Bonding & Marriage
Bonding is central to
marriage success. That's not very surprising. The vast majority
of couples planning for or contemplating marriage start off very
What is surprising for
many couples, though, is the unexpected vulnerability of their initial
powerful attachment. The biggest mistake that couples make is to
take their bond for granted by assuming that their connection will
stay strong because they love each other or with 'hard work.' But
they don't have an intentional strategy to maintain the strength
of their union.
specific plan, most couples' attachment may grow weaker over time,
whether or not they want this to happen, placing their marriage
at risk. The first years of marriage are the riskiest for divorce
and affairs. Couples report that "the spark is gone,"
or that while they still love each other, they are no longer "in
love" or have "grown apart."
think that starting a family together will reinforce their bond.
For many, it is the opposite. They may stay together because of
their kids, but their tie to each other is actually diluted as their
attachment to their children displaces their connection to each
their bond, so unexpectedly?
The fact is
that nature never intended for the exhilarating feelings that you
experience when falling in love to endure with the same intensity
over time. The brain chemistry (based on elevated levels of dopamine
and norepinephrine) that underlies romantic attraction can't remain
in this state very long. Nature doesn't want us to burn out. That
special chemistry that drives courtship is destined to fade.
of intense bond formation used to last through the wedding. But
now that couples postpone marriage and often live together, it is
common for passion to subside--often well before the wedding or
our initial, temporary falling-in-love bonding period to be replaced
by a longer-term attachment between partners--with a totally different
underlying brain chemistry (based on oxytocin and vasopressin).
[Fisher, et al, 2002]
of us find it easier to form and maintain these long-term bonds.
According to researchers, different attachment styles rooted in
early experiences with parents play an important role in bonding:
Most of us have what the experts call a secure attachment style
based on a comfortable balance of closeness and independence in
their intimate relationships. They tend to be relatively self-confident,
accepting and supportive in relationships.
with colder and/or rejecting early attachment experiences continue
to have some degree of difficulty with romantic bonding during adult
life. They may be less comfortable with closeness and trust, find
it difficult to depend on others or be depended upon. On average
their relationships last about half as long as those with the more
early attachments were particularly unreliable tend to be preoccupied
and obsessive in relationships, needy and vulnerable, and experience
difficulty getting as close to others as they would like. They bond
easily, but their relationships are the least durable.
All of these
attachment styles are considered normal. But both of these less
secure styles are prone to experiences of jealousy and loneliness.
They also tend toward defensiveness and blame and have difficulty
getting their needs met.
to any bonding challenges posed by these attachment patterns from
childhood, there are many realities of modern life that disrupt
our longer-term attachments (even though they interfere less with
the earlier phases of our relationships):
has 5 - 7 unresolvable differences, so there's a lot to disagree
about once you start thinking about getting married. If you don't
have good approaches to managing your differences, your disagreements
will take a toll over time. Conflict can raise your level of negativity
and undermine mutuality.
are just the day-to-day pressures that tend to pull couples apart--jobs
and careers, finances, kids, not enough time in your day. Lot's
of couples don't understand that if you try to put your relationship
'on hold' while you give more attention to a new job or to children,
it will be much more difficult than you imagine restoring the closeness
approaches of the genders to many aspects of relationships, including
communication and bonding, are another factor that can stress couples'
feeling of closeness over time. The pursue--withdraw pattern, where
one partner keeps after the other to resolve an important issue
or for more closeness, while the other feels overloaded and keeps
withdrawing or picking a fight to get away, is especially dangerous.
This pattern is what's primarily behind the stereotypes of the 'nagging'
wife and the husband who 'doesn't talk.'
in sex that challenge couples over the long term, as partner novelty
declines and differences in approach to sexuality get in the way,
can also contribute to diminished bonding.
All of these factors
can chip away at the strength of your bond, in part by disrupting
the brain chemistry that underlies it. Many couples count on the
strength of their initial bond to get them through these challenges
and can't imagine that it might fade.
So what can couples do
to avoid the seemingly inevitable slide toward greater disengagement?
Well, fortunately, there's plenty. But for most couples, it doesn't
happen on its own. You have to plan and strategize to keep your
bond strong. And it's best to start early, just when you can't believe
that you'll ever need it.
Here are some approaches
that marriage success research has shown will help to keep your
· Build positivity in your
relationship. No one can avoid some negativity, but limit it. Marriage
research has revealed that happy couples have at least five positive
interactions for every negative one. Couples who slip below five-to-one
have a hard time restoring the balance. Repair after your fights.
Don't allow prolonged periods of resentment to persist.
· Make time for your relationship--no
· Daily, non-stressful
communication--continuing to keep up with each other's lives--is
another bonding activity. And it's one that tends to go by the way
when lives become busy. Remember how curious you were to learn the
details of each other's lives when you were getting to know one
· Approach life as a team.
Don't become adversaries, even when you disagree. Your disagreements
are something that both of you must take an active role in managing.
Planning and dreaming together are bonding for both genders.
· Appreciate the male need
to bond through shared activities. Make time for the intimate talking
that women usually prefer for bonding--but make it easier for him
by scheduling it at a good time, setting a time limit on these discussions,
and limiting any negativity.
· Keep your sex life active.
Schedule a regular date night, especially if things are slowing
down. You'll be surprised how the anticipation will whet your appetite--just
like it did when you were dating. Introduce new forms of novelty
to compensate for the inevitable diminishing partner novelty. Overcome
any disagreements about initiating and active/passive roles by taking
turns. The brain chemistry stimulated by sex is critical to renewing
· Celebrate your relationship.
Develop rituals to commemorate your anniversaries and other memorable
relationship milestones. Build a relationship mythology by telling
your stories, such as that of how you met.
Adopting these strategies
builds a bonding immunization for couples. These approaches help
couples to build up a reserve of attachment that will help maintain
their relationship through the inevitable stresses and challenges
of contemporary married life and prevent disruption of their connection.
Couples who are already experiencing tension or disengagement can
revitalize their link by embracing these approaches.
Plan to keep your bond
strong by learning more about practical bonding strategies that
fit your relationship style and are comfortable for both genders.
Enhance your intimacy, communication and conflict management skills
at a Marriage Success Training seminar.
here for related reading and references list.
/ rescue seminar - Click here if you're married more than a year
helps couples learn more about practical bonding strategies that
fit their relationship style and are comfortable for both genders.
Click here to learn about the benefits of MST.
2003-2005, Patricia S. & Gregory A. Kuhlman. You may copy this
article for non-commercial use provided that no changes are made
and this copyright notice, author credit and stayhitched.com source
citation are included.