‘Twas a Dark and Stormy Night: How Creating Ambiance in a Relationship Can Make a Difference

‘Twas a dark and stormy night….. Well, in this case, for those of you in Louisville, it appears that that may be the case tonight.  This phrase, meant to set off the ambiance of a scary or mysterious tale is perhaps one of the most often used openings next to “Once upon a time” in storytelling.  It sets the scene for events to come and sets the expectations of what kind of story this will be.  You aren’t exactly expecting a light-hearted tale when you hear those words uttered.  By the same token, you wouldn’t expect a vampire tale to be set off by “’Twas a sunny day in Vegas, and I had just hit the jackpot.”

The ambiance that we set in our relationships can also have a similar effect on how we view the relationship as a whole.  Couples that describe themselves as very satisfied and happy in their relationships often have stories that capture this ambiance of happy moments, and cherished traditions or unique things that only they do.  They can more often recall positive moments in the relationship or when describing difficult moments, are able to describe those times in a way that shows this epic battle where they came together to fight whatever was challenging them as a unit.  Oppositely, those couples that are at odds with one another describe their relationships as “rocky,” “difficult” and are more often looking at each other as the source of blame during challenging times, like an epic battle fought between each other. Sometimes, while the events may be identical it is the “ambiance” that changes the perspective on the entire sequence of events.

Ambiance can say a lot, and even the most hardened couple will describe the first time they met with a story that is often touching or special to them.  Neuroscience has shown that when we are attracted to someone, our brains are flooded with chemicals that give us positive feelings that actually bond us to that person as the “source” of these happy feelings.  Some scientists have even found that this chemistry in the brain changes how we see events unfold, so that if we were to see something someone did in the first few weeks of the relationship, when those “love chemicals” are flowing, it would change how we were actually seeing the events unfold, when we did not have as many of these chemicals flowing in our brains.  A lot of depression research has been done in this area to show how much our biochemistry affects how we experience the world.  So one could say that ambiance is created by biochemistry…but could it be the other way around? 

Chicken or the Egg?

A long time ago, I had an interesting debate with a friend who insisted that “love” was only a series of biochemical reactions and that something like the feeling or emotionality of “love” did not exist.  I argued that shared feelings, mutual admiration and time together created the attraction.   Is it possible that we were both could have valid points? 

There appears to be a reflection effect, that yes, we are helped in the beginning by a biochemical reaction that elevates feelings of admiration and bonding, but that we are also creating more “happy feelings” through how we treat each other what we begin to create in the relationship.  That what we are experiencing on the inside has a big impact on what we are experiencing and creating on the outside, which in turn creates positive or negative feelings.

Questions to ask:

When I think about my relationship, do I think of a comedy, adventure, drama or romance? Or another type of story?

If I were to imagine the next chapter of my relationship, am I looking forward to reading it?

If I were to think about the “ambiance” of my relationship, how would I describe it? If I wanted to change the ambiance  (and only something that is within your control/responsibility) what could I do?  Don’t let a candlelight dinner be your only option!  Invite the fun or unique into your relationship as well!   

Allow your imagination to run wild. Maybe the next vampire story does begin in Vegas. 

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