This is your brain. And this is your brain on love. We’re talking about your brain on relationships -- how the different parts of your brain affect how we relate to our partners, and how we can use that to build better relationships. This week's episode was inspired in part by Wired for Love by Stan Tatkin, MFT.
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Jase: On this episode of the Multiamory podcast, we're talking about your brain on relationships. How the different parts of your brain affect how we relate to our partners and how we can use that to build better relationships.
Emily: Yes, I read this book recently called Wired For Love, which among other things, talks about attachment theory, but in addition it discusses how to better understand your partner's brain and cultivate a romantic relationship based on love and trust. It's synthesizing research findings on how and why love lasts drawn from neuroscience attachment theory and emotional regulation, this book presents 10 guiding principles that can improve any relationship. We’re not going to talk about all those today.
Jase: Emily told us about some of the things from this book and we started getting into it immediately of discussing it and debating about it and thinking about it, so we’re like, "Hey, what if we did that on this episode and had almost like a book club, but where only one person's read the book that we're talking about, that we’ve all read--
Emily: Not much of a book club.
Jase: We've all read other things related to it.
Dedeker: It’s more like a book report really.
Emily: It’s an interactive report.
Jase: There you go.
Dedeker: Is it just me, that the title Wired For Love, for some reason I hear an ‘80s love song. Maybe I'm thinking of tainted love.
Jase: Wired For Love?
Dedeker: I'm thinking of tainted love, like a tainted love style song, but called Wired For Love.
Dedeker: Wired For Love. [sings]
Emily: Yes, exactly.
Jase: It’s good.
Emily: The whole thing is like your brain is wired for love and his point at the beginning is that your brain is actually not wired for love, that it's wired more for war and we're going to get into that talking about the primitives and the ambassador is that your primitives are the ones who are very wired for war because that’s when we were in the dark ages or the dawn of time or Adam and Eve or whatever when you know saber toothed tigers were running after us. I don't know, in my history maybe super off right now.
Dedeker: We get the image. A time when love was a little bit more challenging for us than-
Dedeker: - Out of ripe avocados.
Emily: We needed to be more wired for war and for staying alive and survival, but that that is still imprinted into our brains, so unfortunately, in situations where something not as intense happens, we still may go immediately to that warring part of our brain as opposed to the love part.
Dedeker: Yes, that makes sense.
Jase: Yes. Speaking of parts of the brain, let's get into it and talk about the brain a little bit.
Dedeker: No, hang on, Jase. Before we dive into that, you know some things about the brain. Doesn’t your dad know about the brain?
Emily: Your dad is a brain man.
Dedekr: [laughs] Your dad is a brain scientist or a brain teacher, brain Professor.
Jase: He is a neuroscience professor.
Dedeker: Yes, that’s the title.
Jase: Brains and other neuromuscular junctions in the body. It's not all just in the brain, but yes he does teach brain stuff.
Dedeker: Did you feel like you also got some of that from your father?
Jase: If by utmost you mean actually just like listened and paid attention, I got a lot of conversations and yes.
Dedeker: Okay, great.
Jase: He occasionally sends me books. I was actually just thinking this morning when Emily was talking about this one, I was like, "My dad hasn't sent me a book in a while," but he would send me books that are science books for the lay person, but that are about topics that he knows about through neuroscience.
This one specifically, and maybe we'll get into it, but it reminds me of a book called Mirroring People that was really interesting that's about mirror neurons which are essentially responsible for not only our ability to imitate other people, but also our ability to feel what other people are feeling essentially empathy, but also in a very real sense that we have matching neurons along with all the neurons in our body that engage with what other people are doing and are engaging while we watch people do things, even when we're not doing them ourselves or not even planning to do them ourselves.
Jase: It’s why you have that reaction if you see someone cut themself or something. It's those mirror neurons-
Dedeker: Mirror neurons.
Jase: Again, some people’s fire more strongly than others, and it's something you can develop. Anyway, stuff like that. He sends me books about that or about glial cells in the brain or about different ways that our brains make decisions stuff like, so yes I have this armchair knowledge [laughs] of things through him and through those books.
Emily: This is very much that for the layperson, it obviously does get into neurons and all of the things the serotonin and the dopamine and the things that are happening within your body, but again, explains it very easily and very accessibly to anyone. They do go through the parts of the brain and what they do for us in the context of a romantic relationship and the first one is the hippocampus. Where the hell is that by the way? Where is the hippocampus?
Dedeker: In the middle.
Jase: I feel like the hippocampus is in the middle.
Dedeker: Yes. you should pull the picture so we can see.
Jase: Pull up a brain picture, keep going, tell us about the hippocampus.
Emily: Apparently this helps place relationship events in time sequence and context which is interesting. I feel like I'm really good at remembering dates. I wonder if this is similar or if that's not anything to do with the hippocampus. Just talking about it, if you get into an argument, for example, with your partner and then you're like, "Well, you said this on this day that time," it's those types of things that this part of the brain remembers or maybe doesn't remember when-- Primitives, which I'm jumping forward, but when you get into that warring mode, then that part of your brain shuts down and isn't as good at doing its job.
Dedeker: Interesting. Yes, this picture that Jase just pulled up, it just says hippocampus is just memory and it's very simple, but that does make sense. Your memory and your timeline is where you're putting events in relation to other events.
Jase: This is right near the center area a little bit toward the back. Further back and on the bottom. For those of you trying visualize along with us. What’s the next one?
Emily: The next one is the insula. That's the really vital contributor to feeling empathy so it allows us to pick up our own body sensations, our gut feelings and then also helps us attach to other people and it also is responsible for us doing things like feeling disgust or even having an orgasm.
Jase: Now, this is an interesting part of the brain I would say.
Emily: Yes, very.
Dedeker: Yes, a lot of responsibilities there.
Jase: Interesting. It’s related to having an orgasm. To me, I’d never heard that before that there is a part of the brain responsible for that.
Emily: This guy say it.
Dedeker: Go ask this guy. I know that when you are approaching orgasm, when you're right at the point of no return, right before orgasm happens , but where you can't stop like it's going to happen that there is a part of your brain that shuts down. It's the same part of your brain that when you get drunk that shuts down like your inhibitions essentially, because I think there's something about it needs to get that obstacle out of the way in order for you to have an orgasm. I think that's also why certain pornography seems really awesome when you're about to have an orgasm and immediately afterwards it's really disgusting to you. I don't know if anyone else has had that experience.
Dedeker: I've known a lot of people sometimes when they have sex, maybe they're partaking in a fetish or type of sexual play that, when they're really aroused, really into it's like, "Yes, this is fantastic and I love it," and then as soon as the orgasm ends it's like, "Whoa, actually this is a turn off or I don't know if I want to be doing this," or things like that, sex brain.
Jase: Wow. I guess that's where aftercare would come in. That’s why you need to be aware of this and take care of your partner or yourself in that situation.
Jase: Gosh, keep going. This is fascinating stuff.
Emily: The next thing is going to be the right brain which everyone talks about like, "I’m a right brain person and I'm a left brain person," but the right brain apparently helps us decipher all things social such as reading facial expressions, vocal tone, body language and then it's very superior at picking up things like social cues and then responding to them effectively. Also, everyone says that it's the artistic side of your brain and that some people are more right brain oriented or more left brain oriented while others have both.
Dedeker: This is how your brain that leads to put this in a relationship context, that's the side that’s scanning for your partner's facial expressions, how they say a certain thing that maybe their tone doesn't match their words, maybe that one picks up on subtext. I would imagine also body language, things like that.
Jase: Yes, seems like that. Yes, what about the left brain?
Emily: That’s more like understanding the importance of things like detail and precision, they help convey words of friendliness or consideration and thoughtfulness. Again, if somebody is upset, then that side of your brain, it can still be empathetic, but also start to parse out, what are the correct words to say, what are the kind things to do in this moment to help my partner?
Dedeker: Yes, that's really interesting. It's kind of like maybe your right brain or other parts of your brain are firing on, like, "This person's really annoying to me right now, or I'm feeling disgusted by what this person is doing right now, but my left brain knows what's going to help is if I say something really kind of thoughtful to my partner right now." It's maybe help them feel better.
Jase: Right, kind of, how do I approach it? Instead of just just feeling about it, how do I respond to it?
Emily: Yes, then, finally orbital frontal cortex. That helps us do things like get into the mindset of the other person, walk in their shoes, so to speak. It's a moral and empathetic center, it can communicate with what we're about to talk about which are our ambassadors and our primitives. Both the primitive side of ourselves, then the more complex and pragmatic sides of our self as well, which is really important when you get into arguments with people that, that side of your brain can put yourself in the other person's shoes.
Dedeker: Well, Interesting.
Jase: Okay. Again, from this diagram that the orbital frontal is In the front-bottom part of your brain. It seems like that's where that is. Yes. Where your third eye is. [laughs]
Emily: Yes. Well, I was going to say something more sinister, but what's the part when people used to get lobotomized, I'm like, is it right there?
Jase: Gosh, I forget.
Dedeker: Lobotomy was like severing the connection between the frontal cortex and the skull essentially, I believe. I feel like all this entire episode is the combination of our armchair knowledge about the brain. I'm sorry for all the actual neuroscientists out there who are listening and going really angry-
Emily: - against the wall. We apologize in advance.
Jase: I will say that I think the point of this episode is not about let's really understand each of the parts of the brain. It's more about acknowledging the fact that there are different parts of the brain and that they each serve different functions that ideally will all work together in harmony as a good team in order to help us have the best possible relationships.
Emily: Yes, absolutely. This book did touch on the fact that because of things that may have happened in your life, certain parts of your brain may be more developed than others. Certain things may be like overlay developed and then some things may not be developed at all and this can affect your relationships in a variety of ways. Just something to think about; like what do I do well in relationships in relation to this and what do I maybe do not as well.
Jase: Interesting. Yes, It reminds me a little bit, I think this next section we're going to talk about has to do with this, but have another book that I read. Again, was one of the ones my dad sent me, where this one talks about how our brain makes decisions and that it's essentially not like our brains unilaterally calculates a thing and then decides what we're going to do, but it's more like within our brain, there are different almost you could think of them like delegates or something, different ones all arguing different options against each other. It's kind of about like which side kind of wins that argument or wins that debate is how will actually act, but it's not like our brain unilaterally wants to go do something. It's that this whole committee each wants to do very different things and that kind of debate it.
Dedeker: I'd say bees, not as a joke, really? I've heard that it is the way that hives of bees make decisions, if two scout bees come back and both of them are reporting to the other bees about a different location of food, they do their little bee dance, it's almost like the two different bees are campaigning to a certain extent to try to get more bees on their site of like, "No, mine's better. We should go to this one."
Jase: I see.
Dedeker: That it's similar the way that the neurons in your brain act as well, trying to make a decision. Again, that it's not a unilateral decision that all the bees are like, "Yes, we're going to go here." That there is like a little bit of conflict and persuasion and back and forth that happens until they finally decide like, "Okay, we'll go with Jerry's"
Emily: Jerry the bee.
Dedeker: Vote for Jerry the bee.
Emily: Oh my god.
Jase: Right, he did the best rap battle.
Dedeker: Yes, exactly. The best freestyle dancing.
Jase: Okay. Sweet.
Emily: Yes, to build off of this, we are going to talk about something that I brought up earlier which are primitives and ambassadors. First of all, what a primitive is part of your brand that deals with survival, it goes again in the book, through all the different pathways of your brand and like the Amygdala and like certain things that are causing your primitives to shoot fire, whatever, fire off and go to town and do their job, but they are the first chain of command, with respect to things like survival reflexes. They function to trump all of your other needs and wants. They're really fantastic In identifying dangers and threats, and then quickly deciding how to deal with those dangers and threats.
Again, if you are in a argument with your significant other, then this could mean identifying facial expressions or vocal inflection or harmful words. Then it can cause you as the receiver of those things to potentially act in certain ways or act quickly in a reactive way. Not necessarily one that's like assessing the entire situation, which I found really interesting. Because again, I know for myself, I talk about it a lot as the emotional side of myself on this podcast and that often I need a moment to let that emotion simmer away and then actually take a second to think about what I'm actually going to speak about in that moment.
Dedeker: I feel like in a real life situation, like you're in an argument with your significant other and maybe they say a particular word, maybe a swear word or they reach a particular tone in their voice or a particular volume of their voice and that triggers this feeling of like, "Oh gosh, maybe the last time they hit this particular volume we were talking about breaking up and if we break up then I'm going to be miserable and sad and terrible and die alone."
Of course, that's not necessarily happening consciously. It's like you're not even having those conscious thoughts, but it seems like those primitives, those parts of your brain that are just like, "You need to survive and you need to not, I guess not, not survive in this situation." That's what triggers, I guess the fight or flight response of like, "Well, either I need to attack you back or I need to retreat." Again, like that deeper kind of emotional survival instinct comes to play.
Emily: The warring parts of ourselves.
Dedeker: That's like Pre-Thought. I think that's how you get into situations where you end up saying something before you've thought about it and maybe something really hurtful or something like that.
Jase: Yes. Well, and I think just to build on your example that it's not just about the last time that you did this or the last time this thing happened, but it could be that because of my life, I've developed a reaction to this particular, again, like you said, type of facial expression or type of language or type of vocal inflection. That to me, signals danger. That could have been something that was from my parents in childhood or a sibling during childhood or any number of other previous relationships, all sorts of things.
To go with the theme of parts of your brain being overdeveloped or less developed that I think we could see, you gave the example of how that being overdeveloped can cause a problem, right? Where you react before you've really thought about it and you have that like knee jerk reaction. Then on the other side of it would be someone, I think, who if this were underdeveloped would be that they aren't able to see those dangers as clearly.
Jase: Which could lead to someone possibly staying in a more abusive relationship or just being in a more dangerous situation and not being aware of it or not understanding--
Emily: Or just being oblivious to their partner in that moment. It could be rather benign, but just if somebody continually gets upset over the same thing and their partner is not able to understand that or to see it for what it is, based on the cues that they're giving them, then that can be an issue as well. Just that they're not able to read their partner effectively in those moments.
Jase: It also reminds me of stuff about the people who are like natural light detectors who rather than studying it and learning it, there are people who-- I forget there's a term they use for it, but who are naturals at this.
Emily: Like in Lie to Me?
Jase: Like in Lie to Me or in the book Telling Lies by Paul Ekman that that show is based off of and his research and his life that that's based off of, that people who are naturals do tend to come from a background where their brain did have to hyper develop this part about facial expressions and vocal inflections and stuff because perhaps-
Dedeker: Maybe a parent that lied all the time or was abusive.
Jase: Or was abusive or something and so they got really good at picking up those cues and things as a defense mechanism out of necessity. Anyway, it just kind of reminds me of that of like you could see how also given a certain circumstance having this be overdeveloped would be a good thing, would be a survival thing, right?
Jase: Anyway, sorry. I don't want to keep going, but it's just making me think of all these other books and things.
Emily: No, absolutely, but yes, I appreciate the fact that this book does say, "None of these things are inherently bad or good." Your primitives aren't totally bad, but obviously, you need to be good at taming them in the correct moment because of your circumstances certain things may be more developed than others and that's okay. That's just who you are, you can work on them and that's what this is about.
Ambassadors, on the other hand, they are the more refined, more rational, more civilized parts of your brain and they are also a lot slower to show up than the primitives, but they're more successful at keeping the primitives in check if time is on their side. Doing something, for example, like taking a deep breath, it can help activate what's called the "smart vagus". There's a smart vagus and the dumb vagus.
Dedeker: Do they actually call it that?
Jase: I think it's vagus?
Emily: No, it's like a lay term for it.
Jase: I think it's vagus?
Dedeker: I thought it was vagus.
Jase: Maybe vagus.
Emily: Vagus, vagus.
Dedeker: Yes, like the vagus nerve?
Jase: I thought it was the vagus nerve. Maybe, I’m not sure.
Emily: I don't know. Yes, but there's the smart and the dumb one. The dumb one will do something like if you're getting your blood drawn at the doctor's office and you feel queasy, that's me all the time, it's the part of your body that's there to help you not bleed out. If you were getting killed by a saber-toothed tiger then you might start to go limp just because your body is shutting down that part that would continue to pump blood out at a really fast rate.
Dedeker: Like lower your blood pressure, by that's why you faint.
Emily: Exactly. It does things like that even when you're not in danger because it thinks that maybe you are. Again, I definitely give off dangerous signals in the doctor's office. I hate getting my blood drawn. The smart vagus will do other stuff like again if you take a deep breath and it can activate smart vagus and calm your body down in a better way.
Dedeker: Can I just pop in here? These are like layperson's terms that other people came up with and people can't blame us for it being ableist language?
Emily: No, but it said in the book that that's a commonly used term.
Dedeker: All right, please don't send me an angry email to us about using ableist language.
Emily: Yes, sorry. Smart and dumb. Yes.
Dedeker: Send an angry email to author of Wired for Love.
Emily: Doctors also use the word, what is it that I hate so much?
Emily & Dedeker: Geriatric.
Dedeker: Yes. [laughs]
Emily: Regarding my uterus after a certain age. Anyways, thank you, doctors.
Emily: [chuckles] It's important to be aware of both your primitives and ambassadors just to recognize when you need each of them obviously in various situations we just talked about. Also, to be aware of your partners tells and your tells when your primitives or ambassadors are coming into play, because you can help them become more at ease just if you understand and know things that are happening in terms of the primitives or ambassadors being there.
Dedeker: Well, I feel like if you're aware of this especially watching for this both in yourself and a partner, I feel like what comes to mind for me is this seems like it can make it a lot easier to not take certain things personally in the moment. If I know, if my partner reacts in a particular way where I feel like maybe it's an overreaction or like, "This doesn't seem justified" I can realize, "Maybe that's kind of his primitive brain kicking in, afraid of some kind of hurt or wanting to survive or something like that."
Maybe that's a cue to me to maybe be more compassionate or to call a halt for instance or it can be like, "Hey, let's--" Because you said, Emily, that the ambassadors, if they have time then they can get the upper hand over the primitives essentially to help calm things down which is what halting is all about. The idea that I can be aware of that and see that happening to my partner and then decide like, "Hey, I'm going to go take a walk for 20 minutes or I'm going to go sit and meditate in my room for 20 minutes or whatever and then we can come back to this," something that.
Jase: Now that I'm thinking about it in these terms, I've definitely had times, even somewhat recently with you, Dedeker, where you will be upset about something that's unrelated to me, but you're a little bit more on edge and you'll say something to me that makes me go, "Ah" and I'll respond also a little bit reactively, a little bit [expression] some sort of snippy response.
Maybe that'll go back and forth twice and then it's like this part of my brain catches up and it's like, "Whoa, whoa, whoa." She's upset about this other thing. You're not really bothered by that, why are you reacting this way, but it's like there wasn't that time for the ambassadors to catch up and be like, "Well, let's be compassionate and let's calm the situation down," instead of reacting more self-centeredly of like, "Well, this was said to me or this tone was used with me." That's an interesting one.
Emily: Yes. Something that I think we've talked about before is that you still want to come at every situation thinking that your partner has your best intentions at heart. I think that that's something to be aware of again here when snippiness occurs or when something happens and you're like, "Why the hell would they say that? They're hurting me in this moment and they just said that to piss me off or to hurt me?" That, no, maybe something else is going on in that moment. I know that that's not always the case, but at least come at it and think of it that way.
Dedeker: Yes, I think that's harder for people if they've ever had an experience where a partner has been snippy and very much has been with the attention of hurting than more abusing them or something that. I think that again that comes to mind with the whole primitive thing of that if your primitives in your brain are conditioned to survive in the context of a partner who gets snippy with you and you know that that's a cue that they're about to get much meaner to you, that can get activated, I think, much sooner than maybe it could be with someone else.
Jase: Well, yes and again to go back to the idea of balance, that it's not saying like, "The ambassadors are good and the primitives are bad." It's about finding balance between those because I've definitely known plenty of people possibly even myself in certain situations where it's the ambassadors have too strong a hold, they're being too reasonable, too polite and too civil in a situation that's like, "No, you should actually get the fuck out of this." This is not a good place, this is not a good situation, this is not a good relationship or not a good even like a job or social situation or something. This is not a healthy place for me to be. I'm devaluing the opinion of the primitives when maybe I should be giving that a little more value. It's constantly evaluating like, "Where's that balance?"
Dedeker: Yes, definitely.
Dedeker: Time for us to take a little break. Let's talk about the best ways that you can help to support our show. If you all like our show.
Dedeker: If you like us and if you've been listening so far on this our like 170th something episode, then I hope that that means that you're getting some kind of value out of the show and that we're hopefully contributing to your life and to your relationships.
The best way that you can help to support the show and help make sure that we're able to keep it running is to become one of our Patreon contributors. If you go to patreon.com/multiamory you can sign up. You can donate as little as $1 a month which is about 25 cents for per podcast which I think is a pretty good deal for some nerdy information like this. You can also donate at the $5 a month level which is what gets you access to our private Facebook discussion group which has been a fantastic community so far. You can go to $7 a month which gets you access to the discussion group as well as ad free episodes where you don't have to listen to us talking about this and you also get the episodes released a day early and $9 a month--
Jase: Bonus content.
Dedeker: Right, and the bonus content as well. You get all kinds of things just by going to $7. At $9 a month, you get access to all of those things plus our monthly video discussion group which we just had recently, which is kind of a little bit more of an intimate space. We get to see each other face to face, talk about what's going on in our lives, see really cute dogs that everyone lives with, it's pretty much the best.
Jase: Some cats too.
Dedeker: Some cats.
Dedeker: Anyway and so on and so forth. You can donate at any level that you want, but the Patreon support, first of all financially it really helps us because none of us can afford to quit our day jobs to do this full-time.
Dedeker: It helps us to be able to do live events, to be able to keep the show basically entirely free for the world and to be able to keep maintaining this little podcast baby that we got. Then on top of it also, it's just wonderful to have this Patreon community of people that we get to talk to and get a sense of what people want to hear on the show and what they're struggling with and what they enjoy and what they don't. That really helps us to make the show as best as possible. Again, go to patreon.com/multiamory to sign up.
Jase: The next thing that you could do is to just take a moment and write us a review on iTunes or on Stitcher. I know it seems like a small thing, but it actually does help a lot in terms of how we show up in search results and how likely new people are to give the show a try and to check it out. We just recently had a review today that said, "Can't stop listening. Won't stop listening."
Jase: Really, just even something silly like that, it would just take you a minute to write is helpful or people have written much longer things as well, but it does help other people to come along and say, "Gosh, do I really want to commit an hour or two of my time to listening to an episode or two of this new show that I have maybe heard about or maybe just found?"
That reading those reviews and seeing what you've written especially if that resonates with them too of saying, "Wow, I like that this review mentioned specifically that they're dealing with transitioning a relationship or that this person is single, but identifies as polyamorous." Whatever it is for you, that can be really helpful for them as well and help them to find the show. Again, iTunes or Stitcher are the two main places where you can write reviews about podcasts, so take a moment and do that if you can. It would be super helpful.
Emily: Our sponsor for this week is adamandeve.com. You can get 50% off of almost any item by using our promo code "multi" M-U-L-T-I at checkout. In addition, you will get free shipping and then a free gift which I'm assuming is a sex swing. Cool.
Dedeker: It's changed a couple times.
Jase: It's changed a couple of times.
Emily: That's true.
Dedeker: Sometime changes seasonally, but I think it's something free.
Emily: Who knows? It's free.
Jase: The 15% off any item in free shipping is pretty rad.
Dedeker: That's worth it.
Emily: Yes, for sure and you can use it as many times as you want. If you do one item, come back, do another item, come back, do another item.
Jase: Every month.
Dedeker: Like I say, your weekly or monthly sexual shopping.
Jase: Yes. [chuckles]
Emily: Exactly. Hell, yes. We would get a little kickback from that and we would really appreciate it. Again, for all of your sexy needs, go to adamandeve.com and use our promo code, Multi, M-U-L-T-I. Now, back to the show.
Emily: Now, we want to get into some practical application stuff and this is in the form of knowing your partner. We'll discuss the issue that sometimes happens which is definitely something that I have said before in my relationships and that's like, "I don't feel like I know my partner." I have no idea, even after years of being with them I'm like, "I don't know what you're thinking. I have a difficult time reading your emotions or reading what's happening behind your eyes. I have no idea." That definitely, definitely can be a challenging difficult place to be in a relationship.
Dedeker: It reminds me of Kathy Labriola. I found some research. The more time we spend with someone we're more likely to fall under the false assumption that we do know them a lot better than we did at the start.
Jase: I remember this, yes.
Dedeker: When actually couples who've been together for a long time are at more of a risk of misunderstanding each other because they built up a story about each other and how the other one functions. That we often relate to that story and then when our partner does something different then we're like, "Whoa, I feel like I don't know this person." That is actually more likely to cause a phenomenon over time.
Emily: Well, and they talked about in the book when you first start dating someone, you're probably very touchy-feely, very sexual with them and it's because all of those dopamine and serotonin, all of that is like firing and making you super duper lovey-dovey happy. So you're touching each other all the time and being really sexual but then hours that starts to wear off depending on your relationship style, you may not really touch each other that much anymore and then that can leave one or both of you to be like, "Wait a minute who the hell is this person? They were very intimate with me and now they're not."
Jase: Yes, gosh, I also remember that Dr. Mike who I guess all of us know.
Dedeker: Yes, he's the official chiropractor of Multiamory.
Jase: Yes, he's our chiropractor, but also just cool guy and likes to share pieces of wisdom with us. He was talking about with couples specifically not being active around each other can be a problem and that it has to do with sweating around each other essentially. If couples will work out, whether that's going for little hikes or walks or actually like lifting weights or whatever is getting more of your body odors essentially because you're sweating a little bit and smelling those can help to reignite some of those chemical things that were what brought you together in the first place.
Dedeker: Be sweatier around each other?
Jase: Essentially, not all the time. Maybe.
Emily: Don't be afraid to be sweaty around each other.
Emily: That's pretty cool. I like that. It goes very in-depth into attachment styles. We might touch on a little bit but honestly I would love to do a separate discussion about that in a later episode. The way in which he characterizes each of the different styles, he calls secure attachment people anchors, he calls anxious attachment people waves, and then avoidant attachment; islands which I find very cute, like a nice way of putting it. Your attachment style really happens based on your parents. They set this standard for how you relate to each other into the world and then you're really adapting at a very early age and this travels on into all of your relationships over time.
Dedeker: Can I just jump in with a super, super-quick-really-run-watered-down description of attachment theory just for people who don't know?
Emily: Please, we did an episode on it a long time ago.
Dedeker: Yes, long time ago but just super quick. The idea is that our parents are like close relationships that we grow up with really affect how we tend to attach to other adults in our romantic life when we grow up. Just in a nutshell, when we're securely attached, if "attachment crisis" happens and that can be anything. It could be your partner needing to leave you in the morning to go to work, it could be your partner going on a date with someone else if you're in a consensually non-monogamous relationship, it could be your partner just needing to go away for an extended period of time or moving to a different city and it has to be a long-distance relationship.
Jase: Or like we talked about the other day, just like needing some personal time, needing some space away from everyone or maybe just away from you, that could be a crisis.
Dedeker: Yes. Any number of attachment crisis can happen and the way that you react to it often is a clue of how you're attached, so an attachment crisis probably won't really be a crisis, they'll take it in stride, it'll be okay, they'll be able to reconnect and they'll be fine. People who are anxiously attached, it sounds self-explanatory, but an attachment crisis will produce more anxiety, more insecurity, more worry. That if this person's separating from me that maybe they're going to be gone forever, maybe they're abandoning me. A lot more fear anxiety caused by that.
People who are avoidant attached tend to go in the opposite direction, it's a little more of like, "If this person's separating from me or leaving from me, I'm going to leave too or I'm going to separate myself too." I think that's why he calls them islands. I'm just going to separate myself and be my little island and that's how I react. These attachment styles can change depending on the relationship. You may be securely attached in one relationship and then feel more anxious in another. It can change depending on the period of your life that you're going through so there's that. That's some of attachment theory in a nutshell.
Jase: Something else that's been debated a lot is your attachment style. Something that was set in childhood and now you're just stuck with this one forever or is this something that you can change, that can develop over your life? I was asking you earlier, Emily, for the author of this book who I would say is more qualified than any of us to speak about such things as a doctor of psychology, what was his position on that? If that it is something you can change and effect over time or you're just stuck with it?
Emily: No, absolutely. Obviously, coming up from young childhood, you probably are going to have certain tendencies and be closely aligned with one versus the other and really honestly, it says that that has a lot to do with your relationship with your parents at a very young age, but because you might be in relationships with secure people, if you are not a secure attachment style, that secure attachment can actually pull you into being a secure attachment yourself and then also if you and your partner, one is an island and one is a wave, then, obviously, the things that he talks about in this book are ways in which you become more securely attached.
Yes, absolutely, you can change that, but, again, he doesn't frame it as any of them being ideal, or bad, or whatever but probably for your relationship one would want to be as secure as possible just for your own happiness and for the sake of your relationship. But I find that very interesting because he said an island, for example, there is a lot of good things about that, like they're super low maintenance, they can't be independents, they're not upset like when the partner needs to go on a business trip or whatever, stuff like that.
Dedeker: There is [crosstalk] parts to all of them?
Emily: Yes, absolutely. But there are some solutions that we'll talk about. Really a solution that he talked about is to know your partner, to know your partner as well as you can, which, again, this book is written for monogamous couples, and so this is where it starts to get potentially murky into going into a polyamorous relationship because it's still talking about like a couple who has been together for like a really long period of time and who puts themselves in a primary situation.
That's what I think he is talking about, but if you and your partner can read and understand each other, then you have the ability to care for each other, influence each other, and manage one another, which I find that wording is challenging. Well, and he even said managers, they're like how a parent can manage their child, and, again, I was-- but I also get it. I also understand what he is getting at, like in the moment if you know what hurts your partner and you can provide the antidote for that, then you are in essence like managing their emotion for them or helping to. I don't know. I think it's hard.
Jase: I agree. If I'm trying to just think about what's the heart of this and what's the good in this, I understand that anyone, and I think this doesn't have to be just monogamous but anyone that you are in-- especially if you are in relationship where you're around each other quite a lot or you are really sharing with each other quite a lot, either if that's just through phone or text if it's long distance, but you definitely have influence over each other.
My partner has influenced me quite a bit, and I've tried to find partners who influence me in good ways and inspire me to achieve more and be the best person I can be all that. And so managing one another, it's like we mentioned earlier, the idea that, "Oh, I know that my partner is upset about this other thing or they are stressed about this other thing, so I'm going to intentionally right now try not to add more stress to them and instead try to counteract that, help them feel good." I guess you could word that as managing them. It's just that word and that parental-like subtext to it is what seems troubling.
Emily: Dedeker go because I know I'm moving onto the next part, to kind of want to talk about that.
Dedeker: Well, just the parental thing. I mean, I don't think that's necessarily bad. I think it's bad if you feel like a parent all the time in your relationship, or if you feel like the child all the time, like that's when things are maybe a little bit toxic or unhealthy. But I think about the fact that if you have a child and you're out on a walk, and a scary dog barks at your child and your child starts crying, and you know from a very young age your child had a bad experience with dogs, he's really scared that-- as a parent, you know, okay, I'm going to comfort, I'm going to take care of her, and try to get her back to normal and let her know that it's safe and it's okay.
Now, if we put that in adult language, if it's like-- I have a partner who had a really frustrating day at work, maybe he was chastised by a boss or a superior and I know that really bothers him because of something that happened in his childhood or that's happened to him at work before, I just know like he comes and he tells me like, "This happened at work today."
And so nowing my partner, I know that I can step up and offer some comfort, offer some support even before he's asked for it.
That's how I see it. The same way that your little kid is not going to come to you and ask you like, "Hey, this really scares your dog scared me and I have a problem with dogs, can you comfort me?" As a parent, you know. But, of course, it gets into the dangerous territory of wanting to make the assumption that your partner should just always know what it is that you need. I think that's where the balancing act comes in.
Jase: And I think also that this tends to, at least the way I've seen it talked about by people, tends to go mostly just one direction in a relationship.
Emily: Clearly, he is talking about it needs to be a two-way street. You have to know your partner and they have to know you. And you can't be the one to ask necessarily for something, you just let it happen and also be there and don't wait for your partner to ask for something of you. It gets into that a bit, but then also your partner should know what has the most power to push your buttons and then also when your partner feels bad, then you should immediately sense why and then also know how to remedy the situation with things like the right words, or acts of service, or something like that. And that again is getting to knowing your partner as well as possible--
Jase: Could I propose a slight wording change?
Jase: And that's removing the word "should" from all of that statement because I feel like using "should" I think is-- In general, I've talked about this.
Emily: You hate "shoulds"?
Emily: "Shoulds", I use them, but I wish I didn't. I think that it's a very loaded word that has a lot of judgment attached to it. And in this case, it is sort of you should. I think where people get into that thing of, "Oh, my partner should just know. I shouldn't have to tell them, should, should, should," right? And perhaps if we reworded this to say as you get to know your partner better, and I'm more intentional about that, you can learn what has the power to push their buttons in negative and positive ways, and that when they are feeling bad, being better able to sense that and understand how to remedy that situation with the right words or actions can be a very powerful thing. Rather than a "should" like it's your responsibility or your job, it's more like, "Hey, here is an option." Here is something that you could learn to be better at. Anyway, that's a-- it's a box, [laughs] should.
Emily: Yes. No, I hear you. And he talks about how-- go through a list with your partner, sit down, write down your four or five things that consistently irk you or tweak you or that pushes the button really. And then you can do the same thing for your partner and the two of you can look at them and make known this consistently as a thing that constantly makes me upset. And then on the flip, what can I do to help them in that situation.
Jase: Right. Can we get into that? Can we just go to there? I want to know more about that. Can you explain more about what that process looks like about that making a list thing?
Emily: Yes, even just you can sit down with your partner and write down again maybe things from childhood, and I know, Dedeker, you actually talked about this a long time with your sister. Like all the things to me sort of goes along with that. That she with her therapist talked about the things in her life that were challenging moments.
Dedeker: Yes, my sister and her husband when they were doing some premarital counselling, they had to sit down and make-- it was kind of a different exercise where they had to sit down and make a timeline of their lives, and on the timeline, put down basically anytime that they had been majorly hurt, like turning points in their lives. Because the therapist was trying to demonstrate to them when you fight, these are all the things that are going to-- this is where is stems from. This is where the emotions is going to stem from.
You feeling abandoned as a child, or being ignored as a child, or someone-- your first boyfriend cheating on you, or whatever. This are the things that are foundationally there that are potentially going to get triggered or going to float up to the surface when you have an argument.
Jase: I can see that being very related to this though. Right?
Emily: Absolutely. That's why it triggered in my mind. I was like, oh, but they are talking about parents and children and sort of the things that happened in your young life that affect your life as an adult. And with that too, you can do it for yourself, and then your partner can do it. And you can exchange information. So on the flip side, I guess like you said, Dedeker, they talked about specifically how things that like anchors, and waves, and islands. What they would feel if things that would irk them, specifically like lack of order, being picked on as a child. Things like being blamed, being abandoned, feeling like a burden.
He talks about this couple where the woman didn't feel intelligent enough and where the man didn't feel like he was attractive enough for her. Things like that. Again, in contrast, we should figure out the specific things that make our--
Jase: Not should, we can.
Emily: Okay, we need to know ideally--
Jase: No, no.
Emily: Ideally we would.
Jase: We can, we have the opportunity to.
Emily: Okay. Sure, we have the opportunity to.
Emily: Okay, we have the opportunity to do things like knowing the specific thing that makes our partner happy. Then those can act as antidotes when things go awry. Saying something like, "You're such a good man, you're such a good parent. You're an amazing partner to me. You're so sexy. I love your amazing mind. I love being with you," stuff like that. Things that really bring out the emotion in your partner and can routinely make them feel happy and good again.
Dedeker: If I can boil this down, it seems like the practical exercises like sitting down with your partner and each of you making a list of what are the things that always push your buttons, whether it's something like coming home and the house is just like totally in disarray. Or if I feel like I'm not being listened to, or if I feel like I'm not attractive. It seems like the way that this is worded is like making it a more general list rather than a list that's like, when you say this to me, or when you make me feel this way, when you do this, that it's more of when I feel like this is happening, or when this happens to me, that really bothers me or triggers me or whatever.
Then on the flip side, making the list of antidotes of like, when I feel like my partner thinks I'm sexy, it feels good. Or when my partner has done something, like done an act or service for me, I think that you can also incorporate love language stuff into this. It seems like it's making your list of the buttons that get pushed. Then also making a list of the antidotes just for both of you in order to be able to be aware of those things and be able to have that knowledge so that you can try it out when things are starting to fall apart in an argument or something.
Jase: Sorry, I'm starting to lose you in the audio on the mic there. [laughs]
Jase: [laughs] Another thing also I want to point out that he mentions three or four things. Keep this list minimal. It's not just like every little pet peeve type thing. It's like more the big and current ones.
Emily: Because everything can be distilled down to three or four major things that consistently come up in various ways in your life. Like if it's fear of being abandoned, then when you say this thing, it triggers that fear of abandonment within me. Again, then specifically finding a thing or multiple things that you can say in that moment to be like I want to be with you. I love being with you so much. I will never leave you or whatever. Not that we would necessarily say that, but still, it's some sort of antidote that's very specific to the thing that constantly hurts them.
Dedeker: I'm going to make a suggestion. I feel like this exercise could be a good exercise to incorporate into a radar, for instance. Those of you who haven't heard about what a radar is, go look up our episode on radar and learn all about it. I feel like in the section where you're talking about fights or arguments, especially if you've come to that section and you don't have any fights or arguments to talk about recently, I feel like that's a good time when you're not in the midst of conflict, to like, "Hey, let's sit down and talk about these things. Talk about-- again, the things that push my buttons or the things that make me feel scared or lonely or activate my primitives or whatever." Then go into this exercise. That's my suggestion, I think that could be useful.
Jase: Yes. That can be really cool. Yes.
Jase: The timeline things really interesting to me too. That would be a cool one to try, to then see how that relates to the things that are like, these are the things that come up the most often. I'd also be curious to hear what partners would identify as the things that tend to activate me feeling upset, versus what I think they are. That would be interesting too.
Dedeker: Yes, that would be really fascinating.
Emily: Absolutely. Again, seeing how well you know your partner in that moment. Again, because this whole book was clearly written for the monogamous couple in mind, I did want to ask the question, how does all of this apply to polyamorous relationships, multi-partner relationships? Because, again, in my mind, you do have to take time to know a person in order to go through these steps and figure out what are your primitives? What are your ambassadors like? What makes your partner tick? What makes them pissed off? What makes them happy? I guess theoretically one could do it early?
Jase: First of all, being in a multi-partner relationship could also be a very long-term relationship.
Emily: No, of course.
Jase: This unlike other episodes where we've talked about techniques for what to do right away to establish good habits in a relationship, I feel like this topic is a little bit more for the more established relationships. Understanding it, you could help to keep that in mind earlier on in your relationship. Yes, it does seem like this is much more for those people you have gotten to know much more intimately and know more about them over time.
Dedeker: Let me just point out the very long subtitle of this book. Not that I can throw any shade along subtitles. The full title of the book is, Wired for love: How understanding your partner's brain and attachment style can help you defuse conflict and build a secure relationship. What that says to me is like this book is written for someone who's already in a long-term relationship that maybe is starting to go sour or is providing some kind of frustration and they want to fix it. It's not marketed, at least not intentionally marketed to like, "Hey, this is something that's useful for you to know when starting a new relationship," even though it is.
I feel like that's something to bear in mind. Is not only the fact that the author wrote it for traditional monogamous couples, but also it seems like it's under this understanding that there's already been some shit that's happened in your relationship that you need to sort out and maybe this could be a framework that could help you sort that out. Which take that for what you will, whether that's a good place to start from or not.
Jase: For the most part, if we take first the assumption that this is built around relationships where you do know each other quite well. This is a more established relationship, that I think that pretty much everything in this feels to me like it can apply equally well to a multi-partner relationship. If you're applying this within each dyad, within each two-person relationship and people that you relate with, understanding these things about each other as well as developing a better understanding of the balance within your own mind, could still be really helpful in exactly the same way.
Emily: You just will need to be an expert in multiple partners. Because that's what he says. He's like, "Become an expert in your partner." You also will just have to do that with a bunch of people or two people, or three people, or whatever and be able to discern what makes each of them tick and what makes each of them hurt and things like that. Probably that's more challenging than just one I'm assuming. Could also awesome.
Dedeker: So much of it depends on context. Because if you have three partners, but maybe you're really strictly independent solo poly and these three partners are more casual connections, maybe there's not as much of a drive to have to get to know each person in this particular way. Or maybe your three partners or a mix, like maybe two of them are really intensely emotionally important to you and one's more casual. It's going to depend on what you feel is going to be helpful for your relationships. I would say that if you are interested in having a very long-term emotionally intense, healthy relationship, it probably would behoove you to have these things in mind and do this kind of work in each relationship that you want to have that in, I would think.
Jase: My thought was actually that doing stuff like making these lists and being a little more intentional about it, determining what are these things that happened and what are the things most comforting or most threatening to this particular partner, and doing it in a more structured way, I actually think could be very helpful for multiple relationships that you have. Because I feel like if we're not being conscious, and thinking about it intentionally, it's very easy to just be like, "Oh, well, this is just my habit.
This is how I respond to this type of thing and that's gotten me good results in the past. Now if it doesn't, it's like well, something's wrong with you." Because we haven't consciously thought about this is something I'm doing because of these things about my partner and because of the relationship I want to have. Instead, it's just like, especially if you've been in like a 20-year long relationship that you're now opening up and having new relationships.
You maybe do have good communication, but it might be stuff that you've all developed unconsciously. That now, you're going to start applying this to other relationships where they might not be appropriate at all. In fact, they might be the opposite of what would be the best way to talk to or to help this other person. I think the idea of getting more intentional about it can be really helpful. I guess in a way, you could perceive that as more work, but I don't know. It seems like--
Emily: With greater reward.
Jase: Right. Maybe less work in the long run of trying to repair situations.
Dedeker: Right. Of like having to undo the damage of really unintentional or in communication from 20 years past or whatever. What a fascinating subject, the brain and relationships.
Jase: Someone should make a podcast about relationships.
Dedeker: I know.
Jase: They're so interesting.
Dedeker: We should get your dad on the podcast. Would that be really weird?
Jase: I don't know. That might be weird. I don't know. I could talk to him about it.
Dedeker: Just to talk about more neuroscience stuff?
Jase: I don't know. He's a Patron and supporter of ours.
Emily: That's true. Yes.
Jase: Let's see if he wants to be on the show.
Dedeker: Thank you, Jase's dad.
Jase: Cool. Yes.