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Polyvagal Theory and Intimate Relationships

In this video from, Dr. Stephen Porges discusses how polyvagal theory is involved in forming romantic relationships. (If you haven’t heard of polyvagal theory yet, start here.) The formation of safe, healthy, successful romantic relationships works a little like a combination lock that takes a specific order of code to unlock it. The first step of the code is the activation of the social engagement system, which allows the potential partners to feel safe and comfortable with each other. This allows them to be in close proximity and develop a physical connection. Then, oxytocin and neural peptides get activated to create a powerful social bond between the two people.

“But if you flip the order, you’re in trouble.” Porges shares. “You get bonded, but you might not like the person.” This may be why parental and protective figures in our lives ask those pesky questions like, “Does she (or he) treat you well?” They are wanting to find out if we feel safe and comfortable with our new boo!

If you’re interested in couples counseling to help increase the sense of comfort and connection in your relationship, you can peruse our couples counselors here, or visit the Get Started page to request an appointment.

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