Relationship advice has changed so many times since the beginning of time that it is nearly impossible to get a good feel for what is right once you start looking for specific answers. We ask our trusted friends, loving family members, pastors or clergy, counselors. We read books, search on the internet, watch for clues in movies, listen to music. The messages about what love is and how to do it well are all over the place. If you have a theory about what it is, you can look and find someone to agree with you…and disagree with you.
As someone who has spent the majority of my years delving into human behavior and mental health, I have seen many ideas, read research, studied different camps of thought and (most importantly) worked personally with nearly 1,000 people on the very subject of emotions and relationships. I come from the therapy camps of Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) as a foundational framework for my client work. What we feel and what we think shapes our lives, our experience, and every one of our relationships. This I am sure of. Where the thoughts and emotions come from can get complicated.
Human beings are complex. We have the ability to create, to learn, to teach, to dream and hope and build. We have the ability to destroy, manipulate, coerce and injure. We have the ability to choose and to change…to decide what we believe and how we behave. We do not always have the ability to decide how we feel.
We are human beings, whose advancements in creations is great and increasing all the time (technology for instance)…but not every part of us is advancing at this rate. At our core, we are not so different from where we began. Our lives may move at a faster pace than ever before in human history (advanced education, technology, and the busy schedules, high expectations to succeed and stay informed in our over-stimulated information rich world), but research has shown that as our lives get busier with technology and “advancements”, people are often feeling more isolated, more lonely, less connected on a deeper level. Ironic, isn’t it? We can brush it off, if we like, but the statistics on the increase in bullying, suicides among younger people and the high divorce rate and hate crimes (mass shootings for example) should be plenty of reason for us to stop and consider the questions of “why” and “what are we missing”….followed by a “how do we change this”.
There is no easy answer to these questions, and I am sure I don’t know how to save the entire world…but I do know quite a bit about how to create, build and save something important that can have a profound effect on many: I know how to create and build healthy, loving, strong relationships. This is the answer to the increasing loneliness and disconnectedness that is growing in our busy world.
The more our lives are filled with things and activity, the more we become human doings instead of human beings. Human doings are more robotic, and relish their ability to perform and succeed and be better than others. We are independent and strong. We don’t need love, we choose love, right? Have you bought into the idea that people who need love are needy? People who feel emotions strongly are weak? People who experience great pain and suffering when they lose love need to get stronger and get over it? Have you heard yourself say “I don’t NEED anyone, but I would like to have someone in my life”?
HUMANS NEED LOVE
I am here to tell you something that may feel uncomfortable at first; you NEED love. You need people who care about you and whom you care about. You need connection. It may help you feel strong and capable to say you don’t need someone, but the bottom line is, you DO. We all do. Human beings need love and connection to each other.
This has been researched heavily in children. Babies who live in orphanages where they are fed and given shelter, but not loved and connected to on an emotional level often die. Yes, they die. They don’t just turn into psychopaths as adults; many never make it out of childhood simply because we need love in order to thrive on both a mental and physical level. This is the basis of Attachment Theory (John Bowlby, 1952) and has expanded since then from the idea that infants need to attach to one person (mother figure) to including more caregivers and possibilities for attachment for healthy human development. The point is, we need this care, connection and love to thrive.
More recently, the Attachment Theory model has been advancing as well to include human adults instead of just children. That’s right – grown ups need love too. We may not like to think we do, but our experience and research tells us differently. People who have loving, stable relationships live longer, have fewer health problems and report greater satisfaction with their lives and even their careers than people who don’t. It isn’t just that married people live longer, not all of them do. Unhappily married people have an increase in health problems over other happily married couples (this applies to all couples, not just couples consisting of a man and woman). Great Love keeps us healthier. It’s truly that simple. Think you don’t need love in order to live your best life? Think again.
Needing love doesn’t make you weak or needy or emotionally unstable. It makes you an honest and potentially healthier human being.
Welcome, human being, to an honest and open world where you get to stop pretending that love isn’t important to your happiness and to your very survival.
Armed with the knowledge that needing love is good, we can give ourselves over to Love and build the kind of relationships we could only secretly dream about before.
Being willing to allow yourself to need each other is a great first step.