Continuing our discussion of Sue Johnson’s text Love Sense, this week we will talk about how the concept of marriage has changed over time.
Historically, generally speaking, marriages were made for economic and survival purposes. People fell in love, but they didn’t marry for love. Marriage was to maximize economic status and provide food, shelter, protection, and reproduction for the family unit. Even during the Industrial Revolution, people still decided to marry according to a list of pros and cons. (Actually only men could afford to make lists; women pretty much HAD to get married.) By 1939 love was ranked fifth on a list of 18 characteristics a woman thought would be important in a potential mate. In the 1970s love was listed as ONE of the significant factors in mate selection. Finally by the beginning of the 21st century, 80% of women said that having a man who could talk about his feelings was more important than how much money he made. (Another great book on this topic is Marriage: A History by Stephanie Coontz.)
Scientific findings show that the primary drive of human beings, contrary to previous thought, is neither sex nor aggression. It is human connection. Connection for babies means food and safety and love. This doesn’t change for adults on a subconscious level. The attachment spouses feel for each other is exactly like the attachment babies feel for their caregivers.
Society tells us that adults should be strong and independent. But the truth is, we are strongest when we have a secure attachment to a partner. Contrary to many beliefs, we are not born selfish, we are born with the capacity and inclination for empathy.
According to Johnson, the key to a happy relationship lies in the trust that partners matter to each other and that they are available, reliable, and responsive to each other’s needs. Love is “a continuing process of tuning in, connecting, missing and misreading cues, disconnecting, repairing, and finding deeper connection” (Johnson, 2013, p.26) Secure love brings about positive reciprocal emotional interactions between partners, creating a safe haven for both.