The Art of Love

How do you know when someone loves you? Marriage therapist, Dr. Sue Johnson, views love in intimate relationships through the lens of attachment. When a relationship is securely attached you experience the other as “a safe haven” and “a secure base.” These two concepts are traditionally applied to the parent/child relationship. However, Dr. Johnson states that marital love has the same attributes. This includes pastors and their marriages. As a pastor, when you experience your spouse as a secure base and a safe haven, you can relax and share your innermost self with your spouse. Dr. Johnson states that loving human relationships are the central emotional relationships in most adult lives and the most compelling survival mechanism for men and women because secure love offers emotional protection from life’s ups and downs. Dr. Johnson observes that adults have the capacity to develop effective dependency – that is the ability to turn to others for emotional support. I Corinthians 13 offers us actions and attitudes that can help us to cultivate secure love for one another so that we can mature in effective dependency.

  1.  Read 1 Corinthians 13. I Corinthians 13 is a familiar passage to many of us. Identify the actions and attitudes from this passage that characterize relationships in which you feel safe and secure. In your family, how can you embody some aspect of 1 Corinthians 13 a little bit more? 
  2. Recognize when you are disconnected. Dr. Johnson observes that many of our arguments with people that we love are actually protests over emotional disconnection. If you have the same argument with the one you love repeatedly, chances are that protests about emotional disconnection are at the heart of your fights. How and when can you reach out to the one you love to reconnect instead of pushing one another’s emotional buttons or pushing your spouse away?
  3. Realize that emotional vulnerability includes risk taking. Rebuilding connection can and does happen, but it feels risky. Take advantage of small moments of intimacy. Name them together. We often hold back in our relationships because we are afraid of being hurt or rejected. What words of assurance and acceptance can you offer to the ones you love even in the midst of an argument?
  4. Reach out for help. Rebuilding and repairing relational disconnection is hard work – especially if you have been disconnected for some time. Many couples and families need a relationship coach or a marriage and family counselor to help them develop the skills that are needed to create emotional safety in order to build connection. Are you willing to seek the skills of a professional counselor or relationship coach to help you deepen your marital emotional connection?
  5. Repeat what works. When you begin to experience small steps of success in reconnection, explore and examine the factors that made the connection safe and secure again for both of you.  If you are daring, you can also begin to list the factors that led up to disconnection. When can you and your spouse set aside time to take a fearless relationship connection inventory?


  1. Johnson, Sue. Hold Me Tight: Your Guide to the Most Successful Approach to Building Loving Relationships. London: Piatkus Books, 2011.
  2. Watch “The Laws of Love” by Dr. Sue Johnson on YouTube
  3. Scazzero, Peter. “Lead Out of Your Marriage or Singleness,” chapter 3 in The Emotionally Healthy Leader. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015.

Relational contributor: Virginia T. Holeman, PhD., LMFT, LPCC, Retired Chair of the Department of Counseling and Pastoral Care, Asbury Theological Seminary
Executive editor: Russ Gunsalus
Curator of content: Dave Higle