By Aiswary Ganapathy, M.S., MFT
“All of us, from cradle to grave, are happiest when life is organized as a series of excursions, long or short, from the secure base provided by our attachment figure(s).”
As Valentine’s Day approaches, it’s fit to talk about love! What is love? Everyone defines love differently. As a marriage and family therapist and someone who likes science, I want to know how relationship experts and love researchers define love. Susan Johnson, a relationship expert, explains love as “…deep trust that partners matter to each other and will reliably respond when needed.” She also says that love is constantly turning in, connecting, missing and misreading cues, disconnecting and repairing, and finding deeper connections. I love this statement because it normalizes disconnection between partners. Even healthy couples sometimes have arguments but can find their way back to each other.
Now that we’ve defined love let’s look at how relationships have changed over the years. If we think about marriages that happened before, it was mainly focused on a rational bargain. For women, marriage provided a community, shelter, protection, status, and financial security. In contrast, for men, a wife provided lifelong companionship and children. These were the main reasons for people to get married back then. Now, people get married for emotional connection and affection.
We must remember that in the past, we lived in a big community where everyone knew each other and their business and had several close relationships. But unfortunately, research says that we are growing lonelier and more people live alone, and mental health issues like anxiety and depression are increasing. In addition, as technology increases and people become more distant socially, this forces people’s partners to fill the void that once other relationships did, like friends, family, lovers, village, and community.
We have so many expectations of our partners. Still, we constantly give out the message in our society that being dependent is wrong and bad. Researcher John Bowlby found out that we as humans are biologically wired and evolutionarily designed to want to be emotionally connected with others. As a result, we seek and maintain emotional and physical closeness with others, especially when we feel stressed, unsure, or anxious. Sometimes before I do something I am nervous about doing, I imagine my husband’s smile, which is very soothing. Take some time today to think about your loved ones and ways to appreciate them this Valentine’s Day!
If you have some free time today, watch this fun video of kids describing what love is.