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42.2BerginButler

42.2BerginButler - L ove a n d In t i ma c y in Fa mi l y...

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Love and Intimacy in Family, Kinship, Friend- ship, and Community
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I n addition to gospel principles, concepts from secular research can help us move closer to ideal relationships. Drawing on current research from the social sciences that is in harmony with gospel principles, this article, which is taken from a chapter of a new publication entitled Eternal Values and Personal Growth: A Guide on your Journey to Social, Emotional, and Spiritual Wellness, explores ways people can become more Christlike in marriage, in friendships, and across generations. The Ecology of Intimacy Our identities are part of a social ecology—a complex system of adaptation and accommodation that occurs in all living systems, includ- ing human relationships. Newly married couples, for example, experi- ence a period of adjustment analogous to the way biological organisms in an ecosystem adjust to the introduction of a new species. As each partner becomes aware of elements in the relationship that do not coordinate, the bliss of courtship and early marriage is challenged. For example, a hus- band might discover that his idea of closeness requires that the couple spend much more time together than his wife’s idea of closeness does. She might fi nd that he does not want to talk as much as she does. Both might realize they have di ff erent criteria for deciding how to spend money. Their new living system must be coordinated if it is to survive and thrive. In nature the more powerful members of a living system defend their existence by brute force and compel others to adapt to them. In plant ecology, for example, some more powerful species overshadow and even BYU Studies  , no. (  ) 139 Love and Intimacy in Family, Kinship, Friendship, and Community Allen E. Bergin and Mark H. Butler
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strangle their weaker host. The most fi t survive while the less fi t die. But in marriage, a power-based approach can be lethal to the entire system. At best it creates debilitating con fl ict. At worst it kills the marriage. In some power-based marriages, a coordinated interaction of dominance and submission does develop, but it is a sham intimacy. Even pathologi- cal relationship systems, such as violent marriages or families, can achieve a crude, adaptive ecology over time, just as some plant and ani- mal ecosystems can survive by being parasitic and exploitive. In healthy, godly intimacy, each partner makes a deliberate choice to consecrate himself or herself to the welfare of the marriage by caring for, celebrating, and enlarging each other. When both partners are able to make this commitment, they experience gradual development of a bal- anced marital ecology. This process entails coordination of thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and behaviors that in turn become a springboard for deeper intimacy.
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