Love and dependency
Songs, poems, and novels attest to our desperate yearning for love. Psychologists talk about it too (Fromm, 1974; Maslow, 1970; Shostrom, 1972; Peele, 1976). Mature love, according to Fromm, does not say, "I love you because I need you," but rather "I need you because I love you." Romantic love is referred to as D-love by Maslow. D-love is based on one's deficiencies, on one's weakness, as in popular songs: "I'd be lost without you" or "Since you left me baby, my life is over." We need someone else to make us feel adequate or whole and secure. B-love is mature, unselfish love, i.e. based on a love of the "being" of the other person. The self-actualized person wants but does not desperately need love, so the loss of love to them is regretted but not traumatic. If our loved one decides to leave us, it probably means they are growing and/or trying something new. We could wish them well instead of being crushed. We are crushed because we feel so needy. Maslow's theory suggests our reaction to the loss of love depends on how we look at it and our self-esteem (see chapter 6).
D-love is like an addiction to drugs: we get hooked on someone we can't do without because of our own inadequacies (Peele, 1976). How common is this? Some form of "social dependency" (a lover or friends) is the addiction of two-thirds of middle class teenagers; lower classes use drugs and alcohol, according to Peele. More mature love--B-love--is the opposite of interpersonal addiction. As a weak, needy person in deficiency-based love we are absorbed by this one relationship; it is our whole life.
"If a person loves only one person and is indifferent to the rest of his fellow men, his love is not love but a symbiotic (dependent) attachment, or an enlarged egotism."
-Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving
After the infatuation is over, how can you tell if it is mature love or addictive dependency? Ask yourself these questions (Peele, 1976):
- Is each lover mature and confident of his/her own worth and ability? Are they independent? Are they each comfortable alone?
- Are both continuously improved by the relationship?
- Do both have outside interests and relationships?
- Is the love relationship integrated into his and her life rather than being an isolated part of life?
- Is there no jealousy of the lover's success, growth, and new interests?
- Are the lovers also genuine, honest, close friends?
When our obsession with another person causes us to neglect our own needs and priorities, to neglect our own life, you need to cure your love addiction. Bireda (1990) addresses this problem directly.
Germaine Greer (1971) in The Female Eunuch points out that some lovers like their partners to fail or to have a weakness because a scared, inadequate person is more likely to stay dependent on them. Likewise, making yourself indispensable to your partner, i.e. making him or her dependent on you, may be harmful to the relationship in the long run. She says the question to ask is: "Do I want my love to be happy more than I want him/her to be with me?" If your answer is yes, it's probably mature love. If it is no or "I'm not sure," watch out for clinging dependency.
If your life centers almost entirely around your loved one, naturally breaking up will be agonizing and take a long time. Of course, growing and mature people often go different directions; parting will be regretted and painful for them too, but not a long-lasting emotional disaster. In those cases where love suddenly turns to hate, it suggests that the person was thinking more of him/herself than the lover all along.
One of the fantastic experiences of life is being deeply in love--obsessed with someone, thrilled by them, wanting to touch them all the time. Maybe the desperate need for love can't be escaped. There is a saying, "Love is nature's trick to insure the species." The deep internal feelings of love are so similar all over the world, it isn't likely we learn to love from the movies. Of course, we are often hoping for more from love than a relationship and sex. So often we hope that love and marriage will solve many or all of our anxieties and problems (Gordon, 1976). As we will discuss later, traditional women have wanted economic, social, and emotional satisfaction; traditional men have wanted all the comforts of home, admiration, and emotional support. (Non-traditional men and women expect less from their spouse.) When our expectations are not met by our lover, we have problems (disappointment and anger).
Being familiar with these theories--and that is all they are--may make us more aware of the emotional dependency and unreasonableness involved in "blind" love. This awareness can help us cope. If deep, intimate love cannot exist without certain kinds of dependencies, maybe we can anticipate those needs and handle them. Judith Bardwick (1979) and Marion Solomon (1994) say that lovers are always dependent. To them dependency merely means mature lovers need affection and affirmation as being good, capable people. Lovers do not need to be insecure, self-doubting, and helpless. But dependency is a part of intimacy. They say mature lovers need both closeness and also distance; they need emotional connections and also autonomy. This is called an interdependent relationship.
Without a long-term commitment to a love relationship, Bardwick says we are in danger of feeling insecure, finding little meaning in life, and longing for unconditional love (Mother's love or amae). I think love may be a basic human need, like safety or being touched or sex. I think there is some inevitable pain when love is lost (at least, it seems true for most of us). Thus, people in love are not independent in the sense that they can just easily walk away (angry lovers perhaps can). Healthy people in love are independent enough that they can, with conscious effort, walk away from a very unhappy, restrictive relationship. Having formed a couple, each person should, of course, remain free to have his/her own interests, friends, and activities. So, lovers need to be independent and dependent.
A student shared with me this beautiful, poignant message:
Being Your Own Person
After a while you learn the subtle difference between holding a hand and chaining a soul,
And you learn that love doesn't mean leaning and company doesn't mean security,
And you begin to learn that kisses aren't contracts and presents aren't promises,
And you begin to accept your defeats with your head up and your eyes open, with the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child,
And learn to build all your roads on today because tomorrow's ground is too uncertain for plans and futures have a way of falling down midflight,
After awhile you learn that even sunshine burns if you get too much, so you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers,
And you learn that you really can endure,
That you really are strong and you really do have worth,
And you learn and learn... with every goodbye you learn.
-An unknown lover
There is so much more we humans need to know about dependency and love, jealousy, submissiveness, painful rejection, anger, etc. Chapter 9 helps us understand ourselves and relationships; chapter 10 deals with love and sex.
Reactions To Social Influence
When someone or a family or a social-cultural group tries to influence you, there are several ways you can respond. You can argue and rebel. You can go along with the idea or request or tradition, in which case there are three types of reactions you can have (Aronson, 1984):
- Compliance, as we have seen in the Asch and Milgram studies above, is agreeing with the request or idea in order to get some payoff, perhaps just to avoid unwanted consequences. Thus, family members may gather at Mom and Dad's every Sunday, because the parents would be hurt if the children didn't. Likewise, students do homework to avoid a low grade. People do hard labor for money. Take away the grading system or the pay, and the work won't be done. Underlying compliance, in this case, is power--the ability to reward and punish.
- Identification is where you want to be like someone else and, thus, do and think what they do. Thus, if your favorite aunt is a singer, you may study hard on your voice and guitar lessons in order to be like her. If your father is a republican, you may vote that way because you identify with him and respect his political views. Underlying identification is an attraction--having adopted the other person's ways and values because of the appeal of the person, not because of the validity or morality of his/her ideas. If you start to dislike that person, your actions, ideas, and values may change.
- Internalization is based on the desire to be right. If you hear a speaker who seems knowledgeable say something that makes good sense to you, you are likely to accept these ideas as your own. This is the strongest and most permanent reaction to social influence because our motivation to be right is powerful. You keep these opinions until they are proven wrong.
If we are hoping to change some behavior or belief acquired via social influence, it would clearly be helpful to know if it was acquired because it paid off or because of identification or internalization.
What Is A Woman's Place?
In addition to needing love, as we grow up we identify with older people, primarily of our own sex, and internalize many of their attitudes and values. Anne Schaef (1981) asked people to first describe God and humankind in relation to each other, then describe males and females. She got these responses:
God Humankind Male Female male childlike rational emotional powerful sinful powerful weak all knowing weak brave fearful ever present dumb good sinful eternal mortal strong-like children
The conclusion? It would appear that in the eyes of many people, males are to females as God is to humankind. That is, man is regarded as superior and women as inferior. If these sexist beliefs are internalized by boys and girls at an early age, what an awful burden for both sexes. Given this image of differences between the sexes, no wonder men are always competitively striving for superiority. No wonder women accept subservient, self-depreciating roles.
Where does this idea of male superiority come from? Anthropologist Boyce Rensberger (1979) suggests that humans started pairing because two could care for the offspring better than one and because physiologically we evolved into sensual beings interested in full-time sex, not just when the female is in heat like other animals. In addition, human males seem to be more interested in co-parenting if they are confident that they are the biological father; this can only be known if the female has only mated with them; thus, pair-bonding and love evolved as a method for the species to survive and thrive. Sex (enjoying it frequently), a bigger brain, and uprightness (to carry food to our family) may also have been vital to the development of human life in which males and females lived in pairs.
The history of gender roles
But, when, how, and why did males become dominant? Interesting questions. We don't know the answers. Apparently some primitive form of humans existed 4 million years ago, but the current human brain developed very recently, perhaps only 35,000 years ago. It is thought that humans lived in groups of 15 to 25 until 12,000 to 15,000 years ago. These groups wandered long distances looking for available food. About 10,000 BC, some groups learned to cultivate crops, stored grain, developed weapons for killing larger animals, domesticated animals, settled in one place, and built more permanent shelters. The settlements grew larger. Some historians believe that 10,000 years (300 generations) ago women were the leaders and the gods of some larger groups. Mother earth and females were obviously the magical sources of life and, thus, closer to God. But, according to Rensberger, in a more settled existence where goods and wealth could be accumulated, well beyond what one could carry, there developed a strong relationship between meat-eating and male dominance. Men were the hunters because they were stronger, didn't have children to suckle, and were more expendable. The more meat provided the tribe by the men, the more the men were revered, the more economic and political power men accumulated, and the more dependent and submissive became their wives. We still speak of "bringing home the bacon." This historical scenario may support one contention of feminists, namely, that women will have to become economic, political, and religious equals of men before they will be regarded by society as individuals of equal status.
There are other theories about the source of male chauvinism. Even before anthropologists developed their theories, Freud was impressed both with the power of love-sex drives to dominate our lives and with the male feeling of superiority over women. He, being a male, thought young girls might feel inferior because they don't have a penis and because they may fear it had been cut off as punishment for being bad. That's an unlikely explanation of why males feel superior and females feel inferior, compared to continuously being told by your entire culture that boys are better and girls are nice but not as able or as wanted as boys, which continues to be said long after the men of a society have stopped risking their lives to hunt lions. (Besides, why don't men feel inferior because they don't have breasts?)
Traditional roles and The Women's Movement
There was an enormous amount of feminist literature written in the 1960's and 1970's (Friedan, 1963; Greer, 1971; Janeway, 1971). It rebelled against the 5,000-year-old stereotypes for men and women. I won't try to summarize the feminist literature but its focus was on the importance of equality between the sexes, including being against male chauvinism (feeling superior or "god-like") and female subservience or dependency. Men and women should read and take to heart this literature. Schwartz (1970) is typical of the early assertiveness literature. These writers point out how much more is involved than the emotional need for love (as discussed above) or the need for sex discussed by the anthropologists. The feminist writings clarify how tradition has dictated male and female sex roles that control much of our lives--our interests, our work assignments, our attitudes towards ourselves and others, our status, our love lives, our dreams and aspirations, and almost everything about our lives. As we have seen, people tend to conform to other peoples' ideas of what is right or how things ought to be. For example, only men are supposed (according to "old" tradition) to strive for economic and political power, e.g. to become chief of the tribe or president of the country or CEO of the company. Only women are supposed to be homemakers and full-time caretakers of the children (this is really slow to change).
Indeed, tradition in America (until the Women's Movement) had a notion of the ideal or "perfect" marital relationship. For traditional women, it is being loved and taken care of by a successful, good man (Dowling, 1982; Willis, 1981). He goes to work and makes good money to provide for the family. He knows about finances, cars, repairing the house, and makes the major decisions. She doesn't just feel dependent on him, she is truly dependent on him. For example, if she, like a good wife, puts him through medical or business school by working as a secretary and he later leaves her because she no longer shares his interests and intellect, she can't financially take care of herself and the children. She is not self-sufficient. However, he can perhaps earn well over $200,000 a year. That's not equality.
What does the traditional husband need? He wants to be successful, to beat out his competitors for money and advancement. It's stressful and he wants a haven from the "rat race." His haven includes a loving, devoted, admiring wife who cares for his basic needs--food, clean and pressed clothes, good sex, a comfortable social life, a neat, clean home, etc. She takes care of the kids and their problems; she is in awe of his achievements and nurtures his ego when he's down; she keeps their love relationship going smoothly. She is indispensable too. If she finds the homemaker life frustrating and seeks an exciting career--and in the process finds a better, more egalitarian relationship--he is crushed. He loses a home, a cook and maid, a wife, and the children. Although he felt superior to "the little wife," he isn't totally self-sufficient either; he feels lost inside the empty house alone.