Enduring bonds tend to form in sexual relationships

Couple in bed illustrating that enduring bonds tend to form in sexual relationships[1]

Enduring bonds likely involve reproduction, attachment, and caregiving

It is likely that three basic behavioral systems were involved and may still be characteristic of presentday human sexual pair bonds: the reproductive, attachment, and caregiving systems.

The reproductive system may achieve its functional outcome without an enduring bond being involved.

In the human case it is obvious that mating can occur without a bond forming, but when pair bonding does occur, the caregiving system is likely to be involved, with the male concerned with the care and protection of children either directly, or indirectly through care and protection of his mate, or both. …it makes sense to suppose that the female may also strive to give care to her partner in appropriate ways, if only in acknowledgement of the care she needs from him. Furthermore, various societies tend to foster enduring bonds through marriage customs… thus backing up biological predispositions to ensure that young are cared for and not merely produced.

In the course of a long-term sexual relationship, whether in customary marriage or not, attachment of each partner to the other tends also to be built up, the attachment and caregiving components interacting to make for a reciprocal give-and-take relationship.

Enduring bonds often start with sexual attraction, and later include caregiving and attachment

Although in many cultures sexual attraction may be the most important component at the start of a relationship, those that depend entirely on the sexual component are likely to be short-lived. As the relationship persists, the caregiving and attachment components are likely to become important also and tend to sustain the bond even in cases in which sexual interest has waned.

In many marriages there are components other than the three fundamental components that I have emphasized so far. For example, spouses may be professional or business partners, or they may spend more than the usual time together because they enjoy sharing the same leisure time interests and activities. These and other components of the relationship with the partner in a marriage or quasi-marriage are not essential, however, and may or may not contribute to its persistence over time.

Enduring bonds tend to persist long after a pair is separated

Much of the research into human sexual pair bonds has focused on the break-up of the relationship – with separation or divorce and adjustment afterwards. It is clear that the attachment component is long lasting, tending to persist long after the pair has been parted, and even when the parting was much desired. There is a tendency to miss the partner and to feel lonely.[2]

  1. “You won’t believe how sleeping together or apart can affect your health, relationship.” mid-day.com, 6 Mar. 2017, www.mid-day.com/articles/you-wont-believe-how-sleeping-together-or-apart-can-affect-your-health-relationship/17345199. Accessed 30 May 2017.
  2. Ainsworth, Mary D. Salter. “Attachments and other affectional bonds across the life cycle.” Attachment across the life cycle, edited by Colin Murray Parkes et al, Routledge, 1991, pp. 33-51.

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