Can You be Bonded and Autonomous in Your Love Relationship?

The delineation between being bonded and autonomous in a committed love relationship is often confusing for some couples. The technological era has enabled us to be more social, conversant and interactive with friends, associates, family and even long lost lovers than ever before. Does this expanded connectedness with others dilute our intimate emotional bond with our mates?

In childhood, most youngsters, develop emotional attachment to a few friends whom they trust, confide in and with whom they safely share their innermost thoughts and feelings. Boys often bond with other males through sharing activities such as sports, hobbies and recreational interests. The commitment to total emotional disclosure is not mandated in either group.

The contract between committed adults that springs from love, attraction, deep respect and friendship does not usually include a commitment to complete intellectual and emotional disclosures. Yet, pairs may expect that openness about their thoughts, feelings, preferences and actions within and outside their union, would be preserved.

This tacit “understanding” may be clear to one partner, but may or may not match the mate’s beliefs or wishes. Thus, later frustration may arise when a spouse secretly reconnects by text, email or phone with a former boyfriend/girlfriend. This behavior is often perceived as a form of betrayal if it is kept secret and may be hurtful and threatening to the marital union.

Reconnecting with a former boyfriend/girlfriend is very exciting to some. It recaptures their memories of youthful infatuation and affirms their perception of being uniquely lovable, desired and special despite the ravages of time. Keeping this reconnected conversation and excitement private – distances the recipient from his/her mate. Sharing it, though initially uncomfortable, may actually strengthen the marital bond and invite the couple to share old memories as they re-affirm their love and commitment to each other.

Dr. Nancy Kalish, who studied over 2,000 “lost love” relationships stated, “Therapists tend to underestimate the powerful nature of old loves, especially if the reunited lovers really do love each other, and a first love, in particular, remains unique. This is not about sex, it is not about the spouse or the marriage, it is not a midlife crisis, the reunion is a continuation of a love that was interrupted.”

Though the above declaration may be accurate, it may be threatening and distressing to the spouse. If one were to follow up on talking with a long-lost lover, it should be discussed openly and candidly including reassuring the spouse that his/her primary status is not at risk. Should the mate object, the partner is wise to abandon indulging in past relationships and deluding himself/herself that time has not changed past feelings.

Commitment to a life-partner requires compromises, honesty and fairness, regardless of one’s delight with any self-indulgent external adulations.

Can you be bonded and autonomous? Yes!

  • Be autonomous by feeling the flattery without compromising your loyalty, commitment, respect and loving consideration for your mate.
  • Relish your appeal as you maintain your loyalty to your mate.

 

 

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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