December 28, 2017

The Science of Reliance: How we learn to Trust other People.

Love is a whole mess of hormones.

Neurotransmitters such as oxytocin, dopamine, and norepinephrine are “pleasure” chemicals that are released in our brains when we are near those whom we actively adore. The more time we spend with the people we enjoy, doing activities that perpetuate a cycle of trust, the more these powerful chemicals are dispensed throughout our brains. These chemicals are building blocks—the science behind how we learn to love and rely on one another.

Here are seven ways to help build trust and reliance in all relationships:

  1. Pay attention to body language. When we are exploring intimacy with someone, whether we’ve known them for a short or long period of time, we are bound to run into topics that are difficult to express. We need to be sensitive to our partner’s body language and facial expressions. When we are comfortable, we are able to share our vulnerabilities, establishing and reinforcing a circle of trust.
  2. Be specific about what you want. No one can read minds. We create boundaries based on how we want to be considered by our peers and community at large. Individuals come up with their own beautiful and unique ideas about what that means for them. When we are open and honest about what we want, we give others the opportunity to adjust, as well as open the door for compromise.
  3. Ask your partner what they want. I remember the first time a lover asked me what I wanted out of a relationship. I was tongue-tied and flabbergasted. No one had ever asked me before so I hadn’t thought about it. I had a type but I didn’t know what I wanted in a partner. Prompting the exploration of what you and your partner want from your relationship can forge a bond of intimacy that can change your lives.
  4. Anticipate your partner’s desires. Humans are complex. We have daily needs and long term goals. Find one simple thing to do every day to give your partner a hand. It can be small—like asking about their day, or monumental, like introducing them to someone you know in their field. Let them know you’re rooting for them. Gestures of kindness can break the ice and allow each party to let their guard down and share their vulnerabilities. Also, it’s just nice to be nice.
  5. Play games together. All kinds of games. I mean, board games, video games, ball games, role playing games, badminton. Anything. Be on a team together or be adversaries. Compete. Build each other up. When we face challenges together we learn about each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Choose to try and help each other, but if feelings end up getting hurt, this could be a sign that a more intimate relationship may not be on the table. Remember, it’s not about winning or losing, it’s about how you play the game.
  6. Breathe together. It can be helpful to begin by sitting or lying down, side by side, and breathing. Holding hands in a relaxed manner is a surefire way to stimulate the release of oxytocin and fortify bonds of trust. Try it for two to three minutes to begin with and then add a minute everyday. You may be surprised at how well this simple exercise charges your batteries and strengthens the compassion you feel toward one another.
  7. Touch each other, but only when it’s okay. There is no human on the planet who doesn’t have physical boundaries. No matter how macho or sexy or tired or old we are, there are times we yearn to be touched and times that we do not. We need to feel safe when we are intertwined with our lover. Some of us like it rough, others don’t like it unless we are home, and some prefer it after we brush our teeth. It’s all good. We need to practice trust through touch with patience.

We all experience love in our own mysteriously joyful ways. For as many people who live on the planet, there are as many ways to infuse our chemistry. If one person could meet all the other individuals who are alive right now, they could potentially be loved seven billion different ways.

I have had many lovers—not quite seven billion, but I have been in love and loved by exceptional people. We have changed each other’s lives for the better and presented challenges that underscored personal evolution. Most of them are still within reach and available to help as well as be helped. We are veterans in each other’s pain, vulnerability, and happiness. We earned  the privilege of being close to one another by learning each other’s cycles of coping, rebellion, striving, succeeding, and resting.

All of this is scientifically possible. The seven tips I prescribed here are some hypotheses I (and my lovers) have learned through trial and error. True intimacy with another person is challenging as it requires each of us to pursue an intimate connection with our own biology. Humans are, after all, chemically designed to connect with one another.



Love is a Drug.

Training Ourselves to Trust in Love.


Author: Micky Sedota
Image: Instagram @elephantjournal
Apprentice Editor: Johanna L. Vissman
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy Editor: Callie Rushton
Social Editor: Emily Bartran

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