[From Noel] The Globe and Mail published a review of a new book (pretty good summary here) out next week entitled, Love Sense: The Revolutionary New Science of Romantic Relationships, by Ottawa clinical psychologist Dr. Sue Johnson, not to be confused with famous Toronto sex educator Sue Johanson. In it, Johnson argues that clinical research shows that monogamous relationships provide a meaningful emotional benefit to those who are in them.
(Quick sarcastic aside: If you are a Christian and want to shut down any meaningful conversation you might have with friends who aren’t believers, make sure to mention this book and then go on about how the Bible has been talking about this for centuries. Even Jesus didn’t like know-it-alls (Mark 3:5) so I won’t do that here. Instead of nagging people with this knowledge, use it to help people who are struggling to make shallow relationships work.)
This book is helpful because the prevailing position in secular circles these days is that monogamous relationships are a left over practice from a by-gone era dominated by religious superstition. Secular thinkers would say, “the church has always wanted control of people’s lives so they pushed monogamous relationships on the general public because they are easier to monitor and control.” Popular secular humanist thinkers like Richard Dawkins say that humans are genetically predisposed to infidelity in order to spread their genetic material as widely as possible (see The Selfish Gene, p. 164) . What Johnson says in this book is that it isn’t that simple. There is more to sex than “spreading your seed.”
Her thesis, based on decades of neuroscience research into human emotion, is that just like the bond parents have with their offspring, monogamous love makes sense as a survival code. She writes, “We’ve understood so much about the power of adult love relationships, how this emotional bond creates a safe haven for us in life, allows us to grow and function on an optimal level, as well as how emotional isolation and disconnection are extremely costly to us as a species.” Things like pornography, the friends-with-benefits culture and attention dividing technology all threaten healthy relationships.
I’ll say more about this book in future posts but for now I’ll say this. What is refreshing about this perspective is that here we have clinical research telling us that casual sexual relationships are far more expensive than anyone previously thought.
Johnson is saying that in the same way that parenting and babysitting operate at different depths, casual sex and long term relationships are not just slightly different; they emotionally operate at radically different depths. If you treat parenting like an endless babysitting gig, you rob yourself of the rich relationship that is possible with your own children. In the same way, serial casual sexual encounters emotionally numbs you, and trains your heart to not make lasting rich connections. This makes it very difficult to form lasting relationships later in life.
God created us and he wants rich relationships for us. God isn’t keeping you from true enjoyment, he is trying to lead you to it. Clinical research agrees that waiting to have sex with a permanent committed partner leads to a life that has the most enjoyment, and the most emotionally stability.