When my wife and I first began courting, she orchestrated several world-class moves that absolutely sealed my fate. Before I provide you with any of the gory, intimate details, let me offer up a little pertinent social neuroscience as relevant backstory.
I know many people don’t believe it – including a number of neuroscientists – but when it comes to the brain, there’s no one at fault and no one to blame: we’re all doing the very best the current state of our brains and bodies will allow in response to whatever stressors we’re having to deal with in any moment. So we can’t really blame anything that happens in relationships on women, or men. To a great degree, much is orchestrated below conscious awareness by our genes and hormones, especially oxytocin for women.
But even more precisely, special genes hiding out in the brain’s patch cords – called interneurons – are mostly to point the finger at for both what goes on in the great wide world, but also between any two people. Interneurons, as the name implies, are brain cells that run short axon fibers between cells inside the brain. When women are “reproductively receptive” the theory goes, oxytocin interneurons express something called Translating Ribosome Affinity Purification (TRAP) genes. These genes make oxy interneurons run wild. TRAP genes are partly why 16-year-old girls in the throes of their first romantic relationship have “enthusiasm” that is almost impossible to curb (16-year-old boys and testosterone is a topic for another blog, another day). That enthusiasm continues to live in the brain and body long after our reproductive urges are but a faded memory.
Life Loves Life
Apart from what any individual living being may need or want, life is a meta-process with its own agenda … to keep on keeping on. And it will do whatever it takes to optimize that possibility, including, I suspect, wipe out or transform the whole human race if that’s what it takes. You see, life isn’t especially species-philic – or phobic, even though 99% of all species that have ever existed are currently extinct. Life has little concern that human beings think they are the pinnacle of development to date. Up to this point, our brain cells and our bacteria and our super-dynamic, social genes – i.e. life – want humans to continue to replicate, although that want may be waning, at least here in the West. American women are not only marrying later and having children later, but they’re also having many fewer children than ever before. Currently only 26% of 18-to-32-year-olds are married. By comparison, Generation Xers tallied 36% married during that window, while Baby Boomers came in at 48%, and the Silent Generation – who came in before Boomers – placed 65% in holy matrimony during that age range. But I digress.
And so, while life may love life, it doesn’t appear to be especially attached to the form it gets expressed in. My best sense though, is that life loves life best when it’s expressed just like that – as love. Which takes us back to our story.
Love and Limbic Hijacking Are Mutually Exclusive
The early days of our courtship gave my wife an opportunity to express her TRAP genes in ways that were not only oxy-sweet for her, but extremely nourishing for me as well. Intuitively, she recognized that my difficulty with self-expression could find ready expression in our relationship if she made it absolutely safe for me to “say anything,” to say the stupidest, most outlandish, provocative things in the world and not draw even the smallest negative comment in response. The body’s neuroceptive need for safety, as a precursor to buried trauma presenting itself for healing, is paramount in every healthy human relationship. She was (and continues to be) great at the Golden Rule of Improv – meet every expression with the invitation, “Yes, and.” One of the ways I used to think we co-creatively came up with doing that – but now I’m thinking it was primarily her sly idea – was to begin writing a novel together. So we did – The Outrageous Adventures of Rosie and Griff. As you can well imagine, Rosie and Griff were able to go places and do things that the two of us had neither the money nor the energy to take on in real life. A lot of their adventures took place in bedrooms in Bali and ballrooms in Vienna.
There are several other essential qualities my wife possesses that sealed my fate as well. She enjoys cooking … when she doesn’t HAVE to. My own mother conditioned me with the cliche, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” And even though I don’t want it to be true, and even though I’m in a constant “awareness practice” NOT to have my stomach be ruled by me or anyone else, more often than not, it is. My wife is a GREAT cook. That makes her undeniably the First Lady of My GI Tract.
She also possesses a number of other sterling qualities (amongst thousands); I’ll only mention a few more here. One is – and this is a little hard to admit – her brain is more balanced and integrated than mine. She doesn’t have such a hard and fast “cortical bias.” This allows her to much more easily “feel her way” into wisdom, rather than muscle her way in, as I sometimes find myself needing to do.
My wife also is a person with a wild and active “Impeccability Practice.” If she says she’s going to do something, no matter how wild, crazy or complex, or simple, sane and mundane, odds are pretty high that her word will become reality. Combine that with her ongoing commitment to Radical Accountability and … what’s to feel TRAPPED by or get limbically hijacked about?
Oh, and did I mention that she has a great sense of humor? And that the dogs love her best? And if we ever meet in person some time, remind me to tell you the story about the Thanksgiving frozen peas for the knees.