Have you ever wondered why some couples stay together and stand the test of time and some do not? The reasons why couples stay together are as varied and unique as the two people involved. Some couples remain truly happy throughout their relationship. Some are simply content. Others are unhappy yet remain together, and some break apart. So what are the key factors that keep people together in a relationship?
To better understand why people stay together it is important to understand the difference between love and attachment. Love is an emotion that brings people together. When we fall in love with another, we are drawn to that person. We want to share our life and ourselves with that person. The formation of love begins with attraction and connection, but the foundation of love is friendship and respect, and love is fueled by affection and passion. All of these elements must be present for love to flourish.
Attachment is an emotion that keeps people together. Attachment can remain even after some or even all of the core elements of love have gone. Attachment is formed over time through shared experiences and the merging of families, friends and possessions. Over time, as some of our needs are met and we choose to move forward, an attachment forms. Although love is a basic human need, even when the core elements of love are no longer present, an attachment can remain as long as enough external and internal factors (pressures) of attachment remain. Even as love declines, attachment can be mistaken for love and keep people together even if they would ultimately be happier apart.
So if couples are brought together by love and stay together through attachment, does that mean they are happy? The answer is complex. It may be “yes” for some. It may be “sometimes” for others, and for others still it may be “no”. If all of the key elements of love remain for an attached couple then a high degree of happiness is likely. If not, but other major needs are met such as security and companionship, it may provide contentment, but still a compromise. If very few needs are being met then unhappiness is likely, yet even in this situation, some couples remain together due to practical reasons or fear of the unknown.
There are many attachment factors that keep couples together. Some are external and some are internal. External factors may include: financial matters, expectations or approval of others, shared obligations, concern for children, shared property and possessions, etc. Internal factors include: caring and willingness to put others needs before your own. Psychologists who have studied attachment and divorce report that some couples stay together instead of choosing happiness for many years due to eternal factors–sometimes even for life; but most people need both internal and external factors to remain attached.
Tell us your thoughts and experiences with love and attachment in your relationships in the comments below.