The brains of earliest cave dwellers were hyper-wired to detect wild animals, snakes and spiders before their eyes or ears even had a sign of danger. Their brains knew that the best chance of survival was sticking together. They attached to significant others in the group and protected one another from harm. The most dangerous position was to be separated from the safety of loved ones.
Now, thousands of years later, our brains have not changed that much. They are wired to connect and attach. Current neurological research has found that we not only become attached emotionally, we actually become attached physiologically. A recent study by Dr. James Coan, Richard Davidson and Hillary Schaefer, using MRI technology found that “when two people form an intimate relationship, they regulate each other’s psychological and emotional well-being. Their physical proximity and availability influence the stress response.” (Levine and Heller, 2010)
The book, Attached, discusses how our bodies/brains crave a secure attachment in order to take creative risks and have a sense of flexibility. For example, for those who are married, creating a secure connection with our spouse can be liberating. “If we feel secure … the world is at our feet. We can take risks, be creative, and pursue our dreams. And if we lack that sense of security? If we are unsure whether the person closest to us, our romantic partner, truly believes in us and supports us and will be there for us in times of need, we’ll find it much harder to maintain focus and engage in life. When our partners are thoroughly dependable and make us feel safe, we can turn our attention to all other aspects of life that make our existence meaningful.” (Levine and Heller, 2010)
We are wired to need each other. But, the “common sense” of our society is often at odds with our biological needs. We are told that we need to be able to take care of ourselves, that it is weak to need others. Do not become too attached. Do not be a burden.
But our brains tell us otherwise. We are not buying it, and such advice is bad for our health.
Striving to develop a secure bond in marriage creates an atmosphere of safety and stability. This takes work and time, but is well worth the effort, and may ultimately improve one’s well-being.
- Invest in time with one another. Work, kids, responsibilities and obligations can begin to take a toll on an intimate relationship. Block out time on your calendar as non-negotiable to spend together. This is very difficult for those with small children, but no less important.
- Think about what you need and learn to communicate those needs assertively to one another.
- Practice listening to one another. Learn to listen in a way that your partner feels heard. “What I hear you saying is … is that close?
Fuller Life Family Therapy is a place where couples can explore new ways of relating. We would like to work alongside in order to create connection and attachment in your marriage relationship.
Levine, Amir and Heller, Rachel. (2010). Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find-and Keep-Love.