A few months ago, I went on a date with a 65-year-old. Who lives in another country 80 per cent of the time.
My head told me it didn’t make sense to date someone who was geographically impractical and almost 20 years older than the oldest man I’d ever dated.
But my heart urged me to give it a go, because I hadn’t been on a date in ages and the friend who set us up said he was a kind, decent and altogether awesome fella.
So I ignored my head, I listened to my heart and I went on the date.
He did seem really kind and decent and even handsome, in a Harrison Ford (‘now’ not ‘back then’) kinda way. Yet I sat through that date with a niggling little feeling in my gut that I was wasting my time. Turns out, my gut was right.
The old “should I listen to my head or heart?” dilemma can lead to plenty of sleepless nights for anyone attempting to engage in any kind of romantic relationship with someone they’re not 100 per cent sure about.
So what if I told you a more successful approach to dating and relationships might be to use the ‘three brain theory’?
When my therapist introduced me to this concept recently, it was one of those profound light bulb moments you really hope you’ll have when you commit to any kind of counselling.
Without getting bogged down in too much psycho-babble, a simple explanation for how it works is that we all have not one, but three brains — the head brain, the heart brain and the gut brain — and they all work together to help us be human.
The head brain is best for analysing information and applying reason and logic. It comes in handy when you need to solve a problem.
The heart brain is all for sensing emotions, memories and feelings. It switches on when you’re watching a sad movie or having really great sex.
The gut brain is more commonly known as your gut instinct. It’s the one that kicks in, intuitively, if you’re in danger or when you need to respond to something quickly.
Therapist Rachel Voysey from The Relationship Room says: “The incredible difference about using your gut brain and making a decision intuitively is that we’re synthesising hundreds, maybe thousands of things that we know about that issue, whereas the brain can only work with limited facts and logic. All of our related experiences are integrated into that feeling of ‘knowing’.”
WATCH: Dating expert Mel Schilling on the importance of listening to your gut in the early stages of a relationship. (Post continues.)
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So if you buy into the three brain theory that the gut brain is all about self-preservation through intuition, why don’t we trust it more often?
When it comes to love and relationships, I make decisions based on my head or my heart and I choose to ignore that inexplicable gut feeling.
I’d rather listen to my head telling me the sensible stuff — that he’s the right age or he’s got a great job or we have the same interests. And I’ll dismiss the nagging feeling that we have zero chemistry.
My heart might give me the warm and fuzzies because he’s seriously handsome or a friggin’ amazing kisser. But I’ll conveniently discount that gut instinct urging me to run a mile because he drinks excessively or because he’s already been divorced three times (alarm bells, anyone?).
I can always hear my gut. I just don’t listen to her. Even though she’s usually the one trying to tell me what I really need to know.
Women apparently have a valuable advantage in this area, too. Plenty of researchers now say ‘women’s intuition’ actually does exist, because they’ve somehow proven female brains are scientifically wired to be more intuitive than men’s.
I’ve even read that some intelligence agencies suggest women make better spies because of that heightened intuition.
So from now on, I’m committed to giving my third brain the kudos and the attention she deserves. If women in the CIA are being encouraged to trust their gut instincts to protect national security, I reckon it’d be wise to listen to mine on my next date.