It Had to Be You.. Didn’t It?

I met my husband 32 years ago today. The story involves a raccoon coat, a mud puddle, a five-minute conversation, and then a call to my mother to tell her I’d “met the man I’m going to marry.” To which she replied, “What about your boyfriend?” (but that’s another story!).

We talked about soccer (not exactly a passion for either of us), and that’s the only topic I remember. We laughed about something, and it seems that we forged some connection over finding the same, arcane thing humorous. That’s all I can tell you about why I knew he was “the one.”

David Brooks’ book, The Social Animal, is interesting. Reviews were mixed, and I’m not far enough into it to have a definitive opinion about it (though I’m disappointed when I have to put it down), but it has me thinking about the role of the emotions in making decisions or forming relationships. We often think we are making rational analyses when in fact our intuitive faculties are hard at work adding emotionally-driven data to choices that seem more analytical.

His argument is put forth through a narrative about a fictional couple, Harold and Erica, beginning with their parents’ courtships. And Brooks expounds on all the calculations we are going through, with evolutionary bases for mate-selection, when we are first getting to know a potential partner. I must have been doing all that with my own husband, and something about the five-minute conversation started the ball rolling towards a life together.

It’s a bit disconcerting to take away the romantic, “It had to be you!” aspects of the narrative we’ve woven, and to break down the parts into so much — well — chemistry. Not the romantic kind but the brain chemistry kind. Or are they the same thing?

I’m fascinated by interpersonal neurobiology. I can’t read enough about it. It’s a field that is exploding, as study after study comes out explaining why people need each other, and how our brains are formed and shaped in the presence of others who know us and respond to us. The work in that realm has been influential in my certainty that SPACIOUS is a needed venture in a culture wherein people often feel isolated, disconnected, over-wired and under-experienced.

Many studies indicate that 95% of communication is nonverbal. We’re always assessing and taking in data well beyond what is said. That’s why it didn’t much matter that my man and I only talked about soccer back in the mud puddle in 1979, I guess.

Yet what happens in a world where we are so infrequently gathered with others in undistracted, “present-ness?” What happens when we form and maintain so many of our relationships online? What happens when we only have a literal transcript of words that are devoid of the elements of touch, gesture, personal space dynamics, vocal elements (pitch, tone, speed), posture, kinesics, eye contact, body language, and facial expression?

One thing that happens is that we are known to a lesser degree than we can be if we are in person with someone, with all of the neurobiological processes happening in the here and now.

I’m just beginning to learn about all of this. I’d love to learn more (and many of you probably could educate me and point me to resources and/or set me straight on anything I’ve got wrong… feel free).

But as much as I do know, I’m thankful for the mud-puddle conversation even as I can’t break down the elements of it into a rational analysis of what happened next and why. And I’m thankful that people are wired to need each other. And I’m thankful for amazing people in my life who have shaped me (literally, in my brain, as it turns out!) and taken the time to know me, and given me the gift of knowing them.

Cool, mysterious stuff.

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