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Aaron Cooper, Ph.D.
• October 21, 2022

What does the brain find more stimulating? Twenty uninterrupted minutes chatting with a spouse, or twenty minutes checking email, surfing websites, receiving texts, and glancing up occasionally to follow the action on the flat screen television? 

Brain researchers have noted that the ding of mail into our inbox or the dong accompanying a new text message provoke a kind of excitement in the brain — what some call a dopamine squirt — that has an addictive quality to it. Seems few of us can resist the neurological arousal of that ounce of pleasure. 

Can calm moments with a partner really compete with that? 

Not on a neurological level. And it seems our daily dose of dopamine squirts keeps going up. Between 1980 and 2008, there's been a 350% increase in the intake of information by the average American via Internet, computer and video games, newspapers, cell phones, television, iPad, etc.* It's a lot of brain arousal for partnership to compete with, and the odds don't seem to be in relationship's corner. 

If "marriage takes work," the challenge nowadays is to accept the truth that when it comes to understanding, supporting, and promoting emotional closeness with a partner, slow is better than fast and focused is better than multi-tasking. Modern marriages can only thrive when we resist the constant pull of fast-moving electronics and carve out time for: 

  • A leisurely walk around the block with your partner once or twice a week, all devices powered off. (Hold hands as you stroll.) 

  • Your smartphone put away — and stays away — when you’re dining in a restaurant together. (There’s rarely an emergency.) 

  • A face-to-face chat on a comfy sofa at least 3-4 times each week — no human or electronic interruptions. (Sit close.) 

  • Turn a quick peck into something slower: extend the time whenever your lips touch your spouse's skin (whether cheek or mouth or neck). Transform the millisecond kiss into one that lingers 2 or 3 seconds. (It transmits, "I mean it.") 

Aaron Cooper, Ph.D.

During Dr. Cooper’s forty plus years as a psychotherapist, he has been exposed to a great many therapeutic approaches and schools of thought and has assembled his own eclectic framework. How he approaches couples counseling differs in some ways from how he approaches family and individual therapy, but all his work is informed by the belief that our emotions tell us a lot about ourselves and our relationships — and so are critically important to understand.
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