[November 4, 2022] Interestingly, human children have the most prolonged dependency period of any animal creature. This makes the social bond between mother and child of primary importance. And from that, we find the importance of family.
Around that mother-child bond is the need for a structure for it even to be possible for children to survive the dangerous early stages and then to be socialized. It takes a minimum of approximately 16 to 18 years for that child, often longer. That is the price we pay biologically for our highly developed cortical capacity. Our intelligence takes that long to program.
Social cooperation is absolutely necessary to allow that bond to occur and develop. The first thing you have to do is decide that genuine relationships are necessary. A Pew study done not that long ago showed that about 75% of Americans regarded their familial and intimate relationships as the most meaningful part of their lives.
We need to recognize that there will probably not be anything more important to us over the course of our lives than our family and intimate relationships. This means making them high-quality if you’re embedded in a functional social community.
In our family and our broader community, everyone around us constantly reminds us how to be sane. They let you know when your jokes aren’t funny. They let you know when you’re too irritable and arrogant. And so that holds you together. Dr. Jordan Peterson says this is like a marketplace; “a distributed cognitive marketplace for sanity.”
The fact is, people can very rarely tolerate isolation. It is unusual that a person can be on their own and mentally stay together. Pair bonding is a fairly common strategy in the animal kingdom, especially for child-rearing. It seems to be the same circuits that bond a mother to a child. Pair bonding facilitates the long-term relationships necessary to ensure that children are raised properly and stably across time, so society stabilizes.
The thing about pair bonding, even though it might be necessary, there’s another element to it. And that has to do with the social distribution of sanity. There are many things wrong with us, and there are lots of things wrong with your marital partner. But hopefully, if you join together, the wrong things can be worked out through dialog, across time, and via negotiation. It’s not an easy thing to do.
Mere love or sexual attraction is not adequate to bond you together across times of extreme difficulty. You will find that there are times in your marriage when you are not attracted to your mate, and you’re not getting along. It would help if the community around you said, hey, look, you have to think about your relationship over the decades and not over the weeks and months. You need to adopt the responsibility to maintain your long-term relationship because, all things considered, it’s better for everyone.
It gives you the narrative of your life. It provides you with a companion who knows who you are. It helps you maintain your sanity because you have someone to contend with. It provides a stable environment for the raising of children. It’s the minimal necessary social structure that other social structures can be built upon.
But you need society to say, stay together. It’s an accomplishment. It’s not just a responsibility and a necessity and love. It’s also an accomplishment that you should be celebrated for.
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