Should you trust your gut feeling about relationships?
Go with your gut. Trust your gut feelings. Follow your instincts. How many times have we heard this advice? But is there such a thing as a gut feeling about relationships and can science prove it?
Actually, there is scientific evidence that suggests gut feelings have a very solid biological base. And it’s all to do with our brains elaborate method of keeping us safe from harm.
Not only that, but studies have proven that the feelings do actually arise from our guts. In other words, our digestive tracts are key to the process that warns us of impending danger.
Gut feeling about relationships and biology
Here’s how it works. The digestive tract communicates with the brain via the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is a kind of long and extensive two-way motorway 100 times larger than the surface of our skin. Our gut sends messages along this motorway.
In fact, this nerve sends more messages than any other organ in the human body. So, it’s fair to say we receive and send a considerable amount of information along this nerve. There are messages from the brain to the gut and messages from the gut to the brain.
It is this continuous information that spurs us to make a decision about any situation we are in.
Scientific studies on gut feelings
A research team at Florida State University, headed up by neuroscientist Dr. Linda Rinaman, are exploring the importance of the vagus nerve in relation to gut feelings.
“The neuroscience of gut feelings has come a long way in my lifetime and we are learning more valuable lessons every day,” Rinaman said. “Vagal feedback signals are very protective and encourage caution.”
So we’ve established there is a connection between the gut and the brain, but how does it work? Previous studies have suggested that that brain works by comparing memories of previous events with fresh, new experiences.
It then makes a prediction, based on the two factors, on what is most likely to occur and what we should do about it. This is called the ‘predictive processing framework’.
By comparing the two sets of information, the brain is always primed to take the best course of action to ensure our safety. When something happens that wasn’t predicted by the brain, this mismatch is also stored for future reference.
Successfully matching a past event with a predicted outcome happens both subconsciously and automatically. We then get a gut feeling when the brain makes a significant match or a mismatch. This is not a conscious feeling by any means.
So how do we trust our gut feeling about relationships?
Are there signs we should look out for that our gut is telling us we’re in the wrong relationship? They say when you find the one you just know. But it’s a little different when you’re not sure if they are the one.
Your heart and your brain might be telling you to give the relationship another chance. Regardless of what you think and feel, your gut will never lie to you. It is an automatic process that you have no control over.
Here are some signs that you should listen to your gut feeling about relationships:
1. You don’t mind if your partner has to spend time away from you
I remember being in a coercive controlling relationship years ago. My ex would go away for long trips and I would actively look forward to spending time by myself. On the contrary, my sister, who is still married and celebrating 30 years of wedded bliss, hated it when her husband had to leave her for work.
If you don’t want to spend time with someone it is a clear sign something isn’t right.
2. You fantasize about how your life would be without your partner.
I used to do this all the time. There was even had a spare drawer in the house with bits and bobs I’d bought. I never used them for the house we lived in. In my mind, they were mine for when I moved out.
Crazy to think I lived like this and still thought the relationship could work out. If you’re daydreaming about another life, it’s your gut telling you to get out of the present one.
3. You can’t be your true self in front of them
If you love someone then you’ll let them see you warts and all. In addition, you’ll be able to behave as funkily and goofy as you like in front of them. If you feel that you have to constantly be on your best behavior things aren’t right.
That’s a barrier right there. You are saying to yourself that you are not good enough in some way and your true self won’t be accepted. If you notice that you constantly monitor what you say or do then listen to your gut.
4. You never make plans together
Happy couples in good relationships want to plan a future together. They want to map out where they are going. If you and your partner are not making plans it is your subconscious mind telling you there is no future.
Being in a relationship is all about sharing time and precious memories. If you’re not making plans with your partner have a think why that is.
5. You are not reliable anymore
Remember the first few times you dated your partner. Ever dreamt of turning up late? Or how about not returning calls or texts? What about leaving them hanging altogether? There are always circumstances that we cannot control that can affect our timekeeping.
However, if you are continually late or can’t be bothered to return that phone call, it’s time to realize your actions are telling you something your brain hasn’t yet noticed.
6. You don’t want to have sex with them
I was with my ex for ten years, and we didn’t have sex for the last two of them. Whenever I pictured him touching me I would feel disgusted. Now I look back and think why on earth did I stay for so long? If you find yourself avoiding sex with your partner, take note.
Intimacy is a big part of a relationship. If you’re not getting jiggy with it on a regular basis, it’s that pesky gut feeling again.
It’s easy to stay with a person out of habit or because you don’t want to end up single forever. But now you know there is real scientific evidence behind your gut feeling about relationships, why not trust it?
After all, gut feelings are designed to protect you and keep you safe. There really is no reason to ignore them.