What Keeps Long Love Alive?

How biology and the Enneagram both contribute to staying together.

Drawing by E. Wagele from "Are You My Type, Am I Yours?"

Drawing by E. Wagele from “Are You My Type, Am I Yours?”

One of the main reasons relationships don’t last is when one or both members of a couple blames the other for not having identical beliefs, behaviors, and standards. People often project onto their love interest and unconsciously see that person as a replica of themselves more than a separate individual. Although infatuated with this wonderful human being, they also fall more in love with themselves than ever (or maybe even for the first time as an adult). “He thinks I’m great so I am great and he’s amazing for recognizing how great I am!” Though the other may have real assets, he just isn’t quite as perfect as our hormones and neural-transmitters lead us to believe.

One of the surest paths to seeing the reality of a match is the Enneagram system of 9 types of people. It illuminates differences between personalities and points out things we recognize to be true about ourselves. The more secure we are about who we are, the less likely we are to think we’re someone we’re not. The more we understand another person’s type, the more difficult it is, usually, to project our wishes onto him or her. When we study the Enneagram we’re less likely to imagine we’re clones with our beloved or to try to change into someone we’re not.

Are You My Type, Am I Yours? shows the positive and negative aspects of each type in relationship to each other type. It helps pin down what about the other’s type makes us especially happy and/or especially irritated. It cannot help but increase our perception of ourselves and others.

Another way of looking at love is through brain science. Love and the Brain is an article by Scott Edward (Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute, Spring 2015). He tells of scientist Helen Fisher, who studied college students’ brain scans as they looked at pictures of someone special to them. She was looking for what goes on in our brains when we fall in love: brains become rich in dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitter, especially in areas associated with reward detection, expectation, and social behavior. There was also plentiful dopamine in the rewards circuit, which is associated with pleasure, focused attention, and motivation to acquire rewards. Dopamine is often still found in couples after decades of marriage.

Chemicals that create positive feelings when one falls in love (connected by a pathway to the prefrontal cortex) include oxytocin and vasopressin, which is linked to long-term relationships. Love also deactivates neural pathway responsible for negative emotions of fear and social judgment (connected by a pathway to the amygdala).

Scientists observe that over time passionate love changes to compassionate love, but the spark of romance isn’t necessarily quenched for long-married couples. To help ensure that our love relationship lasts, it’s a good idea to educate ourselves about our behavior meshes with our loved one’s. Are You My Type, Am I Yours? has helped thousands of people sort this out.

Go to wagele.com for reviews of and to order Wagele’s 8 Enneagram books or Beethoven Enneagram CD. Teens will find The Enneagram for Teens and enjoy taking a test to help determine their Enneagram type.

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