A Five Star Practice for Creating Beautiful Relationships [35]

In Love, Sex, and Relationships by Dr. Keith Witt

iStock_000007837572XSmall Say you’re single and yearn for love. What’s the first step? “What do I do?” “How do I find someone where we’re both into each other?” “How can I tell if we’re good for each other?” “What’s the difference between someone who’ll rock my world or ruin my life?” I’ve heard these questions for forty years, and here’s one answer—the Five Star Practice for creating beautiful relationships. The Five Stars are five questions you ask yourself about other people. That’s right—just ask yourself these five questions about everyone you meet and your chances of having successful relationships skyrockets. This practice is awesomely simple: Ask yourself these questions about everyone you meet:
  1. Is there erotic polarity between this person and me? Is there a sexual spark?
  2. Does this person stay healthy physically and psychologically?
  3. If we were in relationship and had conflict, would this person be able and willing to do what it takes to get back to love?
  4. Would this person be a superior parent?
  5. Does this person live life from a sense of deep, even, sacred, purpose? If I do, would they sense it and admire it in me?
If the answer to one of these questions is “no,” a relationship with this person is much more likely to end in negative drama. If the answers to all five questions are “yes,” or “maybe,” he or she is more likely to be a fun, honest, constant lover. The best way to attract a Five Star Candidate is to notice these qualities in everybody you meet—and also in yourself. Try asking these questions about lots of different people for a couple of weeks, whether you’re interested in them or not. You’ll be amazed at what you discover. If you like how you’re changing, do it a few months more and noticing the Five Stars will become hard-wired into your nervous system. Neuroscience sidebar: We learn new routines quickly in the left hemisphere of our frontal cortex (our left frontal lobe), but our habitual responses come from our right frontal cortex (our right frontal lobe), which learns very slowly. That’s why it’s hard to learn new habits quickly. Our left hemisphere needs to decide on the new routine many times before it becomes a reflexive habit that our right hemisphere will automatically kick in without us having to think and decide. There will be more on this in future blogs. The Five Stars arose out of a conversation Becky and I were having with Ethan and Zoe when they were teenagers, around ten years ago. We were all hanging out in the kitchen and talking about relationships—a frequent topic. Ethan, who was just beginning to date, asked, “What do I look for in girls?” Meaning, “What do I look for besides she’s hot and I like talking with her?” (not bad criteria themselves, now that I think about it). Challenged to give everybody a useful response, I reached for the simplest, most fundamental qualities I’ve discovered that characterize superior partners—which turned out to be the Five Stars. These five dimensions aren’t random—they are conclusions based on my decades of clinical practice and massive bodies of neurobiology, psychology, anthropology, and sociology research. Some of my favorite findings include:
  • We absorb huge amounts of information just meeting someone briefly for the first time. One study looked at the differences in interpersonal evaluation between people who had three to five seconds of face-to-face contact with another, and those who knew another for five weeks. Both groups had about the same accuracy in evaluating the other person.
  • Our brains naturally—nonconsciously—scan the environment to look for threat, safety, beauty, social position, and potential need/desire gratification (like food, water, sexual partners, warmth, light—basically all the tasty/secure/comforting/yummy stuff we yearn for).
  • Even better, we can train our brains what to look for. For instance, if you’ve every picked fruit or vegetables from a garden, you’ll find that very quickly you automatically start discerning the ripe from the unripe, and where on the tree or vine these prime delicacies are likely to be hanging out. In other words, brains love to play, “Where’s Waldo?” with people, objects, or qualities we decide we want to monitor for.
  • When we make eye contact with people, mirror neurons in both our brains resonate, revealing our states of consciousness and intentionality—what we’re feeling/thinking and what we intend towards each other. This is an imperfect system since all of us can lie and hide from ourselves or others, but we share quite a lot with someone just meeting them in person and looking into their eyes.
Back to Ethan’s question, “What do I look for in girls?” I caught everyone’s eye and began, “First, look for erotic polarity. There has to be some sexual chemistry to make dating worthwhile. If you have zero erotic spark, what’s the use of dating? Often, at best, you’ll go out and end up liking them and want to be attracted. People try to talk themselves into it—you know, “She has a pretty face,” or, “He’s such a nice guy.” Trying to talk yourself into sexual attraction is usually a disaster. You need that spark of erotic polarity to give a love affair a chance.” Sidebar—sexual spark? At this point you might be asking, “How do I know if there’s a sexual spark?” Just for a moment, reflect back on all the people you can remember feeling sexy with. Now do the same for a bunch of people you had absolutely no sexual attraction for. There’s your answer. At this point I had everybody’s attention. Becky said, “Wait, let me write this down,” and grabbed a pen. Inspired by their collective interest, I continued. “Next, does this person do what it takes to stay healthy physically and psychologically? Are they addicted to anything? Do they neglect their body? Do they let important relationships languish, or routinely dismiss or attack others who offend them?  If they encounter a problem with their physical, emotional, or relational well-being, do they seek out and receive help to get better?” One of the kids said, “How do you know all this stuff just meeting a person?” I responded, “All you need to do is ask yourself the questions. Your nervous system will eventually start just noticing erotic polarity and whether someone effectively maintains physical and psychological health. These questions become habits of perception.” “What else?” said practical Becky, scribbling furiously. I continued, “A third question to ask yourself is, ‘If you were in relationship with this person and there was conflict, would they be able and willing to do what it takes to get back to love?’ This means talking, self-reflecting, asking for help, forgiving, and refusing to stay angry or alienated.” Everyone in the family nodded. The four of us had years of experience getting back to love with each other and friends, and had also seen relationships end in conflict. I continued with a question I knew would raise some hackles. “A fourth question is, ‘Would this person be a superior parent?’” Zoe said something like, “Wait! What? I’m only fourteen! What possible difference does it make if a guy would be a superior parent. I don’t want kids with him, I just want to date him!” I smiled at her, “I know it sounds weird, but think about it. If you don’t believe someone would be a superior parent, you’re intuitively sensing something egocentric, or selfish, or self-destructive, or narcissistic, or whatever would be bad for a growing child. Besides the imperfections of birth control (remember, nothing tests at 100% effective except surgery), these kinds of selfish traits of non-superior-parenting types will show up with lovers, meaning with you.” Seeing them nod, I plunged forward to the last question. “Finally, does this person have deep soul’s purpose, or are they seeking it? Is there some sacred service they commit to—like their work, family, art, or a spiritual path? Also, will this person see and value you living from—or seeking—deep soul’s purpose? It completely sucks to have something sacred to you that your lover doesn’t see or dismisses.” I wanted to emphasize here that there are differences between masculine and feminine types of people, so I went on a little. “Deep soul’s purpose is especially important for men. Guys with no purpose, or who refuse to acknowledge the pain of no purpose and seek meaningful passions, tend to collapse in the clutch in intimate relationships. Even worse is a guy who organizes his life just around you. Women tend to be repulsed by this.” Both Becky and Zoe nodded at this last part. People’s eyes were starting to glaze a little, so I quickly wrapped up. “The best way to use these questions is to ask them about everyone you see, whether they’re a potential partner or not. You want to train your nervous system to just notice automatically these qualities in people, like red hair, or brown eyes. Even more importantly, if you want to attract a Five-Star person, be a Five-Star person. Cultivate all these qualities—like me and your mom!” I put my arm around Becky, looked triumphantly at the kids, and we all laughed. Becky posted the Five Stars on the fridge, and I started sharing them with my clients. I’ve had so many requests for them that I keep a stack of handouts in my office, and will be presenting the Five Stars as a topic for the first time in a November 11 TEDx talk on “A Five Star Practice for Creating Beautiful Relationships” (find out more about TEDxAmericanRiviera at: http://tedxamericanriviera.com/686tedxamericanriviera-2nd-annual-conference-announced/). Try practicing being the Five Stars and noticing the Five Stars in other people. If you’re in relationship with someone, ask your partner and yourself the questions and see how you both answer. If it’s “no” to any of the five, don’t rush out and hire a divorce lawyer—have a conversation. If it gets nasty, practice Star #3 and do what it takes to get back to love. If that doesn’t work, you can call a therapist for help. However you use them, you’ll be amazed at how quickly your social world expands, and how you blossom and deepen utilizing the Five Stars. As you gradually become a Five-Star candidate, you’ll tend to attract other Five-Star people. Depth attracts depth, generosity attracts generosity, and love attracts love. “Love attracts love”—a foundation tenet of the School of Love: