of their way and do something for you, they must like you.
  6. Do something “exciting.” Misattribution of emotion states that the scary, positive emotions associated with an external event, such as going on a roller coaster ride, will be attributed to you.
  7. Make it equal. This not only creates the foundation for a good relationship, it actually empowers you. If the person you go out with is ‘always’ paying for dinner, always driving, and choosing what to do, you feel the need to find equality, and you will begin looking for ways to make the relationship equal. This obligation may force you into doing things you really don’t want to do.
  8. Take a chance! Of course you’ll get your heart broken at some point, but that is how you learn and find the right relationship for you.

2 thoughts on “136. Sex & Dating: The Psychology of Love & Phases of The Breakup Process

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