How Resilient Are You in Love and Life?

jack-in-the-box2   If you became embroiled in an argument with your partner, felt rejected by a lover, or lost a loved one, would you bounce back fairly quickly?  Or would you remain angry, mired in self-recrimination, stuck in despair?  Take this quiz to see how resilient you are. (And you might also want to ask your partner to take this quiz.)

Answer each question True or False.  If you are tempted to think long and hard about a question, or if you feel that there are too many nuances and exceptions, resist.  The most accurate results come from making a snap judgment about whether a question is true or false about you.

  1. If I have a minor disagreement with a close friend or spouse—closer to “No, it’s your turn to do the dishes” than “You cheated on me!”—it typically leaves me out of sorts for hours or longer.
  2. If another driver uses the shoulder to zoom up to the front of a long line of traffic waiting to merge, I am likely to shake it off easily rather than fume about it for a long time.
  3. When I have experienced profound grief, such as the death of someone close to me, it has interfered with my ability to function for many months.
  4. If I make a mistake at work and get reprimanded for it, I can shrug it off and take it as a learning experience.
  5. If I try a new restaurant and find that the food is awful and the service snooty, it ruins my whole evening.
  6. If I’m stuck in traffic because of an accident up ahead, when I pass the bottleneck I typically floor it to vent my frustration but still see the inside.
  7. If my home water heater breaks, it does not affect my mood very much because I know I can just call a plumber and get it fixed.
  8. If I meet a wonderful man/woman and ask if he/she would like to get together again, being told no typically puts me in a bad mood for hours or even days.
  9. If I am being considered for an important professional award or promotion and it goes to someone I consider less qualified, I can usually move on quickly.
  10. At a party, if I’m having a conversation with an interesting stranger and get completely – when he/she asks me about myself, I tend to replay the conversation—this time including what I should have said—for hours or even days afterward.

Give yourself one point for each True answer to questions 1,3,5,6,8, and 10.  Give yourself zero points for each False answer.  Give yourself one point for each False answer to questions 2,4,7, and 9; score zero points for each True answer.  Anything above seven suggests you are Slow to Recover.  If you scored below three, you are Fast to Recover and thus quite Resilient.

This quiz is from a book by neuroscientist Richard Davidson that shows how differences in the way our brains are wired affect our resiliency.  Do not despair, though, if your score shows you are not that resilient.  According to Davidson, you can change your brain’s wiring to become more resilient if you change what you are saying to yourself or if you engage in the practice of meditation. 

Davidson, Richard J. and Begley, Sharon (2012)  The Emotional Life of Your Brain. New York: Hudson Street Press.


So That’s Why I Fall in Love with the Wrong Person


Blame it on the chemistry.  Yes, it is chemistry that causes you to fall in love with the wrong person. That tingly euphoric feeling that is there soon after you meet that special person comes from a surge of dopamine that makes you feel so good but it also impairs your judgment.1   You then become obsessed with having the high that comes from every text, every moment with your loved one.

Yet, you aren’t really experiencing the totality of your loved one—you are experiencing only the ecstatic feeling when you are connected with him/her.  And, like any addict, you need increasing amounts and doses of dopamine in order to continue to feel the ecstasy.  What you are experiencing is “romantic intoxication”.2 Then, when your partner does not instantly reply to a text or isn’t available for an entire day, you start experiencing withdrawal.  So you frantically try to reestablish the connection as soon as possible.  At this point you don’t love the person—you love the ecstatic feeling.  And you will do anything to be with that person, even if it is the wrong one.

  1. Doidge, Norman (2007) The brain that changes itself. N.Y.: Penguin Books, p. 115.
  2. Liebowitz, M. (1983). The chemistry of love. Boston: Little, Brown & Co.

Can Men More Easily Separate Sex and Love?

lets_hook_up_full   Men usually get hooked into the passionate part of love first while women often need affection before the sex. At least that is what men think is true of women and women think is true of men.

As one woman reports, “When I say ‘I love you’ to my husband, sex is the furthest thing from my mind. But when my husband says ‘I love you’ it is usually when we are having sex.” Both sexes are trying to separate passionate from affectionate love. As a consequence, women are expecting men to use tender words to achieve their ultimate aim, sex. And men are expecting women not to proffer sex until they have heard the tender words.

The reality, though, is that men want the tenderness just as much as the sex and women get just as excited by sexual stimuli as do men 1,2.  What both men and women want is the same—the passion and the affection–all of it at the same time.

The hookup, which is a recent trend among high school and college-aged men and women, adds a twist to the way sex and love is seen.  A hookup is a one-night stand, with no commitment for future interactions.  It may include kissing, intercourse, oral sex, or no sex. 

In a survey of high school and college students, Laura Sessions Stepp (Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love and Lose at Both, Penguin 2007) found that men and women equally engaged in hookups, but that women regretted having sex during the hookup more than did men. 

Does the trend towards hookups, especially when they are fueled by social media and alcohol, decrease the chances of young adults learning the skills necessary for a lasting loving relationship?  Hopefully, further research will give us answers.

  1. Hendrick, S.S. and Hendrick, C. (1995). Gender differences and similarities in sex and love, Personal Relationships, 2, 1, 55-65.
  2. Fisher, W.A. and Byrne, D. (1978). Sex differences in response to erotica: Love versus lust, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36, 2, 117-125.