ERP 311: How To Understand What Love Is & How To Keep It Alive — An Interview With Kimberly Holmes

By Posted in - Podcast March 15th, 2022 0 Comments

Many people have this fairy tale view of love in which there is always passion, a lot of sex and everything feels wonderful. It may appear that way at the start of the relationship but once the infatuation stage wears off, the reality sets in. You’ll then realize your partner isn’t as perfect as you thought. So, what comes next?

In this episode, Kimberly Holmes gives an in-depth explanation of the three components of love and the four stages of the love path, as well as some actionable steps you can take to keep the fire burning in your relationship.

Kimberly Beam Holmes has applied her master’s degree in psychology for over 10 years, acting as the CEO of Marriage Helper & CEO and Host of her own podcast, It Starts with Attraction, being a wife and mother herself, and researching the ways that attraction affects people personally and the relationships that they hold dear.

She is currently working on her Ph.D. in psychology. Kimberly lives in Franklin, Tennessee with her husband, Rob, and two beautiful children from India.

In this Episode

4:13 Kimberly defines love and talks about a framework to falling in love.

6:04 The three components of love.

10:00 What happens when infatuation or limerence wears off?

17:47 How to overcome the power struggle stage.

25:27 How do you build commitment in a relationship.

30:05 What you should intentionally focus on as a couple when life tries to pull you apart.

34:00 How to cultivate strong attachment?

44:14 How they’re helping couples save their struggling relationships at Marriage Helper.

Your Check List of Actions to Take

  • Don’t stop dreaming together.
  • Don’t set a vision that will end up pulling you apart until you get there. Instead, find something that brings value and meaning to both of you.
  • Acknowledge your partner’s emotions and let them know that you are there for them.
  • Keep learning and growing. Don’t stop being interested in different things, so you don’t run out of things to talk about.
  • Seek to understand your partner better so that you can accept them more.
  • Stop making excuses and start doing something to keep the love alive.

Mentioned

Triangular theory of love by Robert Sternberg (*Wikipedia)

It Starts With Attraction (*Apple Podcast)

Couples Turnaround Workshop mini-course

Connect with Kimberly Holmes

Websites: marriagehelper.com/kimberly-holmes

Twitter: twitter.com/marriagehelper (7.4k followers)

YouTube: youtube.com/c/MarriageHelper/videos (170k subscribers)

Instagram: instagram.com/marriagehelper (11.4k followers)

Connect with Dr. Jessica Higgins

Facebook: facebook.com/EmpoweredRelationship 

Instagram: instagram.com/drjessicahiggins 

Podcast: drjessicahiggins.com/podcasts/

Pinterest: pinterest.com/EmpowerRelation 

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/drjessicahiggins 

Twitter: @DrJessHiggins 

Website: drjessicahiggins.com  

Email: [email protected]

About Today’s Show

Kimberly, thank you for joining us today.

Thank you so much for having me, Dr. Jessica. I’m excited to be with you.

I’m excited to have you on the show. I know many people are intrigued by the topic of love: what is love, what is falling in love? This is something you really help people with. Can we just look at that, about falling in love and what that is, and where you’re coming from when you speak about that? 

Yeah, absolutely. So our team at Marriage Helper, me, and the team, we do help people realize that there actually is a process to falling in love, and most people don’t really realize that. There’s a general thought out there that it’s just either you find your soulmate, you find the right person, you have chemistry, or you don’t. 

“The truth of the matter is, you could take any two people and if you teach them this process and they follow it, then they will fall in love with each other.”

It’s a process that we go through as humans, especially when we date, get engaged, and end up being married. We don’t realize that we went through the process, but we did. So that’s it. When we talk about falling in love or re-falling in love, it’s really revealing what this process is to people, so that they can understand how they can intentionally stay in love with the person that they’re with.

This seems so great that you have systematized it, really made it explicit, and that it can be really worked with consciously. That by and large, we go through this anyway, and it’s very natural for us. Sometimes we get lost, or sometimes we get confused, and you’re really making sure that there’s clarity here.

Absolutely. People need frameworks, it’s helpful. It’s helpful to just know, if you tell me the path to go on, if you tell me the next thing to do, I’m able to do it. But without the frameworks, without the path to follow, sometimes it can feel messy and stressful, and difficult. So we’re happy to provide that framework for people to follow.

And I don’t know if you define love or this experience of being in love or falling in love. Can you talk a little bit more about what that is?

Absolutely. Love is one of those things where some people could say it’s a feeling, but it really is more of a decision. I would say that’s one part of it. But even more than a decision, when you look at the research of what are the components that makeup love, there are three of them. This is based on the research by Dr. Sternberg that he did several years ago, great research, which he’s continued further even to talk about how love turns into apathy and apathy turns into hate. So it’s a fascinating research. 

But when we look at that, we see that there are these three components. The first component of love is intimacy. So by its definition, if you say it slower, you have the definition. It’s into-me-see. It’s this part of a relationship where you feel like you can be absolutely naked, so to say, in front of the other person; vulnerable with them, emotionally have everything out on the table, they’re your best friend. That’s the intimacy that love brings with it. 

The second component of love is passion. Passion is not just sex, although it can be sexual, and there’s definitely a sexual aspect and component of passion. But it’s more of a craving for oneness with the person that you’re in love with. So when you’re away from them, do you miss them? I remember several years ago, I was in Paris with one of my girlfriends, we were traipsing around Europe before I had kids. I remember being in Paris at the Eiffel Tower at night, and it was one of those times where it was just sparkling. It looks like an amazing diamond just lit up. I remember thinking to myself, I wish my husband was here with me. That’s what this passion is! It’s this craving to experience life together, to want that person to be with you. Of course, that can lead to that sexual passion as well. 

Then the third component of love is commitment. Commitment, at its core, is a decision to continue the relationship and a decision to do what it takes to continue the relationship. So when you put all three of those together, those are the three things that actually makeup love.

“When we fall in love or feel like we’re in love with someone, it is because we have a high degree of intimacy, passion, and commitment with that person. But when we start to feel like we’re falling out of love with someone, or frustrated, maybe those feelings are starting to kind of waver, it’s typically because one or more of those three components are starting to decrease.”

So that gives us a place to start. That gives us a place to begin to see, wow, if I focus on those, and then the love path that we teach at Marriage Helper goes into more depth of how you can rebuild all of those things and focus on them. But that’s it, according to the research. Love is intimacy, passion, and commitment.

The neurochemicals are highly activated in these early stages. So when we look at those early stages of dating, there tends to be a lot of sensuality. When you’re talking about passion, and even describing the story of the Eiffel Tower and the visual of that sparkle, and that yearning to really share that and experience the sensuality. I think that does go along with sexual connection as well, just using all of our senses and being in that experience. You’re talking about this very experiential [yearning for] being with each other in that way. You’re also talking about emotional intimacy. Usually, when we’re dating in those early stages, there’s a lot of sharing and revealing and talking and asking questions and this getting to know you. 

What would you say about that commitment part? Because that tends to be something that even in today’s day and age around, what commitment is and how exclusive we are, there tends to be some hesitancy around that. Yet, the neurochemicals can be just firing away at the same time. So do you call that love? Or do you call that infatuation or lust? Or how would you say, in those early stages?

Great question. Have you read any of the books or the research about the term “limerence?” So that is what we use and talk about a lot at Marriage Helper. For those listeners who may not be familiar with it, there is this process that people go through, especially like you were saying, in those beginning stages. Typically the first 6–18 months, but it could go as far as 24–36, depending on the person. It is kind of like love, which we’ll get to in a minute. But this process of limerence is when the brain becomes so obsessed, for lack of a better word, with what we call the limerent object. So when my husband and I were dating, it would have been my husband; he would have been my limerent object. 

And because of the increase in dopamine and the decrease in serotonin that that can cause in the brain, it’s similar to how people react in an addiction. Limerence is not an addiction, but it’s a similar response in the brain and in the body. Because it’s kind of like you have this high of this person; you love being around them, you love the way they make you feel. 

So there’s all these characteristics, I believe there’s 13 characteristics that define limerence; the symptoms, so to say, of limerence. One of them is you think about the person 80–85% of your waking hours, you can’t see anything wrong with them. It’s what we call the halo effect. You even rewrite history — you can rewrite history in your mind — to not even remember the bad things that happened before then, everything is great with this person. So there’s all of these things that many people go through when they first enter into a relationship and it’s going on for the first about year, maybe two years. 

That term limerence was coined, the original researcher was Dr. Dorothy Tennov back in the 1970s, and then Dr. Helen Fisher, who’s a great anthropologist, has continued the great work on studying limerence. They use the FMRI machines to see how the brain is reacting when seeing pictures of the limerent object. 

But the thing is, that while that feeling is kind of what people associate with this chemistry, this rush of butterflies in the stomach. “I know this person is for me, because no one else can make me feel the way that this person makes me feel.” 

“The truth of the matter is, physiologically, we cannot continue to be in that level of infatuation or limerence with another person. Because society would cease to be productive, and all we would do is just want to sit under the tree, like reading poetry with each other. That’s all we’d want to do if we just stayed in limerence our whole lives.”

So eventually, those “feelings” do begin to change, and the chemicals that are going on in the body, all of those things happening, begin to level out. So you become more in this phase or pace of life where a lot of people can term this as: we’ve maybe lost the spark, we’ve lost the passion. But if you realize that nothing after limerence is going to feel the way limerence did, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s biologically necessary, it can help people understand that maybe I didn’t marry the wrong person, maybe I didn’t fall out of love. Maybe it’s just that we’ve entered into a more stable, committed type of love and type of relationship, which is ideal. That’s what should happen. 

As long as the limerent relationship a person is in is healthy for them and good for them – like the other person isn’t a bad example or a bad influence on that individual, and that relationship continues – then it is healthy for that to transition into a long-term committed relationship that’s just more stable. It’s not going to have those highs, but it’s also not going to have the craziness of it either. Like, this is what you build your life on. You can’t build your life in constant infatuation or limerence. You build your life on the steady, the stable, the “I know they’re going to be there, they’re always there for me.” And that’s how it transitions.

Yes, the security and that bond of healthy relating and like, secure attachment. Really appreciate you naming that, that there’s a tendency to compare that heightened state of infatuation to perhaps what they’re experiencing in their relationship and really question: am I falling out of love, do we really love each other, is this the person, is this my forever? I really appreciate you acknowledging that, because I think it is heavily featured in the media, that infatuation period. 

I mean, one of the things I understand about limerence also is that it can really snowball. That if it’s unrequited love, that that is a really different type of limerence, and that you’re speaking to, there’s a lot of people that experience that infatuation that can look very much like limerence. The research is still really not totally clear on this, if it’s the exact same thing, or if it just mirrors and parallels, and then it becomes something different. Because when people are committing what you’re talking about, and that then invites us into developing and fostering a relationship and there’s this mutual participation, that’s not the unrequited limerent where, like, we make up a bunch of stories and we fantasize. Or where the personality of an introvert can be more likely to be limerent because they’re having all this inner world experience that’s not being reality-checked with the other person. 

But if we can pivot towards just the developmental stages of a relationship, because that first stage of the romance stage is really what we’re talking about right now. Then the second stage is more of the power struggle phase, which is when the neurochemicals settle, and like you said, we’re really putting the foundation and really co-creating a relationship in a stable, secure way. Because as you mentioned, we can’t sustain ourselves biologically. I’ll just say, like, people don’t sleep as much, they don’t eat as much; they’re so high on this love and infatuation. So we want to come back to earth, and we want to be really grounded in life. 

So when we enter into this power struggle stage, we begin to see that the other person is different and maybe not what we imagined them to be fully, and we’re having to contend with that. That’s where perhaps the triangle of what you’re describing (the intimacy, the passion, and the commitment), there are some real ways in which we do this work together. I’m curious what you would say about this power struggle stage or co-creating relationship, from this framework.

Interesting. I haven’t heard it mentioned that way, the term “power struggle” in that context, but it’s interesting. The best way I know to talk about this is by briefly going through this love path process that we talk about at Marriage Helper. 

There are four stages of the love path that we talked about. The first one is attraction, and basically, there are four areas of it. It isn’t just physical, although physical is one of the areas of attraction. There’s physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual. I won’t go into those right now in-depth, because we’re headed to a different place. But basically, if we are tying this area of attraction in with the same timeframe, so to say, that limerence is going on, then we begin to see how that happens. We’re attracted to this person. We like the way they make us feel. We love talking to them. Emotionally, they’re evoking those emotions that we enjoy feeling. Like, all of these things are happening right there. Attraction, that stage is what leads us to want to move closer to another person. 

So the second stage that we go into once we are attracted to someone is acceptance. All of these are going to start with an A. The second stage is acceptance. It’s an acceptance that we kind of get to this fork in the road, where we decide: “Okay, yes, I’ve been attracted to this person. I enjoy my time with them. Maybe we do have intimacy. Maybe we do have passion. But can I accept them for who they are without trying to change them?” So that’s what came to mind when you said, what about when they enter into this stage. Once that halo effect that I talked about earlier, where all you can see is the good things when that wears off, we have to come to this decision of: “Hmm, can I accept who they really are, now that I can think more clearly and see them more clearly, or not?” There’s a lot that goes into that as well. Like, acceptance isn’t just knowing the facts about a person. Because I could know a bunch of facts about my husband, but if I didn’t understand the feelings that might be underneath that, then it can tell me a different story. 

Here’s the best way I can explain that. So several years ago, we were actually working with this guy. He had called in, and he had asked a question about getting to the next date. He said, “I have great first dates with women, but I can just never seem to get to the second date.” The person who took the call at our office is actually our founder, who is also my father, but we’ll get to that later. He said, “Well, what’s happening on the first date, that you’re not getting a second?” He said, “Well, I’m a very honest person, so I feel the need to tell them that I’m a crossdresser.” My dad is a sexologist, so he already knew the answer to this question, but he asked the guy anyway. He said, so why are you a crossdresser? The guy said, “Because when I was young, my dad would just beat me bloody; he broke my arm once, he was constantly abusive. But he never touched my sister. So when I dress like a woman, I feel safe.” 

So all of these women he was going on dates with, they knew the fact; all he would tell them was, I’m also a crossdresser. That was something they did not accept, and so they wouldn’t schedule; they wouldn’t go further in the relationship. So the recommendation back to him was, instead of telling them on the first date, get to know them a little more. I appreciate you wanting to be honest with them, but just get to know them, see if the relationship is even something that’s going to transgress further. But if it does, if you get to that third or fourth date, then tell them the story — tell them the feeling behind it, share with them why — and that is going to be a huge difference in how they perceive you and understand the situation, versus just telling the facts. 

“Because sometimes we don’t accept the facts. But when we can understand the feeling someone has behind it, it can help us understand or just decide, do I accept this person? Feelings tell us more about someone than just the facts.”

Absolutely. It also helps us understand what matters to them, and this deeper core value that I don’t think many people can just pivot from. So this is where people get really stuck in conflict. I think this is a great synonym as you’re looking at and responding to the question around power struggle, and looking at your framework and the acceptance stage, I think this fits really nicely. Because people are contending with conflict, whether or not it’s a difference, or meaning-making around: “Oh, when I have a tense conversation, I like to dig in and resolve it,” whereas someone else is like, “No, I learned that when things get tense, I walk away, because I don’t want to say or do anything to be hurtful.” 

So however we approach things and the differences that we have, part of what’s to be learned from this stage is how we work together. When you’re talking about acceptance, and really getting at these deeper layers and the understanding that can get cultivated, these are so often the real keys to working together and getting to win-win. Because we can be for each other, we can empathize. Typically, the person we love and we can hear and get where they’re coming from, we want to help, even if it’s vastly different from what we are thinking and wanting. But with that generosity, we can start to work together. 

Yes, absolutely. That’s how you can begin to see every relationship. So just going back in our conversation, a lot of times people will get to that place where the initial feelings, whether that’s six months, 12 months, 18 months, or whatever, but those initial feelings start to fade. Then there’s this question: is this right, should I move forward in this? But we begin to see that every relationship is going to be that way. I know that there is just an unmatchable expectation in society, that there’s always passion and tonnes of sex and everything feels great, and like it’s day one of falling in love. That’s what we see in the movies and all of those things. But that’s not reality. 

Now, that doesn’t mean that reality shouldn’t be that you have a happy, committed, consistent relationship that’s steady and provides that acceptance, and you’re able to be vulnerable. All of that should be a reality, and that’s what we should be talking about. When the fights happen because they will, how do you talk about it and move forward? When you go through dry seasons of just not connecting well, maybe the sex has dried up, then how do you work through that? I’m talking in terms of marriage right now. It’s not just because you married the wrong person, you really can work through it. I think that’s what we have lost in society.

Agreed! Okay, well, I know you have so much more to share. Would you like to finish laying out the phases that you have?

Yes, I can do that. So as a reminder, the first stage is attraction, the second stage is acceptance, and then from the acceptance, we move into that third stage, which is attachment. Attachment at its core asks this question: “Will you be there for me when I need you? Will you be there for me when I need someone to hug me, when I need someone to hold me, when I need someone to just call me down? Will you be there for me to talk to when I need someone to vent to, or comfort me when I’m upset? Will you be there for me when I need you?” Like, that is the bottom line. When you look at all of the research on attachment theory — which is amazing, and I love attachment theory — all of it boils down to: will you be there for me when I need you? That’s it, and that helps build this commitment. 

So thinking about my marriage with Rob, i.e. my husband, the commitment on my side is: I’m going to commit that I will be there for him when he needs me. The commitment back to me on his side is that I will be there for her when she needs me. Are there going to be times when one of us may feel less committed? Yes. Are there going to be times when we need to recommit ourselves? Yes. But what’s important is to realize that when you start having those thoughts, I love the way that Dr. John Gottman puts it. I had an interview with him several months ago and he said the following in that interview. 

“The minute that a person begins to even entertain the idea of possible alternatives, is when they begin to break down the commitment in their marriage.”

It just hit me so hard. Because how often is that picture portrayed to us in society? Like, well, would you be happier with someone else, could you be happier with someone else? 

You also have to realize that my beliefs and value system to marriage is very strong. So I would talk about it differently with someone who is dating before they’ve entered into the commitment of marriage. Because at that point, if there’s something that’s already raising red flags when you’re dating, then I’m not saying you should give up; you should work through it. But there is an opportunity for exit, and there’s not as much chaos involved in it. 

Whereas in a marriage, like you’ve put your life together; you’ve probably had kids, your finances are intertwined. That’s not to say that there are not times when people do need to divorce, I do believe that. People need to be safe, especially in instances where there is any kind of abuse, or someone is doing destructive behavior and they won’t stop, then I believe divorce is probably the best option. I’m just never going to tell anyone to divorce; that’s a decision they make on their own. But you have more reasons to try and work it out in a marriage; there is more impact on the commitment. 

So that’s what you do, like you go back to this attachment question: am I showing up for my husband/wife in the way that they need me? Because when my husband shows up for me, I’m more committed to him. When he sees that I’m showing up for him, it’s going to affect him to want to be more committed to me as well. Maybe not immediately, but over time, if he can trust that I will be there for him, that is what makes the difference. 

That’s the security and that emphasis on prioritizing that bond, and that’s really the most important thing when it all comes down to it. Knowing in our nervous system that our partner is there for us, and we can turn towards them for comfort and soothing. It’s paramount. Even as you’re talking about this in your framework, in some ways, possibly that when you’re really talking about love, that this takes a development to get to this place of love when commitment is really something that we’re prioritizing in this way.

I think that is what people mean. You know, when you see the sweet elderly couples that have been married for 60 or 70 years, and they just say “I love him more today than I did 70 years ago.” I think this is why, because they’ve developed it over time. 

The fourth stage is aspiration. So this one is more fun than maybe some of the other ones; some of the other ones can get difficult and hard to work through. But when it comes to aspiration, this is all about having a shared vision for your marriage. So what does that mean? It means having a shared dream, Dr. Gottman also talks about this as well. 

The point of it is that life is going to try and tear you apart. So when you’re dating, there’s kind of a built-in shared vision, like you’re looking towards possibly getting engaged. Once you get engaged, there’s a built-in shared vision of the wedding. Once you get married, there’s maybe a built-in shared vision of the White House and the picket fence and the two and a half kids or whatever it is. You tend to have these earlier on in your relationship. But there comes a time, especially after marriage, where unfortunately, couples stop dreaming together. They stop having these shared visions and shared future ideas that they want to accomplish together. 

“The idea of aspiration is, what are you going to intentionally focus on to bring you back together when life tries to pull you apart? It can’t just be the kids. It has to be something else, something greater.”

There was one couple that we worked with. They came to one of our workshops several years ago, and they were ready to divorce. It was done, it was over. But when they heard this part, the guy stood up and he said, “I’ve got it, I’ve got it! We’re going to buy a camper.” You’re going to buy a camper? “Yes, we’re going to buy a camper. Because when we were dating, and when we were engaged, we’d love to go camping together. We just haven’t done that anymore. So now we’re going to take the kids, we’re going to load them in a car, we’re going to go camping once a month, maybe even every weekend, so that we have something to constantly look forward to, and something to constantly bring us back together.” So they bought a camper, and it saved their marriage. It was fantastic. 

But it’s unfortunate, many couples don’t get to this part; they don’t think this way, they don’t work on this together. Actually, when you look at the research, it can be what leads to the most satisfying levels of not just commitment in a marriage, but just satisfaction. So powerful!

Yes, I read something in an article recently about a research study about how people typically don’t look forward and don’t actually want to spend time with their significant other. I don’t think it’s for the reason that we might think out of the gate. When they dug into it, they associated their partner with work; caring for the kids, taking care of the house, or whatever the chores are, or the yard work, and it’s all the domestic heaviness. Whereas, when they think about their friends, they’re like, usually we’re going to do something fun; we go to a cafe or we go on a hike, it’s usually play-oriented. So there’s not as much leisure and play and fun that people associate with their partner, and that this easily gets lost in the demands of life.

Yes, that’s so true. It’s so sad, even just talking about it right now. I’m like, I’m convicted to go to a park with my family tonight. For sure, go do something fun! But it’s true, you can get so caught up in just the grind. I’m wondering just how much more affected that is, now that so many people work from home. So not only are you associating the domestic chores with your marriage and your family, but even to an extent, your work life is all bundled in now.

For sure. Well, Kimberly, while we have you, I’m aware that you’re giving us some nuggets and practices to potentially work with, with the last two A’s of aspiration and attachment. So attachment: really prioritizing, turning towards, being there, and solidifying that sense of priority that you’re there for each other. Let me ask you, is there anything else you wanted to say about what you encouraged people to do to cultivate more of this strong attachment and a secure functioning? 

Yeah. So specifically for that attachment phase, I’d start by just asking ourselves: “Have I been there for my husband/wife (my significant other) when they needed me? Or was I on my phone? Or was I working? Or was I…?” Just even start to take note of that in yourself. Kind of go through a week, maybe a couple of weeks, just noticing if your spouse is stressed out, or when they come home at the end of a hard day, or come out of their office at the end of a hard day. When you take notice of these emotions they might be feeling, what is your response, and are you intentional about turning towards them, showing them that you’re there? 

I mean, depending on your spouse. My husband’s upset because of his personality style and how he is, and he doesn’t always want me to just rush to him and be like, talk to me about it, tell me everything. But if he can at least know I see him, I’m here when you need to talk. Sometimes it’s just that: “Hey, I can see you’re stressed. If you want to talk about it, let me know.”

Yes.  And you’ve mentioned the Gottman Institute and John Gottman a few times. One of the things he’s very strong in promoting is this responsiveness to bits of attention, and how even if it’s small or even if it’s really turning towards in big ways, just that responsiveness. So appreciate that. Is there anything you want to say about the aspiration that somebody can work with or implement perhaps?

Yeah. I love for couples, when they’re working on this together, to just start by asking: “What is it that we love to do together? What is a dream that we have, maybe that we want to do for our future?” It’s interesting, I shared the one about the camper. That’s not this big long-term, like “retire and live in Italy” kind of shared dream or vision. But that is another couple’s shared vision. Like, they want to be able to travel all over Europe and have this house there, and so they’re doing incremental things between now and then to help get you there. 

Now, I would encourage people, don’t set a vision or a shared dream of what you want that’s going to end up pulling you apart until you get there. Like, don’t set it to where you just have to end up working all the time and spending your life trying to earn more money. But try and find something that brings value and meaning to both of you. Both of you first, and include your kids, but don’t do it for the kids. You have to do it for you, and your spouse or your significant other first and foremost. Just find those ways you can do more together, and more things that you can look forward to together. It could even be volunteering, like going out and raking leaves. Like, be fun, be creative with it. It can be whatever you dream it to be.

Right. So what sparks joy, what brings that sense of playfulness that really supports the bond and the couplehood, and that’s something that’s accessible, that you could potentially implement rather quickly? Then from there, it gets to build and maybe go to bigger goals, but to start with something that you can access more quickly. Okay, great. Then coming full circle back to attraction, what do you recommend, or what’s something that listeners today might be able to work with to be able to cultivate more of this attraction?

Yes. So we all know about the physical part of the attraction, so I’m not even going to talk about it. Everyone knows what they need to do or not do and all the things. But the other parts of it: the intellectual, the emotional, spiritual, we actually call it the PIES (Physical, Intellectual, Spiritual, Emotional) of attraction. It’s something people can remember and kind of catch on to. 

Intellectual attraction is all about being able to have enjoyable conversations with your partner. So what am I doing to continue to grow myself, to learn more, just in things I’m interested in? Do I have hobbies? Am I reading? Am I doing things to expand my mind and learn more about life? Is there a love of learning? When you do that, and especially when your spouse does that too, it gives you more to talk about. We never stop growing. We never stop being interested in different things as humans, even after we get married. So don’t assume that your spouse is the same person that they were 5, 10, or 20 years ago when you got married. They’ve probably learned a whole lot more, so talk about those things. It doesn’t just have to be talking about the kids or the bills or anything. Talk about the fun things: what you learned, what you want to learn from your spouse about what they’ve been learning. So that’s intellectual attraction. 

Emotional is all about evoking emotions within the other person that they enjoy feeling. So we’ve already talked about some of these today, with attachment and just some of the acceptance things that we’ve talked about. But it’s really filtering your actions in the way you respond to your spouse through that lens. Am I evoking emotions in the way I’m treating them, responding to them, acting towards them? Am I evoking those positive emotions that they enjoy feeling? Or am I actually evoking negative emotions that they don’t enjoy feeling? Because that will push someone away; no one wants to be around someone where they don’t like how they make them feel. 

Then the final part is the spiritual attraction, and this has to do with beliefs and values. Faith can fall under this, and people who are of different faith backgrounds, that absolutely influences the beliefs and values that they have. But it’s really, at its core, about: am I living in line with my beliefs and values, or do I say one thing and act another way? Because we’re attracted to people who we see as having equal to or better than beliefs and values as we do. Another way to say that is we love to be around people who make us want to be better people.

Oh, thank you so much for having the multidimensional approach to the attraction, and it just was so well-rounded. Thank you. Then the second A: acceptance, I know you gave us a lot to work with already. But is there anything else you want to say around how to cultivate more of that acceptance? You really did name that it’s about getting to the deeper core of what matters and the emotion there. Is there anything else you want to say about how to cultivate that? 

Yes. So I would encourage listeners to ask more questions, be more curious. When your spouse or your significant other maybe says or does something that you’re like, what in the world, and you want to go off on them, tell them that they need to do it differently, maybe first just explore. “Hmm, why did they do that? Why did they act that way? Why did they respond that way when I said that?” Because there’s typically a story there; there’s typically a deeper reason. So seek out those reasons, seek out to understand your spouse more, and that will help you accept them more.

Thank you, I love that. Because that’s something I feel so passionate about is really seeking to understand and that curiosity. If you’re genuinely listening to understand, there’s so much that can come from those conversations. As you’re saying, that understanding, and then the empathy and the acceptance. I might not choose to see things similarly. I don’t have the same approach. Maybe I don’t even like it. But if I can really understand where you’re coming from and accept it, then there’s a way to work together. 

Lovely! Well, I know we’re winding down our time together. Is there anything you want to say about what we’ve talked about or mentioned before we turned towards how people can get in touch with you and what Marriage Helper is up to?

Yes, I would love to leave the listeners with this. Especially for the listeners who are in a struggling relationship, even a struggling marriage, that there really is hope. I know many of you may be thinking: “BUT you don’t understand, you don’t understand this unique part.” So while every story and every situation is unique, what I can tell you is that there’s still hope, even in the most hopeless of circumstances. So try these things, don’t give excuses beforehand. Just actually do this and see what change it makes in your relationship.

How do people get in touch with you at Marriage Helper?

At Marriage Helper, you can find us everywhere. So you can go to MarriageHelper.com. We actually have a free mini-course on how to get your spouse to fall back in love with you. It’s less than 30 minutes, you can go through it and get instant access for free. So you can find that on our website by just going to MarriageHelper.com, there’s a button at the top of the page. I go through more of this love path like you and I have talked about today, and some other things that can really help people to save their marriage. You can also find us on YouTube, we have a channel there: YouTube.com/MarriageHelper. Then I have a podcast about the PIES, which I talked about, which is called It Starts With Attraction. So there are several ways to connect.

Wonderful! And if people were wanting to go deeper, what might they be able to get support with Marriage Helper? 

Yes, we are known internationally for our three-day intensive workshops that have over a 70% success rate at saving marriages. That is our bread and butter, that is what we do. Some people will say, “Oh but, you must only take certain couples.” Well, if you’re in an affair, if the divorce is currently filed, even if you are divorced, all of those couples come, and we still have over 70% success rate at seeing those marriages saved. 

Well, thank you so much for what you’re doing. I will make sure to put the links to what you’ve mentioned for the free mini-course, as well as the website, your podcast link, as well as the YouTube and your Instagram and Twitter accounts, so people can connect and learn more.

I appreciate it. Thank you for having me, Dr. Jessica.

It’s been a pleasure. Thank you for the great value that you’ve offered today on today’s episode.

Signing Off

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Dr. Jessica Higgins ~ Relationship and Transformational Coaching