Dr. Sue Johnson, renowned psychologist, therapist, author, and presenter postulates that throughout time, love is continually transformed. Before modern society as we currently know it, families lived off the land, working farms, and lived in small, close knit community villages. The main reason for marrying during this period of time was to inherit more land, wealth, security, and produce offspring who would eventually take over the farm or family business and care for their parents in old age. The idea of two people coming together because of mutual feelings of love or a deep connection simply wasn’t the case. The focus in this time was on survival and staying within the community, as it provided food, shelter, and protection.
Fast forward past the agricultural age and into the industrial era and a bit beyond and we find that more often that women chose men for financial security. Many women were unemployed and uneducated during this time, so love was not a factor in the equation of relationships or marriage. Again, we see a need for wealth, security, and protection as a principal motivating factor for individuals to join in marriage. Dr. Sue Johnson even states that until the eighties, love as a reason for getting married was about fifth on the list when ranking reasons for marriage.
Fast forward to our present day and the primary reason for relationships and marriage is love. Love, an emotional connectedness so important to the couple that is surpasses all else in our lives and our partners our spouses become our loves, our friends, and our community all in one, placing an important, yet heavy load on the romantic relationship. Gone are the days when we connected with other for our mere survival, or are they? Love, and loving in a mature, adult manner, is about being connected to others as a means of survival, much like that of a newborn infant or small child, whose entire existence depends on the quality of the connectedness and attachment with its parents. As adults, we continue to choose partners based on the desire to survive, through the need for attachment and bonding. We cannot live without relationships. Sure, you might think of yourself as capable of living alone in a remote location somewhere, but even then you would rely on your relationship with others (maybe not human). You would rely on your relationship with plants and animals to feed and clothe you; you would rely on your relationship with the sun to guide you and inform you of directions, time of day, and changing seasons; you would rely on your relationship with water to hydrate and clean you. In today’s capitalist society, we have a relationship with money that puts our orange juice, eggs, and bacon on the table every morning.
Numerous studies have been conducted on orphans, prisoners, and other isolated individuals to study the power behind love, bonding, and connection and conversely, its effects when denied. In early childhood development, attachment is so important that a lack of connection to a secure attachment figure (most likely the mother, father, or other major caregiver) who was reliable and available results in physical alterations to the anatomy and chemistry of the brain, such as reduced brain activity and less developed cortexes.
In our Western society, which can be considered the North and South America, Europe, and Australia or any other country with a heavy European influence, we value the individual and independence. In Eastern societies, like those found in India and much of Asia, family and community are more highly valued than the individual. In both societies, the role of the spouse or partner is above all else and when our partner does something that is hurtful or commits an act of betrayal, our world comes crashing down. If you take these moments of hurt and betrayal that occur daily, weekly, and monthly; however, small and multiply them by days, months, and years, we find that individuals within relationships feel hurt, disappointed, and disconnected. In this way, we are still deeply connected to our ancestral roots of why we choose to engage in a relationship, love, and marry. Dr. Johnson states that love is “a constant process of tuning in, connecting, missing, misreading cues, disconnecting, repairing, and finding a deeper connection. It is a dance of meeting and parting, in finding each other again, minute by minute, day by day.”
In our current time, since our partners and spouses tend to have many roles to fulfill as our partner, lover, friend, etc. couples and marriage counseling is a useful way for us to learn how to maintain that deep level of connection between two people that we crave and seek out to feel whole. Many therapists or counselors who aren’t formally trained in marriage and family therapy tend to help couples create simple solutions to their complex problems, but they don’t really get at the heart of what’s going on within the relationship and work to fix the root of the concern. Some of these simple and often ineffective for the long term solutions might look like creating a budget for a financially struggling couple, or a book on pleasure, a new sex position, or weekend away for a couple whose concern is that their sex live is no longer exciting and taken a turn towards mundane and routine. Although these solutions help in short-term and address the symptom, they fail to create long lasting connection, understanding, change for these couples. Couples often fall victim to a chronic pattern of poor communication that results in feeling criticized, attacked, and defensive. This pattern continues, round and round on a proverbial hamster wheel of arguments with no end in sight. Working with a couples counselor, who is trained in working with couples, will have the experience and knowledge necessary to assist you and your partner in interrupting and changing this poor communication style. For more information on couples counseling, feel free to visit my website www.FamilyAndCouplesCounseling.com and go to the “For Couples” tab. You will find a lot of different information to assist you on your journey!