There’s one thing that fuels our world: sex.
You are bombarded with messages of sex daily, subconsciously or consciously, through news, advertisement, magazines, etc. Hey, sex sells!
I’d argue that our urge to look good and stay healthy is due to our innate desire to remain sexually attractive and potent, no matter how old we are.
Sexual energy is arguably one of our most powerful tool, fuelling creativity, business, and all areas in our life. Napoleon Hill, a famous author, talked about how sex could drive one to immense success, or failure.
“When driven by this desire, men develop keenness of imagination, courage, will-power, persistence, and creative ability unknown to them at other times. So strong and impelling is the desire for sexual contact that men freely run the risk of life and reputation to indulge it. When harnessed, and redirected along other lines, this motivating force maintains all of its attributes of keenness of imagination, courage, etc., which may be used as powerful creative forces in literature, art, or in any other profession or calling, including, of course, the accumulation of riches.” – Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich
So if sex is so important in our lives, what role does sex and intimacy play in our health?
Why are sex and health deeply connected?
I have invited Bruce Muzik, the Founder of Love at First Fight and a relationship coach, to talk about intimate relationships, sex and health. Bruce is also an acclaimed writer, speaker, seminar leader and coach, known internationally for helping couples repair romantic relationships and fall in love all over again…and yes he loves to kiteboard and motorcycle around the world.
We’ll talk about:
- Why interdependent relationships are key to longevity and health
- The difference between co-dependent and interdependent relationships
- The two foundation to build secure relationships
- Tips to connect with your lover and have mind-blowing sex
- Why synchrony sex, not hookups, one-night stands, or comfort sex, are key to health
- Why Bruce disagrees with John Gray, author of “Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus”, and that women and men do NOT have different emotional needs
This thought-provoking discussion allows you to understand what it takes to be in a secure relationship, and how to cultivate a deeper relationship with your lover.
For more tips on how to resolve conflicts with your lover and fall in love all over again, please visit Love at First Fight and sign up for Bruce’s newsletter.
Below is a transcript of the audio.
Please note that this transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Hi, we have Bruce Muzik here. Bruce is the founder of Love at First Fight. He is a relationship coach and marriage repairman. We have him here today to talk about the role of love and health.
Love and sex are crucial parts of our health. I thought it would be very interesting to have some thoughts from Bruce.
This is a conversation between us and Bruce will share with us his insights on this topic. So let’s get started.
Q: So Bruce, tell me more about your background and we’ll go from there.
Bruce Muzik: Okay! I am originally from South Africa and ever since I was 16 years old. I was interested in personal development and psychology and I started facilitating personal development workshops at the age of 16 already.
A couple years ago I had a relationship that wasn’t working and I turned my attention to figuring out what it is that make successful relationships work. When I get interested in something I usually go deep and I usually turn to science first.
The world of science, fortunately for us, is telling us a lot of very useful information about what love is, how it works, and how we can keep it alive, and how it impacts our lives.
So I got qualified as a relationship coach, and now every year I work with several hundred couples, helping them save their marriages.
If you hear any noise in the background it’s because my Internet at home went out and I had to run to a restaurant to do this interview, so if you hear banging in the background that’s what it is. Or salsa music or Dominicans making noise… that’s because I live in the Dominican Republic.
Q: Great, let’s talk about the role of health as well as sex and love. Why don’t you comment on that, since you have a lot of things to talk about? I’ll let you lead the conversation.
Bruce Muzik: I’m not an expert in health, but I do know what the scientific research is saying about how health is impacted by love. There’s a particular study I want to share with you and you’ll have to go look this up online. But I remember reading about it in several places at the time and I thought it was very interesting.
It was studied in Japan on centenarians and centenarians are people who’ve lived to be 100 years old or more. Japan has the highest number of centenarians, so the study was done to study centenarians and figure out what they were doing differently, and essentially what they were eating.
Their diet basically consists of rice, so they’re not eating anything special. If you were to take their diet apart and analyze it, you probably would not find greens in there or a whole bunch of nutrient dense foods happening.
They were growing up on rice and eating rice. These people are living to 100 years old. So this stumped the researchers, “How is this possible? These people aren’t traditionally healthy or eating healthy as we thought.”
And then they discovered something interesting. When the centenarians from this town immigrated to America, they died at 70.
Their immigrating to the west took 30 years off their lives. What the research showed, that what was different when they immigrated to the west, is that they were cut off from their community, from their primary relationships, from the support of being able to be dependent upon the community to meet their needs, to feel safe and secure.
So I want you to consider, if you’re listening to this, that as human beings we have a fundamental need to feel emotionally and physically safe and secure.
The part of the brain that ensures that we remain safe and secure is known as the amygdala, and it controls our fight, flight, or freeze mechanism. It’s the part of our brain that brings adrenaline into the body and blood into the hands if you need to fight or if you get angry or you get attacked.
Or if you feel like you’re about to get abandoned by your relationship partner or something, it’s the part of the brain that sounds the red alert and has you get mad and fight or withdraw. Or freeze.
What they discovered was that these people who were living in this village of centenarians was that they were super relaxed. They already had very little tension in their lives and stress in their lives because they had a community, supportive relationships essentially, that supported their life.
So they could go to the neighbor next door that was part of their community and ask for help babysitting or whatever it was; they weren’t afraid of being dependent.
One of the things we’ve lost in the west is the ability to be dependent on others. Being dependent on others is seen as being weak. Particularly in relationships, if you’re being seen as dependent on your partner you get accused of being needy and insecure or codependent.
But the research shows that the more you’re able to depend on another, in a healthy way, the more functional you are and, ironically, the more independent you act in the world.
There’s a direct relationship between dependence and happiness. Rather than it being “the more dependent you are the less happy you are”, it’s actually “the more dependent you are on somebody the more happy you are.”
But I’m not talking about being dependent in a codependent sense where you can’t live without this person. I’m talking about the ability to lean into another and use them for support. So relationships are foundational to keeping our amygdala from getting triggered and activated and going on red alert. Nicole are you still with me at this point? Just to make sure you’re at the end of the line, because you’re very quiet.
Q: Yes, I am. I just muted my microphone to make sure the sound quality is fine. This is great. You’ve talked a lot about connection as well as dependence on others; interdependence would be the word for it.
Bruce Muzik: Interdependence would be the word for it, yeah.
Where codependence is “I can’t live without you because I don’t have a sense of self,” interdependence is “I absolutely have a sense of self and I depend on you to support me through life in a community or relationship.”
The point I was coming to with all this, was that in a relationship, in a secure relationship where you are able to be interdependent, your amygdala doesn’t get activated, therefore you’re not getting cortisol released into your bloodstream anywhere near as much as if your amygdala was constantly activated by living in the city or being in a stressful relationship.
Therefore, your body naturally lives longer under less stress. I’m no health expert, but from what I’ve read stress is the killer. Cortisol getting released into your bloodstream is what destroys longevity and has us die early and have heart attacks and age.
If you want to reduce stress, by all means be healthy, but make sure you are securely connected to your community and to another person.
Whether or not you’re in a romantic relationship, isn’t so much as important as whether or not you’re connected to people in a close way. By close I don’t mean sexual at all, I just mean in a dependent way, we are able to be healthily dependent on another.
The most literal form of that or the most powerful form of that is a romantic relationship, where you’re securely connected and there’s been a lot of research that shows that couples are securely connected live longer, are healthier, their immune systems survive longer, they take bigger risks in business, they make more money.
Pretty much across the board, people are more successful when they are in a secure relationship than when they are single.
When you get the lower needs met (on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs), the higher needs open up to you. So when you get food and shelter met, you can start to focus on money, and when you get money met, you naturally start wanting to focus on relationships and love, and self-actualization at the top of the pyramid.
So when you get your relationship handled, it opens up access to higher levels of evolution and development.
So for me, being in a romantic relationship and your health are inexplicably interlinked.
This research, this Japanese study, almost shows that being securely connected to people and secure relationships is way more important to your health than what you eat.
What you eat has very little to do with how much you stay healthy. All the cortisol that is released into your body has a lot more to do with your health than what you eat.
Obviously if you’re eating McDonald’s burgers all day long, your body’s going to be releasing cortisol too. You’re gonna be adding more stress to the system, so I’m not suggesting you go eat McDonald’s all day long, get a good relationship and you’ll be fine, no.
Again, I am not a medical expert but I am a relationship expert. The angle I come from is: Get in a secure relationship, be secure and relaxed in your life and things will work out. Now I’m done.
Q: Well that’s great. You’ve talked about how secure relationships play an important role in health.. What does it take to be in a secure relationship? And do you have any thoughts on how most of us behave in relationships?
Bruce Muzik: Essentially, what it takes and means to be secure is to provide a secure base or a safe haven upon which you can launch into your life and provide that for your partner. In the same token, your partner provides that for you.
A secure base is almost like feeling like your relationship is handled, so you don’t have to worry about it, and you can launch out into life…the experience that you have someone to rely on and lean into, your partner’s there and you can count on them to be there and support you.
So a secure base is something you can launch from. When your relationship is a secure base, it feels like you have your basic needs met and you can launch out into the world with firm footing.
A safe haven is something you can return to when the going gets tough and the seas get rough you can return to harbor that’s safe; it will protect you.
If your relationship performs these two functions, it’s defined as secure.
If your relationship is a secure base and you feel like you can launch into the world and you have that confidence to that, and you can return to your partner and be dependent on them when you’re feeling down or when things are going tough, that’s a secure relationship.
Now, in terms of how we operate in a relationship, there are 3 primary archetypes.
There are secure people, anxious people, and avoidant people – according to research.
Secure people make up about 50% of the population and they do not have any issue depending on another.
Avoidant people tend to be super independent. They are terrified of being controlled and trapped, and they require a lot of space and freedom, especially when a relationship gets into trouble. When they’re starting to disconnect with their partner, they tend to retreat. They’re about 22% of the population, I think it was.
25% of the population is what we call anxious people. Anxious people are also insecurely attached like avoidant ones. When their relationship becomes disconnected and they feel like they’re disconnecting from their partner, they tend to become demanding, needy, clingy, and often get angry, yell, scream and protest.
They may retreat as well, but for very different reasons than how the avoidant type retreats.
If you’re in a relationship and you’re one of these styles, which is pretty much around 48% of the population, your relationships aren’t gonna magically work. You’re going to constantly notice that you struggle in a relationship, and that the same kind of patterns repeats themselves. Often how it’ll play out is that when the relationship starts getting into trouble, one partner will withdraw and the other one will become demanding.
Eventually this leads to a lot of pain and stress. So in order to become secure, some work needed to be done on yourself and your relationship, and that’s beyond the scope of this call. But it essentially involves becoming aware of where your insecurity and attachment insecurity come from, and how they work and operate.
Then make choices to behave differently and learn to depend on each other in your relationship.
This is not the kind of work you can do on yourself if you’re single, because these triggers don’t get triggered when you’re single. These triggers are specific and unique to relationships, and they only get triggered in relationships.
If you’re one of those people who is constantly walking around with anxiety in your relationship, you’re probably the anxious type. And if you’re one of those people that retreats, you’re probably the avoidant type. You probably have high levels of stress that you’re maybe not even aware of because you’ve gotten so used to them.
If that is something you identify with, then you may want to go to www.loveatfirstfight.com. That’s my website. Go sign up for some of my free materials. They’re on how to create a secure relationship.
I would be happy to share them here but they’re beyond the scope of the call and it’ll be easier for you to just go and sign up. I’ve made videos online already that you can watch and learn about that.
So that’s how I think relationships are related to health. A secure relationship reduces stress, creates less cortisol, and keeps your body functioning like it naturally should because it’s not in a stress, fight or flight response.
Q: Alright, well that sounds good. Do you have any other tips to share to create a very harmonious relationship?
Bruce Muzik: Yeah, I can give you a couple ideas, they’re big ideas because we don’t have the time to go into details.
One of them is to be responsive. Research shows that your responsiveness is going to predict whether or not your relationship works out or not. What I mean by responsiveness is your ability to respond to your partner’s bid for connection.
I’ll like you to consider that all of us, that are in a relationship, bid for connection. It’s almost like we check to see if our partner is connected to us and we are connected to our partner, and whether they’re gonna be there for us when we need them or not.
So we might send a little text like, “Thinking of you, honey.”
What that little text message that says “Thinking of you honey” is, is a test for a response, whether or not our partners are gonna be responsive, unconsciously.
We’re waiting for our partner to respond, going “Aww that’s sweet I love you baby,” or something like that. If they don’t, we might bid again.
We might go “Love you,” “You okay?” If we don’t get a response, we might start to panic if we’re the anxious type.
If you’re the avoidant type on the other end of the text, getting these texts, you might go, “What’s wrong with my partner? Why are they being so controlling?” and feel smothered. You might retreat.
Secure people respond to each other’s bids. When you send that text going “Thinking of you honey,” your secure partner will respond back with “I love you baby, I’m thinking of you too.”
That consistent responsiveness to each other keeps the anxiety at bay and keeps your amygdala, that part of your brain that’s responsible for the fight or flight mechanism, relaxed knowing that everything’s okay. Because having your relationship be okay is literally a survival criteria, in that if you were caveman living in the African, sub-Saharan Plains, you would want to stay connected to your wife.
If your relationship broke up, you would be alone and you’ll be eaten by lions. So two people are stronger than one. The woman would look after the babies and man would go out and hunt. Your brain was constantly monitoring the emotional and physical proximity of your partner, because you don’t want to be left alone too long. If the man is killed, the woman’s going to be alone and probably not going to be able to survive.
So our brains have an in-built checking mechanism to check if our partner is close. And one of the ways to make sure you help your partner relax is your ability to be responsive. You relax their amygdala and reduce their stress by being responsive.
Another one is to learn how to resolve recurring patterns of conflict. A lot of couples that I work with end up in recurring patterns of conflict. They have the same fights over and over again. This causes a lot of stress and often impacts health.
One of the ways to resolves recurring patterns of conflict is to firstly understand that most conflict is not about what you think the conflicts about. It’s about the state of the connection between the two of you, whether or not your relationship’s secure or not.
You might be having a screaming match about why your partner doesn’t take the trash out for the 10th time. But really you’re not angry about him not taking the trash out, you’re angry that he didn’t take the trash out and what that means about who he is in the state of your connection.
You might be unconsciously reasoning, “Well if he doesn’t take the trash out, and as a contrast to the smallest little things, how am I ever gonna trust him with fidelity, remain faithful, and bring up our children to be well-adjusted adults?” So certainly the trash starts to mean a lot more.
If you just dig around the surface trying to poke at the surface complaint and just resolve that, you will just make things worse.
So one of the things I help couples do is get to the heart of the matter, and deal with attachment emotions that are going on underneath the surface: the feelings of “I’m not sure I can count on him; I’m not sure you got my back; I’m not sure if you’re the one person I can depend on; and the fact that you’re not taking the trash out makes me feel insecure and think of getting another partner because I don’t know if you’re gonna be there for our kids; and whether or not you will ever be able to be faithful if you can’t do something as simple as taking the trash out.”
When you start to deal with fears underneath, you start to create a secure relationship very quickly because you are able to resolve conflict in a way that brings you closer together rather than a way that drives you further apart, which is what most people are doing when they find me online.
So there’re a couple of ideas that are kind of the big picture ones just to give you the lay of the lands on how to create a more secure relationship. This essentially revolves around the two of you. It’s not work you can do on your own; it needs to be done with a partner, although you can play a role.
If you become more responsive, your partner is probably going to become more responsive too. But it’s the kind of thing you want to do together because these issues are only related to the relationship. They don’t come up when you’re single, so it can’t be worked on until you’re in a relationship and you have somebody to help you.
In this case, in this sense, your partner becomes your greatest ally in your personal growth helping you deal with whatever you need to deal with to become securely connected.
Q: Alright, well, there’s one last question that I wanted to ask you. Obviously sex is very important to our health, as well as to our life in general. So without emotional intimacy, as you’ve said, there’s really no good sex right? Why don’t you comment on that and dive into how secure relationships relate to having a really great sex life?
Bruce Muzik: Sure, how it relates to health is that sex is a stress reduction agent, particularly closely-connected, intimate sex.
So it’s not that orgasm is. It’s that when you are making love with your partner and that the two of you are intimately connected, your brain releases a ton of really good feel-good chemicals like serotonin, oxytocin, dopamine. These chemicals basically soothe your attachment system that’s responsible for the emotional fight or flight mechanism that makes sure you’re securely connected to your partner; it’s directly linked to your amygdala.
The sex basically, if you’re having the kind of sex called synchrony sex (the kind of sex that’s deeply intimate, loving, and connected), it will sooth your nervous system, and release a flood of really good chemicals into your body that make you feel good and relaxed.
So basically, sex makes you live longer because it helps your body relax if you’re having a particular kind of sex.
If you’re just having one night stands and hook-ups, or masturbating to porn, that doesn’t do the trick. It’s the kind of sex that has you feel closely connected to another which makes you live longer.
And they’ve actually done research that shows that people who masturbate and have orgasms get serotonin release. But when you are making love and have an orgasm, not only do you get serotonin, you also get oxytocin and dopamine released. These two chemicals don’t get released when you’re masturbating alone.
What oxytocin and dopamine do is that they help you feel securely connected and bonded to another. They give you that afterglow of sex, that feeling of being completely at peace and blissed out.
That doesn’t happen when you’re masturbating. It might happen for a short while, but that sense of “Everything’s okay in the world and I’m super happy,” doesn’t happen because those chemicals don’t get released.
There’s something to be said about making love with your partner. Most young people have no idea of how to have sex or make love. They usually doing, what I sometimes call “sports fucking,” or there’s a technical term that just escaped me. But it’s the type of sex that’s focused on performance, where it’s all about the orgasm, performing and changing positions, and it’s not focused on intimacy.
There’s another kind of sex that insecure people tend to have. That’s called solace sex; it’s comfort sex. It’s basically sex that’s all about cuddling, being close and soothing your fears, and that’s not intimacy either that’s all based around fear.
The kind of sex that really supports your health and creates a secure relationship is synchrony sex, where you’re able to dance in the moment and one minute you’re playfully flirting, the next minute you might be having a great time with performance sex, the next minute you’re loving and cuddling, the next minute you’re laughing, the next minute you’re gazing deeply into each other’s eyes, losing yourself, the next minute you feel like you’re directly connected to God.
That’s the kind of sex that I help my clients get to, and the path to get there is through creating a secure emotional bond first. Because in order to open up that much in sex, you have to truly trust your partner, and be able to count on them to hold you in this most vulnerable act. That’s, for me, the role that sex plays. I think it plays a huge role in health.
Q: And this applies to both men and women right?
Bruce: Of course, absolutely, yeah. Both men and women have the same kind of attachment need to feel connected to another.
There’s this big misnomer, thanks to our good friend John Gray, author of “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.” He basically described women as being emotional drama queens, and men as being cold, stoic, and not having feelings. That’s absolute rubbish; it’s so wrong it should be illegal.
It’s more that the anxious attachment style types get needy and clingy, and the avoidant attachment style types are the ones that are cold and stoic.
Neither of those is secure forms of connection. If you relate to any of those, you really want to get some expert help in becoming more secure because you can. You can change your attachment style in a manner of months, if you know what you’re doing, and that’s how I help my couples.
Q: This was a great conversation. I think you’ve hit the most important points. These are very interesting points that I’m sure our readers haven’t really thought of., Thank you very much for your time, Bruce.
Bruce: My pleasure Nicole.
Q: For any questions and more tips on creating amazing sex and intimacy, please visit Bruce’s fix your relationship website at www.loveatfirstfight.com and sign up for his free email tips as well as articles. This is it. Have a good day, Bruce!