Q. Okay. Here’s the deal. I have been married AND DIVORCED four times, with relationships in between and none of them (I repeat NONE OF THEM) worked. So what is going on here?

A. Excellent question and there are likely a myriad of factors playing into this. For example:

  • Growing up, what was your role-model for relationships? People tend to replicate their childhood role-models or do 180 degrees different. And as you know, 180 degrees from dysfunctional is still dysfunctional—even if it is “different.”
  • Did you have similar or very different backgrounds? When two people bring very different cultural and regional backgrounds to a relationship it adds another layer of things to work through. It can be done, but it takes more energy and commitment to keep the relationship vibrant and on track.
  • Did you have similar moral, ethical, work, play, spiritual, intelligence perspectives? The more “equally yoked” a couple is, the easier it may be to work out the difficulties and bumps that are always part of two people creating a life together in the same environmental space.
  • When confronted with a stressful situation, most brains tend to “downshift.” That is they direct their energy and attention to lower subconscious portions of the brain, away from the high-level brain functions in the pre-frontal cortex (e.g. morality, conscience, planning, cognitive thinking, willpower, and so on). This leaves the brain to “react” from old habits loaded in the 2nd (mammalian) and 1st (reptilian) brain levels—likely unhelpful in resolving conflict successfully.
  • Did you view differences as intriguing, fun, and as adding spice to the relationship or as “You need to be more like me”?

Relationships are one of the most challenging of endeavors—and very worthwhile (in my brain’s opinion) if both parties are mature, functional, and committed to making the relationship work. Recently I attended a seminar that presented some fascinating brain-function research. One of the comments was as follows:

“Current data suggests that only 30 percent of how you relate to others—especially to close friends, sexual relationships, and life partners—has to do with the other individual. Rather, 70 percent has to do with you and your personal past history.”

In my brain’s opinion that puts a different spin on Family-of-origin work—making that investigation and learning process even more critical. It also speaks to the importance of developing a high level of skill in the area of Emotional Intelligence—as your level of EQ is believed to be worth 80 percent of your success in life.