Archives For romantic gestures

I believe “Attached” by Amir Levine, M.D. & Rachel Heller is a “must read” book for those interested in pursuing healthy, loving relationships (see my review). I am excited to be able to present the following e-Interview with the authors.

At and on my Twitter feed I discuss romantic gestures (specifically beyond the bedroom). Can you comment on how romantic gestures might play out for/be perceived by people of the three types of attachment styles?

Romantic gestures are super important. They solidify our secure base and form the foundation for our emotional and physiological well-being. It’s easy to take our secure base for granted with our busy schedules but by doing so we undermine our very foundations (for more about the secure base, one of the most important concepts for understanding romantic relationships, see chapter 2 in ATTACHED). Romantic gestures don’t need to be elaborate or expensive. In fact, simple gestures can often be more rewarding. Each couple has to find the gestures they’re most comfortable with. If, for example, one of the partners has an avoidant attachment style, a fun and less overtly romantic joint activity might work best.

If I am understanding the book, you posit that the origin of the three attachment styles is rooted in evolution. To me this implies a genetic component. But then you also state that the three styles are “plastic” and can change over time. Can you comment on the nature vs. nurture aspect of the theory? I tested out “anxious”. Is there hope for me to become truly secure? Or is it more like a short person training to increase their vertical leap in basketball to be “taller?” i.e. An anxious person can learn to layer the “secure” traits onto an underlying anxious style?

People are sold on a somewhat outdated idea that our early relationships with our parents determine our adult relationships. Attachment science has a much more sophisticated and promising view of the topic. We are extremely social beings with a remarkable ability to adapt. Our basic biology plays a role but is greatly influenced by our environment.

One experiment comes to mind: It is known that rat moms that were licked and groomed a lot as pups become mothers who are high in licking and grooming and are more gregarious and less anxious. Rats that are licked and groomed less as pups become low licking and grooming mothers, are less social and more prone to anxiety.

But take a low licking and grooming adult female and house her in an enriched environment, with lots of toys and other friendly females and within several weeks something remarkable happens: She changes to a high licking and grooming mother. The opposite is also true — take a high licking and grooming adult female and expose her to a lot of stress and she becomes a low licking and grooming mother. These behaviors have been shown to have direct effect on turning on and off certain genes in our brains.

As humans we have even more complex social skills. We can change a lot as adults. In ATTACHED we carved out a way to better guide our relationships to a more secure place—whether we’re dating or already in a relationship. We give strategies for creating something similar to the enriched environment in this experiment and warn you against interactions that can be deleterious to you.

I love your comments I’ve read elsewhere about the term “needy.” Can you mention that here?

You’re referring to the dependency paradox. It’s one of the most profound insights of the field of attachment. For some people it’s counterintuitive at first.
In our society, we stigmatize dependence and put emphasis on independence. But dependence is a biological fact. Once we become attached, we’re dependent whether we want to be or not. The interesting thing is that the more our needs for closeness, support and reassurance are taken care, the less needy we become. We’re then able to turn our attention outwards, be more creative and pursue our dreams.

If there is one negative to the book in my mind, it is that it could be used as justification/ammunition for dissolution of a marriage (e.g. “We are in an Anxious/Avoidant relationship and we have no hope of success. Let’s split.”) instead of working on it (vis a vis a book like “Hold Me Tight” by Dr. Sue Johnson). Is that your intent? Can you address this?

Many books and approaches help couples who come to therapy to mend their relationships. We took a broader view and emphasized attachment styles as an important finding people can use in their daily life regardless of their relationship status.

For people who are dating, there is an opportunity to find a more suitable mate by figuring out their own attachment style and that of their date.

For those with mismatching attachment styles, we guide them, based on their specific attachment style, towards greater security. We’ve received many responses from readers who’ve used the “relationship inventory” to see destructive patterns in their relationship and change them.

Even when faced with trying times and difficult moments in our lives, we are strong believers in the power of attachment to heal. The closeness created by caring for a loved one in times of need and being by their side can be immense.

It’s also not as simple it sounds to “give permission to leave”. Attachment is stronger than that. And when given the choice, we believe people will want to make their relationship better and stay. That’s just the power of attachment. It’s very difficult and excruciatingly painful to leave.

We did, however, also have another group in mind, those who are in abusive relationships — whose physical and emotional integrity is threatened by the person who’s closest them — and they can’t muster the strength to leave. By teaching them more about attachment and why they get cold feet every time they want to leave and by giving them hope, we tried to help them.

For more information, including an online attachment style quiz, see:

The authors tweet at: .


Long Distance Love?

February 6, 2011 — 1 Comment


I Love You Txt

How do you show love to your distant heartmate?


I was one of the original tele-commuters, traveling back and forth between Vancouver and Columbus, OH for work in the 80’s. I was never gone more than two weeks at a time, but at the end of those two weeks I was always ready to go home. I craved face to face communication; the kind of affirmative words that only a smile can convey.

Flash forward to today. The internet has been a blessing to many, connecting potential soulmates across the miles. However, I would be very surprised if one side effect of this has not been an increase in long distance relationships. Add to this overseas military deployment and there will be a lot of couples away from each other this Valentine’s Day.

I would love to hear your ideas about how heartmates can to bridge the gap this Valentine’s Day.  Here are a few to get things started.

Words of Affirmation
  • Plan a romantic txt barrage. A top 10 (or ?) countdown of the things you most appreciate about your heartmate.
  • Send a poem or loving message on the back of numbered postcards – one word at a time. Have your heartmate puzzle together the clues to rebuild the message. As an added bonus, have the cards form a picture on the opposite side.
  • @Teresacapocci  A Video SenT dirrecT2Phone Singing LOVE SONG!
Quality Time
  • @deepbluesealove I’ve done romantic movies w/LD BF on phone, both watching movie while talking on phone. Could have dinner/dessert/flowers delivered earlier. Ex & I were LD for years, we’d even decorate Christmas trees via webcam, etc. We also would make private chat rooms & play romantic tunes… Can watch movie at same time via X Box Live on Netflix, send movie invite.
  • @Teresacapocci  Show up at door Step Unexpectedly Holding a Rose in one hand & HearT in The OTher! BEST GifT “EVER!” … @Ugogurl It just might not be an option though… distance, expense, time, day of the week, no holidays.
Receiving Gifts
  • Many items can be sent. Subscriptions (flowers, chocolates, chips), if you can customize them, might leave a year long impression.
  • Mail order catalogs often allow you to gift items. I love the ThinkGeek catalog, for example.
  • @childsplayx2  I once sent GF’s roommate a gift to hide along with clues where to find it. Each clue led to another friend. We got married.
  • Gordon Simmons (Facebook). Contact the friends/co-workers of the person who will see said person (sorry, you didn’t say what gender) throughout the day and arrange to have them give a little “love momento” on behalf of the one who lives far away. Little cards, a flower, tickets to an event of some sort, a treat of some sorts, etc. Make the entire day special.
  • @Teresacapocci  Send Tix 4 <3 2FLYThere!
Acts of Service
  • Arrange to have a cleaning service drop in to give your heartmate a break from day to day chores. Could also arrange to have the car picked up and serviced.
  • Order a meal that will be delivered for Valentine’s Day dinner.
  • Send a pre-addressed box to collect your spouse’s receipts. Do their taxes.
Physical Touch
  • Send a gift certificate to a spa along with a “touching” note.
  • Mail something personal and tactile – a shirt, a stuffed animal, mittens – that your heartmate will be able to cuddle/use as a reminder of you.
  • Arrange for a surprise proxy hug to be delivered by a friend or relative that lives closer.







Dissecting Romance

In one sense, it’s not terribly romantic to dissect romance, but I’ve started doing just that. I want to help others learn how to create meaningful romantic gestures for their heartmate. And yes, I believe this is a skill that can be learned.


As I outline my thinking, I’d love your input. (I give my first talk on the subject in two weeks at a men’s breakfast, so I really need to get my thinking in writing!) This is my framework so far:

When constructing a Rated G Romantic gesture, I think I’ve decided that it basically comes down to what I am calling lenses & layers.

“Lenses” help focus the possibilities. They are about really “knowing” him or her. These lenses include your heartmate’s:

  • love language(s) – e.g. Words of Affirmation
  • tendency to be an introvert or extrovert
  • predisposition to be a risk taker
  • phobias – e.g. My Mrs. is phobic of “hanging rides.” A gondola ride would be no fun.
  • lifestyle choices – e.g. There’s no point taking a vegetarian to a steak house.
  • stature.
  • preferences – e.g. roses vs. orchids, rap vs. jazz, etc.

All romantic gestures must also me authentic, “martyr free”, within a budget and safe.

“Layers,” on the other hand, are general concepts that can be used to tweak any romantic idea that has made it through the lenses. They have the potential to take an ordinary romantic gesture and make it lavish. Layers that come to mind include:

  • illusion or surprise – more precisely, the unexpected.
  • allusion
  • firsts
  • bests
  • “returning to the scene”
  • taking risks
  • unique /once in a lifetime
  • the opportunity to laugh
  • excitement
  • sentimentality
  • creating a memory
  • themes
  • music
  • fire
  • water
  • location
  • timing
  • clues/contests/scavenger hunts
  • recruiting friends

All of these can be applied to embellish regular romantic gestures or layered deep for special days like Valentine’s Day, birthdays and anniversaries.

I’m just getting started. Can you think of any lenses or layers I should add to my lists? I am sure there are more. And come to think of it, “Lens” & “Layers” are sort of mixed metaphors. Anyone have anything better? My Mrs. suggested “lenses & frames,” like glasses, but that loses the alliteration. Any ideas? Maybe something about tools?

Thanks in advance for any help you can offer. Your comments are greatly appreciated.

27 Candles, 27 Memories

August 11, 2010 — 2 Comments

I bought my Mrs. car parts for her anniversary. No, I am not kidding. It is what she wanted and I learned long ago that the first rule of gift giving is “give them what they want,” not what you think is proper or cool or romantic. Gifts are all about the receiver. So when she suggested that we re-chrome a number of items for her 1956 Olds that we are restoring, I was happy to oblige – at least I could say I got her something shiny for our special day. :-)

Gift giving is about the receiver, not the giver. Give them what they want.

Gift giving is about the receiver, not the giver. My Mrs. wanted re-chromed car parts!

However, while the pieces we had restored are a beautiful and pragmatic gift, the work did not come cheap. Implication? Our anniversary date would definitely have to be on a budget.

So I started planning a picnic date. I found a lovely secluded location up a mountainside beside a small waterfall. It was perfect. But then, a week before our date, my Mrs. pulled her achilles tendon. Fortunately the ultrasound showed that it was just a strain, not ruptured or torn, but for obvious reasons there would be no mountain hike possible on our date and the terrain was just too rough for a wheelchair (I actually checked). This location and the activities it made possible would have to wait for another day.

Plan B. With all romantic gestures, it is a good idea to have a plan b just in case. And a plan C, D & E if it is a really important date. :) Be flexible. In this case I think plan B actually turned out better than what I had originally planned.

The weather could not have been lovelier. I walked home from school energized by a gorgeous Spring day. The sun felt warm, but not too hot, and the only clouds in the sky, far from being menacing, were like fluffy props hung for imagining and reminiscing. Continue Reading…

It was our 26th anniversary on May 14th and we spent the better part of the day upgrading our kitchen floor. We installed the new vinyl plank flooring I bought the Mrs. as a present.

Tres romantic, n’est pas? Normally, no. Household upgrades are not romantic for most couples. However, for us it was.

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