I love the scene from the movie Avatar that gives captivating metaphorical imagery to ‘making the bond’. It starts with a creature from Pandora choosing to pursue another. An interesting and comical, cat and mouse type courtship ensues, followed by an uninhibited tussle that culminates with the creatures physically connecting their queues. Once the physical coupling occurs, these fiercely, independent creatures, settle into a deeply-dependant, neurally-responsive, life-long bond.
Our human experience of ‘making the bond’ is really no different. It is a brilliantly designed progression from interest-to-arousal-to-bond; the intertwining of two lives with a purpose of making them one. Forever. The scripting of a sexual story begins.
Perhaps these comments smack of overstated romanticism but there is scientific evidence that supports the bonding theory.
When we engage in enjoyable activities, especially those that promote survival, like eating, resting and sexual intimacy, huge quantities of dopamine are released into the brain which gives a sense of well-being. This sense is so soothing that it reinforces the desire to repeat the behaviour. We become conditioned to triggers and addicted to the behaviour. Within the female and male brain, there is also a release of hormones (oxytocin and vasopressin) during sexual intimacy. These hormones cause a feeling of attachment. Combine the feelings of attachment to addictive behaviour and you’ve created a powerful bond.
Psychologist Roy Baumeister, known best for his research in human belonging argues that deep within each one of us is a longing for love and belonging. It is what causes us to pursue lasting, positive and significant personal relationships. It is crucial to our emotional well-being and is ‘profoundly bonding’.
British psychologist John Bowlby known for his pioneering work in attachment theory states that human attachment ‘is a deep and enduring emotional bond that connects one person to another’. Although his research was primarily focused on understanding the nature of the infant-caregiver relationship, he believed that attachment characterized human experience from ‘the cradle to the grave’. There is strong emotional bonds that develop between romantic partners that causes partners to feel secure when the other is accessible.
‘Making the bond’ or becoming one flesh is a highly sacred experience. It was divinely inspired to be an experience of security and pleasure ‘until death do we part’. It was intended to provide physical enjoyment and emotional nurturing, within a life-long committed relationship that offers a safe environment to raise children in.
Houston, We Have A Problem
Because invisible bonding occurs whenever sexual intimacy take place, our society is full of scenarios where attachment, addiction and desire is established with multiple partners, creating all sorts of emotional confusion and relational heartbreak. It doesn’t surprise me when……
- an individual who has had numerous sexual relationships struggles to find meaningful connection with their spouse.
- mature adults will fan the flame of their high school romance in search of loving stimulation.
- I hear of strong emotional bonds to pornography.
- clients admit to intense desire towards a lover from long ago even while in a rewarding marriage.
As Rod Stewart aptly crooned ‘the first cut is the deepest.’
Rescripting (My Science)
It’s hard work to edit the unwanted bonds created by sexual intimacy. But not impossible.
The first step is to realize that you cannot be friends with a former lover. When a sexually intimate relationship occurs (especially when it’s the first time), powerful neurological pathways are created that lead to sexual responsiveness. Endearing sentiments, familiarity, hugging and playfulness that might be normal between friends will trigger a pre-established sexual desire and arousal. The temptation for more than friendship will be a constant struggle which unfairly, undermines the bond within your committed relationship.
The next step is to re-script your sexual story. I often help couples wade through a series of exercises aimed to heighten their sensitivity to one another. These exercises develop awareness and interest in exploring the couples’ unique sexual preferences and increases the desire for intimacy. Rescripting retrains the brain to sexually respond to that one significant person only……like re’making the bond’, physically, emotionally and spiritual. Forever.