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A Doorway to the Heart

A Doorway to the Heart

Love at first sight? Thousands say it has happened to them, while skeptics just roll their eyes. But what if the adage "there's more to it than meets the eye" is true about the connection between visual contact and romance?

Research studies show that locking eyes nourishes relational intimacy and is a dominant theme in couples falling in love in cultures across the world. Early theologian St. Augustine described the eyes as "the windows to the soul." With deep, personal eye contact you are inviting another to look beyond your retinal lens into your thoughts and emotions.

The eyes are a central focus of poetry, music lyrics and prose through the ages. Irish poet Juliet or W.B. Yeats penned, "love comes in at the eye." Shakespeare's Romeo declared romantic affection as "a fire sparkling in lovers' eyes." Those sparks you feel when looking into a love interest or partner's eyes? Scientists today explain the sparks as your brain neurons firing in response to your positive emotions.

One study reveals that love is in the air when a man gazes longer than 8.2 seconds at a woman. (Women, on the other hand, held eye contact equally with men they found interesting and those they did not). Other research shows that a sustained eye connection signals the body's natural "bonding hormone", oxytocin. The chemical, which boosts mood and increases trust and empathy, is released when couples gaze into each other's eyes.

To build and maintain intimacy with someone special, try this 2-3 minute practice:

Find a quiet spot to focus solely on each other.

• Lower the lights so the pupils expand.

• Relax your facial muscles and gaze softly.

• Breathe deeply. No talking is necessary.

• Think about things you appreciate about your partner.

Perhaps actress Audrey Hepburn said it best: "The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides."

If the eyes are indeed the doorway to the place where love resides, don't be shy. Go ahead. Stare deeply into those baby blues (or greens, or hazels) belonging to the one you love. Or maybe belonging to the one you'd love to love.

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