In this 21st century, we are increasingly living lives of social isolation. Most of us no longer live in small communities with our families and childhood friends and neighbors. As a result, our intimate relationship with our spouse has become the central relationship in our lives. We look to our spouse for the emotional connection and sense of belonging that we used to get from our hometown.
In addition to this, our culture’s idea of maturity means being self-sufficient and independent. So, is turning to someone for emotional support, then, a sign of weakness?
Hundreds of studies (Bowlby,1990) conclude that:
- A secure connection between partners is a huge source of strength for the two people in those relationships.
The world is less intimidating when you know you’re not alone.
- When we feel secure with our partners, we tend to be less hostile when we get mad at them.
- Those who feel close to their spouse attribute less malicious intent to their partners in times of conflict.
- When we feel securely connected, we like ourselves more.
- The more securely connected we are, the more separate and independent we tend to be.
- The more securely connected we are, the more confident we are of our worth and our value.
Because of this, I believe that when couples are trying to make sense of their distress, analyzing their early childhood; teaching them communication skills; or trying new sexual positions misses the point. It doesn’t really get to the heart of the matter.
Marriage counseling needs to address a couple’s fundamental need for emotional connection - for recipricol adult attachment. Therapy needs to re-create and strengthen this emotional bond and in so doing, foster a more loving relationship.