Time and Intimacy: A New Science of Personal Relationships

By Joel B. Bennett | Go to book overview

Preface

Since the 1970s, there has been a marked flourish of writing and research on the topics of personal relationships and intimacy. In addition to the thousands of magazine articles and popular books on love and intimacy, scientists have examined a broad array of phenomena, ranging from analysis of love and styles of romantic attachment to genetic influences on marital success. I believe that all this activity represents humanity's search for a new way of living in and understanding—a new model of—close relationships. Although our knowledge is growing, many research efforts are misguided and trivial. There is more to the study of intimacy than can be addressed by current scientific models (Berscheid & Reis, 1998). Both reductionistic and quantitative, these models fail to address both the deeper, spiritual aspects of intimate meaning and the importance of time, growth, and change that is woven into this meaning. These models suffer from several limitations. First, they do not address the future or the possible evolution of close relationships. Almost by definition, research focuses on data, identifying what is, “the given, ” and tries to discover probabilities, regularities, and laws. There is room for new models that explore the possibility that relationships can be more than what we imagine they could be (see Levine & Levine, 1996). Second, most research on relationships is based on an outdated or classical (Newtonian) conception of time that ignores the dynamic and complex nature of intimacy. Third, trying to mimic the methods of the physical sciences, the social science of personal relationships has nearly divorced itself from a wellspring of previous knowledge and wisdom about intimacy. Such wisdom lies in the humanities (poetry and literature), in philosophy, and in spiritual or religious texts. This book attempts to redress the scientific paradigm and catalyze a broader, transdisciplinary exploration of how human relationships engender and awaken intimacy and how time shapes this awakening. I hope it benefits anyone who is seeking new ways of understanding personal relationships of all types.

Because it deals with time, this book may also help those who wish to recapture the meaning of intimacy in a hurried world. In fact, recent social trends suggest that those of us who are the most starved for intimacy are also likely to be those most starved for time. As a society, we have been taught, and have bought the wholesale illusion, that time is scarce (Rechtschaffen, 1996). We have fallen into a consensual trance, fascinated by information and the “media”; that is, the digitized, video-graphic, telemediated, and virtual world. Gradually and without much notice, we have cultivated an insatiable hunger for as much information as possible in the shortest possible amount of time. A central point of this book is that such hunger belies a deeply thwarted need for intimacy. The fascination with media and the hunger or search for information is a direct externalization of a deeper, forgotten, soulful longing to feel connected.

-xiii-

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