Love Sense (2013) is an exploration of the science of love. These summaries suggest that humans instinctively desire to connect with each other, and that relationship problems arise when lovers no longer feel secure. They also offer practical strategies for how to develop your love sense – that is, your ability to create fulfilling and long-lasting bonds with your loved ones.
Introduction: Develop your “love sense” to create relationships that last.
Table of Contents
- Introduction: Develop your “love sense” to create relationships that last.
- Love, though hard to define, is an essential part of human experience.
- In an age of social isolation, our love relationships are the primary ones in our lives.
- Science tells us that humans are designed to mate for life.
- Being dependent on our lovers improves our well-being and gives us the confidence to explore the unknown.
- Relationships become strained when partners no longer see each other as their emotional “safe haven.”
- Clearly communicating fear or anger can help couples rebuild their bond.
- Healing a relationship is about working together to build a stronger emotional union.
- Relationships go through different stages, and each one requires that we renew our emotional bonds.
- Final Summary
- About the author
- Table of Contents
Love can begin in a million ways – with a glance across a room, a smile, or a chance encounter in an unusual location. Falling in love is easy; it’s making love last that is the tough part.
Thanks in part to fairy tales and romantic movies, many of us regard love as a sort of spell – a force so powerful that it overrules our rationality and makes us abandon our sense of self. It’s this view of love that has made many of us skeptical about whether we can build, and sustain, loving relationships.
The thing is, humans have an instinctive desire to create long-lasting bonds with others. What’s more, science has shown that lasting relationships have many benefits. Beyond enriching our lives, love helps us foster personal growth and improves our well-being, both physical and mental. There’s even evidence suggesting that love is essential to our survival.
These summaries aim to show disillusioned lovers that it is entirely possible to create and maintain long-lived relationships. You’ll learn what love means in the modern world, where relationship problems stem from, and what strategies you can use to repair the emotional bond with your partner.
You’ll also learn
- that love relationships are an extension of the mother-child bond;
- why being able to depend on others makes us strong; and
- how anger masks fear of emotional disconnection.
Love, though hard to define, is an essential part of human experience.
Have you ever been in love?
If you have, then you know how it is: Love is a powerful force that captures us, overwhelms us. It can make us feel weak and giddy, light and elated, or even trapped and desperate.
As humans, we all yearn for this thing called love – but we don’t really understand it. Love is a beautiful riddle that no one has ever been able to figure out.
Here’s the key message: Love, though hard to define, is an essential part of human experience.
Throughout the ages, people have struggled to define love. The Greeks, for instance, identified four kinds of love. One of these was eros – the name given to passionate, or sensual, love. However, the Greeks could never quite decide whether this involved sexual desire or not.
Countless poets have made love their theme. Shakespeare, for instance, dramatized star-crossed love in Romeo and Juliet – a play about two lovers who are thwarted by their warring families.
Then there’s the view of evolutionary biologists who argue that love is simply nature’s way of encouraging reproduction.
Love may always elude precise definition – and this can be frustrating for those of us trying to find love, or to keep it. One thing we do know for certain is that, for the first time in history, love is now the primary reason people get together in the first place.
Let’s explain. In Shakespeare’s day, romantic love wasn’t necessarily considered an essential part of life. If anything, it was regarded as a luxury. Back in the sixteenth century, most people were focused on the struggle to survive; they tied themselves to their families and their communities to ensure they had food, shelter, and protection.
Even marriage was all about survival. For most people, it was a means of building a family that could help with tending the land and running the farm. More affluent individuals married to increase their power and wealth, and to produce heirs that could inherit titles and estates.
In the West, these ideas have changed dramatically over the last few centuries. In the 1990s, as vast numbers of women entered the workforce and became financially independent, marriage ceased to be regarded as necessary for survival. Today, marrying for love is the norm.
As sociologist Anthony Giddens puts it, Westerners began regarding love not as an economic enterprise, but as an “emotional enterprise.”
Today, the relationships we have with our lovers are arguably the most important relationships in our lives. That’s why it’s crucial for us to understand how love works. We’ll take a look at this in the following summaries.
Charles Darwin, the nineteenth-century naturalist, played an invaluable role in the development of the theory of evolution. But his sense of romance was pretty unevolved. When considering whether he should propose to his cousin or not, he didn’t factor love into the equation. Instead, he made his decision by writing a list of pros and cons.
The pros included children, and lots of them; companionship in old age; and, of course, sex. He imagined that a nice “soft wife” sitting next to him on the sofa in front of a roaring fire was one of the prime pleasures a man could hope to have in life.
The cons on Darwin’s list included less time, less money for books, and less freedom to travel around the world. In short, having a wife meant saying goodbye to his hard-earned cash and abandoning his dreams of journeying to America.
Here’s the key message: In an age of social isolation, our love relationships are the primary ones in our lives.
Darwin’s list reveals a lot about how relationships were viewed in his day: they were less about love and more about finding a lifelong mate who could look after you in old age.
Today, it’s entirely different. A feeling of emotional connection is the primary reason people get together, and that romantic relationship is the primary one in their life. In fact, for an increasing number of adults, it’s their only relationship. A study by the American Sociological Review shows that the number of Americans who claim their partner is the only person they can confide in has risen by 50 percent since the mid-1980s.
This is because people are more socially isolated than ever before. Most of us live far away from our friends, families, and the communities we grew up in, and many of us live alone. According to the 2010 US census, over 30 million Americans live by themselves, compared to just 4 million in 1950.
Technology is partially to blame for our growing disconnection with the outside world. People are working longer hours in remote locations and are communicating mostly through email and text. We spend more time in front of a computer screen than we do interacting with actual human beings.
As a result, our partners are forced to fill multiple roles. They’re no longer merely our lover and companion. They’re our best friend, and, more often than not, they constitute our entire family and community, too.
Science tells us that humans are designed to mate for life.
Human monogamy is a contentious subject.
Some relationship experts suggest that being with one person for life is unrealistic, as most people eventually get bored with familiarity. And many naturalists argue that having one partner for life goes against the natural order. Only 7 percent of mammals are monogamous. Why should humans be an exception to the rule? After all, we’re wired to perpetuate the species, just like other mammals.
Small wonder, then, that whenever the author gives public talks about love and relationships, there’s one point that always ruffles the audience’s feathers – her claim that humans are “naturally monogamous.”
Here’s the key message: Science tells us that humans are designed to mate for life.
There’s strong evidence suggesting that humans are, in fact, designed to be with one partner for the long haul.
Just consider the hormone oxytocin, which can be found in all mammals. Our bodies produce this hormone – sometimes called the “cuddle hormone” – during moments of heightened emotional connection, such as breastfeeding or orgasm. It’s designed to promote bonding between parent and child, as well as between partners.
Scientists believe that oxytocin could be a major reason why people maintain exclusive partnerships – and they have the evidence to prove it, too.
The clearest proof of oxytocin’s power comes from a study involving two species of vole: prairie and montane. These tiny rodents differ in one major way. The prairie vole has oxytocin receptors in its brain; the montane vole does not.
Male and female montane voles mate, give birth to young, and then abandon their pups. After that, they part ways and live out their days as single rodents. Prairie voles stay together for life. In fact, when scientists boost oxytocin in these rodents, they snuggle each other half to death.
In the animal kingdom, some mammals are biologically wired for monogamy – and humans are among those mammals. We might not all choose to enter a monogamous relationship, but it is possible for humans to create long-lasting relationships with a significant other. In fact, nature has biologically prepared us to do so.
Being dependent on our lovers improves our well-being and gives us the confidence to explore the unknown.
If someone were to describe you as emotionally “dependent,” how would you react?
In the Western world, dependency has become a “dirty word.” Society insists that being emotionally independent is what being an adult is all about; if you’re unable to exist on your own little island, then you must be weak, or immature.
Here’s the key message: Being dependent on our lovers improves our well-being and gives us the confidence to explore the unknown.
When we move out of our childhood home, our ability to separate ourselves from our families is seen as something to be celebrated. If anything, it’s a sign that we’ve developed the emotional strength to go out into the wide world alone.
And this equation – independent equals strong – forms the way we view romantic relationships, too. For example, we might be suspicious of romantic partners that are “too involved” or too dependent on one another.
But the thing is, being alone isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. In fact, it can actually be detrimental to our mental and physical well-being.
The author explains that the surest way to destroy a human being is to deprive them of loving contact. For example, prisoners kept in solitary confinement are known to develop symptoms of paranoia, depression, severe anxiety, hallucinations, and memory loss. Many even refer to the experience as a “living death.”
On the other hand, strong emotional bonds have been proven to benefit us on a biological level. Studies have shown that emotional support lowers blood pressure and strengthens the immune system.
In some cases, it can even make us more resilient against trauma. For example, survivors of the 9/11 terrorist attack who had loving relationships were found to recover more quickly than those who didn’t. Eighteen months after the tragedy, those cared for by their significant other showed fewer signs of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.
The problem is, many of us think of love as limiting. Like Darwin, we’re quick to list the cons of love. We worry that we’ll get tied down too quickly, or have to sacrifice our dreams of traveling and meeting new people.
But actually, having a secure bond is the perfect “launching pad” for going out and exploring the unknown. When we are able to rely on our partners for comfort and support, our energy doesn’t have to be bound up worrying about our safety; instead, it can be focused on what we want to achieve.
Relationships become strained when partners no longer see each other as their emotional “safe haven.”
Have you ever been stuck in a cycle of arguments with your lover? You know, the ones where a small thing happens – like your partner leaving their dirty socks on the clean bed linen or forgetting to vacuum the carpet – and then you just erupt?
Well, it could be that you’re annoyed at your lover’s lack of cleanliness. But if the cycle continues, it’s probably a sign that something deeper is going on beneath the surface.
Here’s the key message: Relationships become strained when partners no longer see each other as their emotional “safe haven.”
As children, all of us depend on our parents for love and emotional support. That’s just a fact. However, many of us think that this dependence ends as soon as we reach adolescence.
John Bowlby, a British psychiatrist born in 1907, thought differently. In fact, he dedicated his life’s work to proving that the childlike need we have to attach ourselves to our parents persists into adulthood, and that it’s the force that shapes our adult love relationships.
In short, we simply transfer our need for an emotional bond from our primary caregiver – that is, our mother or father – to our lover.
Bowlby called this the attachment theory.
So, what does all of this have to do with arguments over dirty socks? Well, according to Bowlby, relationship distress comes from the fear that our emotional connection with our significant other is fading.
This is because we rely on our partners to be our “safe haven” – a secure base that supports and protects us. When this is taken away, we battle to restore that emotional connection and, as a result, conflict arises.
The author has witnessed firsthand how discontented lovers can find happiness once they take steps to restore their emotional safe haven.
This isn’t as easy as bringing home flowers to your partner or spicing up your sex life with new moves from the Kama Sutra, though. It’s about creating a more emotionally open and empathetic way of interacting with each other. We’ll take a look at this in the next chapter.
Clearly communicating fear or anger can help couples rebuild their bond.
Meet Emma and Tim, a couple celebrating their ninth anniversary this weekend. Emma has arranged for them to go out on a date together, but Tim, who’s forgotten about their anniversary, has already agreed to attend a party with his boss. Instead of apologizing for his mistake, Tim shrugs nonchalantly and says that he and Emma will have to rearrange their date.
The result? Emma explodes in anger. She yells and calls Tim a selfish jerk. It’s apparent that she’s furious; what’s less apparent is what underlies this fury.
Here’s the key message: Clearly communicating fear or anger can help couples rebuild their bond.
Fear is the knee-jerk reaction to what the author calls separation distress – something that all mammals experience.
For example, in one study, Jaak Panksepp, a researcher at Washington State University, observed that when a rat is separated from its mate, a neural pathway switches on in its brain that causes it to feel panic.
Humans have the same response: when we sense a lack of connection with our loved one, our brains register this as a threat to our safety and well-being. As a result, our blood rushes, our muscles tense, and our stress hormones go through the roof.
And this brings us back to Emma and Tim.
During her outraged outburst, what Emma really felt was fear; she was scared that she was becoming less important to Tim. Instead of communicating this, though, Emma blamed Tim for his selfishness. This, in turn, triggered her husband’s fear of failure and rejection – and, as a consequence, he withdrew. His response only reinforced Emma’s fear of separation, which fueled her feelings of anger. You can imagine how the cycle perpetuates itself.
So how can couples stuck in these patterns of fear and rage find a way out? Well, it’s simple: you have to learn to vent your feelings in a healthy way. When you start to see red, take a moment to calm down, and then try to communicate how you feel.
This is how Tim and Emma learned to solve their particular problem. Once Emma calmed down and explained to Tim that her anger came from feeling rejected, Tim opened up and became tender. He made Emma feel safe again by reassuring her that he respects and values her, and, as a result, their “safe haven” was restored.
Healing a relationship is about working together to build a stronger emotional union.
Have you ever suffered from a broken heart? This was the case for Patrick, a 45-year-old business owner who had been with his wife, Anna, for ten years.
When Patrick approached the author for couples therapy, his relationship was on the verge of falling apart. Two years before that, he and Anna had moved to the city she wanted to live in, and he’d even sold his company to spend less time at work. But she still wasn’t happy.
Patrick was hurt and confused. He told the author that his wife was either “spitting rage” or totally ignoring him. He just couldn’t handle it anymore.
Here’s the key message: Healing a relationship is about working together to build a stronger emotional union.
The problem was, Patrick was looking for a quick fix. He thought that if the author told him what to say to his wife, he could solve his domestic troubles and be done with therapy in two sessions. But that’s not how healing a relationship works.
According to the author, lovers that start to lose emotional connection tend to fall into negative patterns, such as demand-withdraw. This is where one partner seeks to resolve an issue, and the other buries their head in the sand to avoid the problem. As their emotional disconnect deepens, partners will react with rage. Then, feeling unsafe and unable to communicate with their loved ones, they’ll suppress their feelings. The author likes to refer to this pattern as the Protest Polka.
So what should you do if you find yourself caught in this destructive dance?
Well, each partner should start by identifying which behaviors could be negatively impacting their relationship.
For example, Patrick realized that he was simply brushing off Anna’s difficulties with the children, as well as her struggle with insomnia, without acknowledging her emotional distress. Because of this, Anna would become more distraught, and she’d berate Patrick for being “unfeeling.”
On the other hand, Anna observed that she’d implode with anger before even speaking to Patrick about what was upsetting her. She realized that this behavior not only exhausted her, but also deeply hurt Patrick’s feelings.
In Anna and Patrick’s case, they were able to see how criticizing and stonewalling each other wreaked havoc on their relationship – and they were able to adjust these behaviors. Their marriage after therapy wasn’t perfect, but it worked because they worked together to sustain it.
Relationships go through different stages, and each one requires that we renew our emotional bonds.
When Cindy and Dan became parents, everything changed. Cindy often felt that Dan was neglecting his share of the childcare. Forced to do what Dan left undone, Cindy was constantly exhausted – and, as a result, had no desire to make love to him.
Dan was also struggling. His relationship with Cindy had changed. He often felt rejected by Cindy, and this filled him with sorrow. He knew that his sadness was preventing him from being a great father, but what could he do?
This isn’t a unique experience. Many other couples have found themselves locked in similar patterns. Breaking free can feel impossible – but it’s easier if you understand that relationships have different phases.
Here’s the key message: Relationships go through different stages, and each one requires that we renew our emotional bonds.
Long-term relationships are composed of distinct phases: an initiation phase and three subsequent stages. Each one represents a critical transition that affects even the most secure couples.
The initiation stage is referred to by the author as the spellbound phase, where couples are infatuated with each other. Then, as their dependency grows, couples enter the first stage of commitment, known as formal bonding.
For those who have children, parenthood comes next. Then lovers enter the phase of mature love. This is when the last child leaves the nest, and the couple is left to live out their lives together.
These transitions can put significant strain on relationships.
According to the author, one of the hardest phases for couples to adapt to is the parenthood phase. New parents may begin to feel isolated from each other as more time and effort is put into bringing up a child. As a result, sex and intimacy often become less of a priority.
This is exactly what happened to Cindy and Dan, but they managed to solve the issue by compromising. Dan started to come home early a few days a week and take care of the baby so that Cindy could nap. Then, when the baby was asleep, the two of them were free to enjoy dinner and conversation – and anything else they might desire.
Just like the ebb and flow of the tide, relationships constantly move from harmony to disharmony. The couples that can listen to each other, and take steps to renew their bonds at each stage of their relationship, will be the ones that make their love last.
The key message in these summaries:
Love relationships are the lifeblood of our existence. They can build us up, break us down, and even shape who we are as people. Science shows us that positive relationships make for happy and stable individuals: they make us more resilient, advance our personal growth, and even improve our physical health. However, for relationships to survive the test of time, couples have to commit to renewing their emotional bonds on a regular basis. The key thing to remember? It takes two to tango.
Actionable advice: Remember the moments that made your heart flutter.
All relationships go through hard times. For couples that have felt disconnected for a while, it can be difficult to even remember what it feels like to be loved. When you have these days, try to remember the small moments where you felt completely wanted. Perhaps it was when she used to call your name every time she came home from work, or maybe it was when he kissed you goodnight.
Dr. Sue Johnson, a recipient of the Order of Canada, is an internationally recognized leader in the field of couple interventions. A clinical psychologist and Distinguished Research Professor at Alliant International University in San Diego and a professor at the University of Ottawa, Dr. Johnson is the primary developer of emotionally focused therapy (EFT). Dr. Johnson is the author of numeous books and articles, and she has trained thousands of therapists in North America and around the world. She lives in Ottawa, Canada.
Sex and Relationships, Self Help, Relationships, Clinical Chemistry, Psychology and Counseling Books on Sexuality, Sex and Sexuality
Table of Contents
The Relationship Revolution
Chapter 1: Love: A Paradigm Shift
Chapter 2: Attachment: The Key to Love
The New Science of Love
Chapter 3: The Emotions
Chapter 4: The Brain
Chapter 5: The Body
Love in Action
Chapter 6: Love across Time
Chapter 7: Unraveling Bonds
Chapter 8: Renewing Bonds
The New Science Applied
Chapter 9: A Love Story
Chapter 10: Love in the 21st Century
Stay tuned for book review…