— Dr. Sue Johnson

With my job at So Worth Loving, I've seen a lot of heartbreak. I've seen a lot of human. Any struggle, lie, addiction, pain, or burden has involved another human being. At least 2 people have created hurt whether it be intentional or unintentional. Whether it be a mean harboring comment or a destructive lifestyle. Recently, I've been having lots of conversations with people that are in healthy and balanced relationships to others that are hurting and in a hard spot. The common denominator for the couples that are struggling would be trust, connection and lack of dependency. That they are scared to be dependent on their person, especially when growing up as a christian. Everyone has a different upbringing but what is commonly heard in a Christian household is that you are taught to depend on the Lord for only He is where you find your satisfaction, contentment, support, and love. While I believe that my contentment can't be found completely in another person, I wonder if the pendulum has swung to the extreme and it has given a pass to not have a dependency on our person at all. God designed us to desire one another. That is why God made Eve. Adam couldn't survive on his own. He needed the connection of another.

One of the most humble acts we can do for each other is say: I need you and how can I serve you. I believe this because: to say you need someone is admitting you can't do life all on your own. To ask how can I serve you is saying: I want to know the inner thoughts of you so I can support. If our actions show that we would be fine with or with out our person, then why do we do life with them? Could we be saying "I don't need you but I'm glad you are here." And if we are living this out with them, then we are simply co-existing and not connecting.

Coexisting :  to exist at the same time
Connection : being together. a means of communication. an arrangement to execute orders or advance interests of another. 

As I'm verbally processing all my thoughts in this blog post (I'm a scattered processor, sorry!) it has helped me to understand why I have this desire for connection and I'm still learning about it. This is something you don't learn in high-school, they don't have a class called "Connection 101". While I found a deep love for poetry, scripture, and literature, I'd stay after school to hang out with my teachers to learn from them, talk about life and discuss my thoughts in addition to dating and exploring what I felt I deserved and how I could love another person. Growing up, connection was something we are taught by either the curiosity on our own with trial and error or the people around us that have displayed their meaning. 

I talked with a girl yesterday that had just experienced a break-up. I could tell she was so broken hearted. I could see the hole she had in her heart by just sitting beside her at the coffee shop. Confused, scared, but hopeful of healing, she said it was so tempting to let him come back in her life because she misses the companionship though she knows he's not good for her. I told her: Write down what you want. Define it. Pray over it. Make a value statement whether you are married, dating, or single. What will the kind of life you want look like with another person?

I did this a while ago and here is what I came up with: 

I want to live a life of laughter and always choosing joy. A life where there is balance. Where we are lifting each other up and equally desiring to serve others together. I want to be lead and remain humble accept a challenge. Where we make choices to take care of ourselves because we know it benefits the other. We work closely together on making an impact in the world. Thirsty for understanding and depth. Depth in each other, others, and the Lord. Living a life of curiosity and passion for why we are on this earth. Asking lots of questions together and learning how to remain rooted in Jesus.

What would yours look like? 

In the midst of all of my swirling thoughts and questions, I've been reading this book called Love Sense, The Revolutionary New Science of Romantic Relationships by Dr. Sue Johnson, a clinical psychologist, professor and researcher. This book outlines the logical understanding of why and how we love. From the days when you married to inherit land or choose a healthy spouse that can bear children. Connection, values, safety, and attraction were not necessarily a primary and now in western culture it is the primary. Below is an excerpt of the book that I really enjoyed.

"Dependency is a dirty word in western society. Our world has insisted that healthy adulthood requires being emotionally independent and self-sufficient; that we, in essence, draw an emotional moat around ourselves. We talk about being able to separate and detach from our parents, our first loved ones, as a sign of emotional strength. And we look with suspicion at romantic partners who display too much togetherness. We say they are too involved with, too close to, or too dependent on one another. In consequence, men and women today feel ashamed of their natural need for love, comfort, and reassurance. They see it as weakness. Far from being a sign of frailty, strong emotional connection is a sign of mental health. It is emotional isolation that is the killer. The surest way to destroy people is to deny them loving loving human contact. 

The idea that we can go it alone defies the natural world. We are like other animals. We need ties to others to survive. We need emotional connection to survive. Neuroscience is highlighting what we have perhaps always known in our hearts - loving human connection is more powerful than our basic survival mechanism: fear. We also need connection to thrive. We are actually healthier and happier when we are close and connected. Consistent emotional support lowers blood pressure and boosts the immune system. In terms of mental health, close connection is the strongest predictor of happiness, much more so than making masses of money. It also significantly lessens susceptibility to anxiety and depression and makes us more resilient against stress. 

We've long assumed that as we mature, we outgrow the need for the intense closeness, nurturing and comfort we had with our caregivers as children and that as adults the romantic attachments we form are essentially sexually in nature. This is a complete distortion of adult love. 

Our need to depend on one precious other - to know that when we "call" he or she will be there for us - never dissolves. In fact it endures "from cradle to grave".  As adults we simply transfer that need from our primary caregiver to our lover. Romantic love is not the least bit illogical or random. It is the continuation of an ordered and wise recipe for our survival. 

But there is a key difference: Our lover doesn't have to be there physically. As adults, the need for another's tangible presence is less absolute than is a child's. We can use mental images of our partner to call up a sense of connection. If we are upset, we can remind ourselves that our partner loves us and imagine him or her reassuring and comforting us. Israeli prisoners of war report listening in their narrow cells to the soothing voice of their wives. 

It is secure attachment, what nature set us up for, that makes love persist. Trust helps us over the rough places that crop up in every relationship. Moreover our bodies are designed to produce a cascade of chemicals that bond us tightly to our loved ones. Emotional dependency is not immature or pathological; it is our greatest strength. 

We are not created selfish; we are designed to be empathetic. Our innate tendency is to feel with and for others. We are naturally empathetic species. This part of our nature can be overridden or denied , but we are wired to be caring for others. We are not born callous and competitive, dedicated to our own survival at the expense of others. Our brains are wired to read the faces of others and to resonate with what we see there. It is this emotional responsiveness and ability to work together, not our large thinking brains alone, that has allowed us to become the most dominant animal on the planet. The more securely connected we are to those we love, the more we tune in and respond to the needs of others as if they were our own.

Being the best you can be is really only possible when you are deeply connected to another. Splendid isolation is for plants not people.

Troubled couples are fixated on specific incidents, but the true problem is broader and deeper. Distressed partners no longer see each other as their emotional safe haven. Our lover is supposed to be the one person we can count on who will always respond. Instead, unhappy partners feel emotionally deprived, rejected, even abandoned. In that light, couples' conflicts assume their true meaning: they are frightened protests against eroding connection and a demand for emotional re-engagement. 

In contrast, at the core of happy relationships is a deep trust tht partners matter to each other and will reliably respond when needed. Love is a constant process of tuning in, connecting, missing and misreading cues, disconnecting, repairing, and finding deeper connection. Int is a dance of meeting and parting and finding each other again, minute by minute and day by day."

Q U E S T I O N S :

1. So after you have read that excerpt, what are your initial thoughts? 

2. If you are spiritual, I am curious of what your perspective is on the science of connection with an earthly person and finding the balance with Jesus. 

3. What is your value statement? What will the kind of life you want look like with another person?


eryn eddyComment