Our stories about love are more than a little crazy.
Romeo and Juliet is not a love story—it’s a three-day relationship between a 13- and a 17-year-old. It’s a story of infatuation, which is a word derived from fatuous, or “inanely foolish.” Gone with the Wind is not a love story—it’s about a woman who can’t make up her mind, and when she does, it’s too late: her lover buzzes off! In psychology, our stories are even worse. They’re all about companionate love being the place where lust goes to die, or about how we lose the self in love. In other words, they seem to be mostly about how love limits us and gets in the way of our freedom and independence.
More and more couples are seeking out therapists to try to repair their relationship, but what story do we give them? How do we repair what we don’t understand, really understand? It’s time to use a different story for our own love lives, and for how we frame love for our clients through interventions. This story is called the science of attachment, and it’s a tale of how we struggle with our vulnerability, a tale of trauma and how emotional isolation is poison for a human being. It’s about how we grow into who we are and habitually engage with the world. It’s a great tale: ancient, timeless, bred in the bone, integrating inner self and social interaction. After all, the self is a process, constantly constructed in key interactions with those closest to you.