And furthermore, an online article at Nautilus by the same author, shows that brain scans show that passionate love develops before strong feelings of attachment do. The "moral" of this research is that "Sexual liberalism has aligned our courtship tactics with our primordial brain circuits for slow love." In other words, "rapidly committing to a new partner before the liquor of attachment has emerged may be more risky to long-term happiness than first getting to know a partner via casual sex, friends with benefits and living together."
This is how I understand the state of early 21st-century marriage wisdom.
- OK, be careful about STDs, now…
- Have sex for its own sake
- You may get lucky and find a partner
- Besides, either they or you will likely cheat anyways
I thought about countering these claims because I find them morally offensive. But, how do you counter brain scans and genetics? To tell people to be more faithful to their marriage doesn't seem sufficient. People seem to stray regardless of their level of religious association.
But, then it started to dawn on me. There is really nothing new being said. It's just being repackaged in a novel manner. Let's take the second part.
People who are sexually active develop strong affection before really attaching. Well, this is exactly what psychiatrist Miriam Grossman shares in her book "Unprotected", where she tells the stories of female college students fighting depression and suicidal thoughts as a result of these "strong affections" that were not invested in the right partner. Physical affection and especially orgasm release a biochemical primer for love and attachment.
Let me ask you. Despite the excitement that you see in a newly wed couple, do you really think that their love is as deep as the love of a couple that has been together for years, faced adversity and raised children together, etc.? I don't think so. How could it be? Love is a function of giving. Over the years, a healthy couple gives to each other on a continuing basis.
So, while I appreciate the research, it's backing up what is already known. But, even more seriously, the opposite conclusion makes more sense to me. If affection and orgasm create intense emotions, aren't the couple better off experiencing them in a committed relationship?
Next. Our genetic past. Let's start with the evolutionary theory. Where does it come from? Studies have been conducted by anthropologists who visit various cultures. They look at who has financial assets and rates of adultery. In addition, they examine why these people engage in their various strategies. So, guess what they find.
- Where there is greater financial equality between the sexes, divorce rates are greater.
- Women will barter sex for other goods or services they need.
- Being sexually active with different men lowers rates of infanticide and increases their willingness to feed the women.
- Many species, including chimps, are promiscuous.
So, how do we deal with these realities? Let's take them one at a time.
Financial equality is obviously easier to leave an unhappy marriage when you can put a roof over your head and buy food for you and your children. So, this speaks well of equal pay and a social net. But, so do marriage skills. Not every divorce is due to one of the partners being a monster. Maybe the hurt feelings turn partners against each other?
Bartering sex obviously still goes on, even on the supposedly enlightened campus. Ironically, the freedom to have sex without commitment, as encouraged above, must offer competition.
Sexual promiscuity to lower rates of infanticide and increase support for women. I don't see this as relevant in western society.
Chimps? Good for them.
Now, what is left? Our variable genetic inheritance. This used to be called character. You face a challenge and do the right thing. This is where finding out about the background of a potential mate is useful. It's not 100% accurate, though.
What should people do? Here are a few suggestions?
- Do your homework. Inquire about a potential's history. What were their family values growing up?
- Ask them about their thoughts on adultery, etc. or what might make them vulnerable to cheat: anger, frustration, boredom.
- Be very active in your marriage to deal with issues, frustrations, etc.
- Create a plan at the beginning of your relationship to ensure that you will be heard and that you will listen when your spouse isn't happy.
- Learn how to work through difficulties, don’t tough it out, solve problems.
At this point, there are two things to point out. An article from womansday points out that some people are sexual predators or seek sexual "conquest" due to their own psychological issues. Check out your prospective's history. Otherwise, with work, marriage can be a win-win situation.
What do I think of the motivations behind the science? Marriage isn't easy and academic credentials do not ensure a happy marriage. So, people like to seek out data that confirm their theories. Do I totally discredit what they are saying? Not at all. The points are real and the researchers are highly intelligent. But, we can overcome urges and create a marriage we can be proud of.