by Dr. Sarah Edwards and the work of Dr. Stephen Porges* and Dr. Michael Yapko*
How do so many of us end up in disappointing, frustrating, or even abusive relationships? Sadly I encounter this so often. Usually, there were many red flags that went unnoticed or overlooked early after the meeting. Upon examination in hindsight, we can see them, but by then it is too late to let go easily.
Usually, we fell in love too quickly. We opened ourselves and all our hopes and dreams for that relationship we had yearned for so long. We let our guard down and allowed ourselves to become emotionally fully invested in someone we didn’t really know yet. Oh, yes, we know how wonderful we felt when we were together. How handsome, beautiful, kind, funny the person was or what a good time we had together. Until … life struck overtime.
Granted there are exceptions, of course. People do change as a result of life circumstances beyond their control. But, once we’ve bonded emotionally with someone, there an endless supply of excuses we can make for behaviors we can barely any longer tolerate. We may blame ourselves for their short fallings. “If only I were more ….” “But I really love him.” And by then we may be stuck in the relationship even if love has faded into dislike.
Why are we stuck? Why is the mere thought of being without them so difficult, even when the relationship is bad for us? Why are we in tears, feel like we’re falling apart, unable to think straight, or even want to go on living at the thought of losing them? It’s the deep, deep bond of romantic love. As clinical psychologist Dr. Michael Yapko has pointed out, we’re not likely to feel the pain, grief, and heartbreak of rejection, abandonment, and betrayal by someone we’re not attached to.
It’s Our Brain. The attachment of love is more than a deep, wonderful, warm, and caring feeling for someone. As Dr. Stephen Porges explains, the intimate attachment of love also has a neurophysiological component. This neurophysiological bond lies along a completely different path in the brain than the path for loving, liking, or disliking. It doesn’t mean we like the person; it means we’re emotionally attached to the person in a way that makes it physically and emotionally painful to not be with the person. We are wired to “need them.” As in “I can’t live with him but can’t live without him.”
Unfortunately, so many people fall in love only to get their hearts broken again and again. They make this attachment too soon to know what they’ve really attached to. If you are looking for someone to love and do not want that to happen to you, here are 16 questions you need to have answered before you bond in a love attachment with someone.
Six Questions to Answer Before You Fall in Love
from Dr. Michael Yapko
Getting these answers requires focusing your attention on the person, not on how you feel. Often finding the answers requires reading between the lines. They are more often observed in a lot of different circumstances over time rather than asked outright on the first few dates. People may not even consciously know these answers. They would most likely answer them positively if asked directly. The real answer lies not in what they say but in what their actions tell you
1. How does this person problem-solve?
2. How does the person deal with difficult situations or difficult people?
3. Does this person know themselves well enough to portray themselves in reasonably accurately?
4. What do your observations about these three answers reveal about their value system?
5. What do they the person is likely to do or not do when they face the various circumstances of life?
6. What do they tell you about their strengths and where their vulnerabilities are?
Ten More Questions to Discover the Answers To
from Dr. Sarah Edwards
- How does the person act when you are busy or want to be with family or friends?
- How does the person act when you want to do things they’d rather not do?
- How is this person with children? (Even if you don’t have or plan to have any.)
- How do they act when you are not doing well physically or mentally?
- How are they with pets, especially your pets, if you have some?
- How does the person act if you can’t or don’t want to do what they ask? If you disagree with them?
- What percent of the time are your conversations or your activities together focused on him?
- How is the person when you ask them to do something for you or do something differently to accommodate your needs and desire? Can they compromise?
- Does the person listen to and respect your opinions and thought?
- How do they deal with not feeling well, emotionally stressed or ill?
If you are comfortable, secure, and confident with the answers you’ve observed and experienced to these questions (without making excuses for them), you won’t be taking pot luck to go ahead, fall in love!
*Dr. Stephen Porges is a neurophysiological scientist and the originator of The Polyvagal Theory on the neurophysiological foundations in the brain of emotions, attachment, communication, and self-regulation.
*Dr. Michael Yapko is a clinical psychologist and marriage and family therapist who is internationally recognized for his work in developing strategic, outcome-focused psychotherapies and other advanced clinical applications.