Let’s say relationship is like a “dance.” An optimal loving partnership would be a romantic dance where shared happiness and fulfillment are maximized.
Dancing this way, our feelings of connection, intimacy, love, pleasure, and satisfaction would deepen over the years — rather than diminish.
Some lucky couples dance this way naturally. But what about the rest of us, who inadvertently stumble or step on each other’s feet? Well, simply put, we need to learn a few new steps.
What steps produce an optimal loving partnership? Luckily, this has been discovered scientifically through thousands of research studies on relationship satisfaction.
To start, let’s look at how we learned the automatic steps we dance with in love. Around the time we learned to walk, we also learned our basic emotional moves in relating. This all happened before we learned to speak or even can remember!
What did we learn, exactly? What to expect and how to react in a significant relationship. Our parents were our original significant others. As a direct product of how they treated us — and how they treated each other — they wired us for how we will later do the dance of love when we are adults.
Our Wiring Shapes How We Interact
The wiring formed in the relational circuitry of our brains by age two will shape how we interact with significant others throughout our lives. It’s like an invisible box we are stuck in. To get out of a box, we must first see the box.
So it’s crucial to see how this love wiring operates without our permission — controlling the way we think, feel, act, and move with an intimate partner — without our realizing it. Seeing it clearly will help us to upgrade it!
Let’s see what research in human attachment shows about what causes us to dance the way we do in love — and what to do to change it!
Depending on how we were responded to by caregivers, our relational brains were wired in one of three ways. We were wired to operate as an anchor, island, or wave. Each has its own style of communicating, which either helps or prevents getting their needs met.
Anchors — Wired for Secure Attachment
Anchors received optimal treatment, wiring them for secure attachment. They were consistently responded to whenever they cried or reached out. Their caregivers regularly attuned to their feelings and attended to their needs. If asked as adults about their childhood, they remember getting held, rocked or kissed on a daily basis.
An anchor’s secure expectation is that their needs and feelings matter to “the other.” As they developed language, a parent helped them put their feelings into words. So as adults, anchors tend to openly express their vulnerable feelings and needs. If distress arises in their relationship, they usually handle it quickly and well.
Adult anchor’s dance according to the rules that partners are in each other’s care. They know that if one of them falls, they both do. So they pay close attention to notice if anyone gets off-balance — and they quickly respond to hold each other up. They can lean on each other and expect support!
Wired this way, as partners they instinctually attune to each other and attend to each other’s needs. Their steps include understanding and honoring each other’s vulnerabilities and slowing down to soothe these if distress arises in either of them.
Islands & Waves — Wired for Insecure Attachment
Islands and waves were not so fortunate, each of whom experienced some version of insecure attachment with their caregivers.
Islands came to expect little in the way of response to their feelings. Their wiring was based on not getting much soothing from a caregiver — very little in the way of touch, holding, hugs or kisses.
Given so little soothing when they cried for help, islands stopped crying or reaching out. They got no help putting feelings into words. So as adults, islands stumble when it comes to express feelings or needs. This makes them appear self-sufficient and “low maintenance.” When distressed, they tend to distance and dance alone.
Waves came to know that soothing responses were available. Unlike islands, they did get held, hugged and kissed at times. But their caregivers were inconsistent in whether they were available and responsive or not.
So waves ended up more clingy and engaged in angry protest. They became fussy and hard to soothe. In adult relationships, rather then vulnerably reaching out for their needs, they tend to dance like pursuers and even get clingy. They seem to be “high maintenance.” If distressed, they can kick and scream, so to speak, getting more emotionally upset.
Insecure Core Fears & Reactive Cycles
In a wave’s adult love dance, abandonment fears can easily crop up. They are prone to fear they don’t really matter, are invisible, or that they are dancing all alone. In an island’s love dance, rejection fears can arise. They are prone to feel they are not good enough, inadequate, or a failure as a partner and then withdraw.
Because both types have difficulty revealing such vulnerable feelings, their dance steps get reactive, defensive, or distancing. Over time, this produces increasing levels of emotional upset — escalating into behaviors like name-calling, getting sarcastic, blowing up, shutting down, getting dismissive, walking on eggshells, building walls.
Engaging in these kinds of reactive dances makes lasting happiness seem illusive for waves and islands. Unconscious of the choreography they are following, each keeps unwittingly stepping on the other’s feet.
As these pattens are a product of early brain wiring that operates automatically, partners do not fully understand the painful impact of the moves they make — and how it blocks their shared happiness. Instead of realizing they need to learn a new way to partner dance, they get stuck in a blame game.
New Steps in the Dance of Love
For lasting happiness in an optimal loving relationship you need to learn new steps. A retreat with John can be metaphorically thought of like taking dancing lessons.
Learning new steps can feel awkward at first. But if you currently step on each other’s feet, you do need to learn some new moves.
With knowledge comes power. With an accurate understanding what drives the reactive patterns in your relationship, you can start to overcome them.
The reactive dance you unwittingly fall into is your common enemy. With John’s help you can take it apart — step by step — and accurately and fully understand what is really going on. It’s not about blame. It’s about learning a few new steps — some new tools and rules for a successful loving partnership.
When you become a couple, you have the opportunity to rewire each other’s brains for thriving love. You can learn new steps in your partner dance. That deep love and connection couples feel in the honeymoon period truly points to what you can share again, once you expand beyond the limits of your childhood wiring.
Why not have the optimal loving partnership you really want? By using the right tools and implementing the correct steps, you will rewire each other for healthy love — and upgrade each to be able to dance your full potential for deep and lasting happiness.