Doc Ippel: The Secrets of Pair-Bonding

July 30, 2015

by Bruce Ippel, M.D.

Our republic is alive and well. You can tell that most recently by how many fireworks the LGBT (Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgendered) subject is causing without crashing our democracy. But might it be crashing something else?

As a doc of many years, I see the consequences of how one does what’s called pair-bonding. With a few exceptions, humanity pair-bonds more intensely than any other species. I remember several decades ago hippies made the case for communes to replace family as an advance for humanity. Children and parents were all to share and share alike.

That advance didn’t even get to first base because we’re not wired like that. Married or not, we pair-bond as our first choice. I’m not naïve. Cheating occurs a lot more than anyone admits, but everyone admits it’s cheating. Cheating means not playing by the rules of one-on-one — cultural rules, emotional rules, pair-bond rules.

It’s not the chat-bonding you might do with a fishing buddy or hair stylist. Rather, it is the intense, emotional, durable, sexual bond with only one other. Of course, pair bonds come in different colors. The gay pride movement has a rainbow flag implying that these different sexually oriented “colors” are all equal. Our Supreme Court recently said it’s not OK for us to discriminate against the different varieties of sexual orientation through marriage.

All this high-pressure goofiness about who is allowed to be “legally” married would go away if the government would just butt out. Let people use the marriage word how and where they want. I know people who say they are “married” to their morning coffee. For conservative Christians like myself, it becomes a deep commitment before God Who makes us “one flesh” not to separate until death. This promise is strictly between my God, my wife and myself, period. No Supreme Court is needed — or wanted.

Experience and research say the kind of pair bond you have or don’t have has significant impact on your quality and quantity of life — arguably more important than just about anything else.

So what kind of bond is it you want?

We should start with durability. I suppose the ideal is “one and done” but “second time around” or even “third time’s the charm” work as long as you live out your days in a solid bond. Being each other’s helpmate confers economic, health and domestic benefits that none other will do for you both. And the older you are, the more you’ll need each other.

You also need that bond to have peace — much like the peace among nations. Certainly war, physical and emotional abuse should be, well, never. There should be an ongoing give-and-take so that finances, purchases, who does what, are arranged so both feel it’s reasonably fair.

The last important piece or result from that bond you really want is family, specifically children. Your own child or children. Why children? They’re a big pain in the keister for a while, but then they become valuable, even precious — family-bonded to you. And you need them for all manner of good and scary reasons as you accumulate birthdays.

Love? Romantic and sexual love are icing on the cake. I certainly know it’s wonderful to have that icing. But it’s high-risk and high-stress icing outside of the kind of bond described above. No, I’m not preaching; I’m reading the data. My ideal car might be candy-apple red with an interior-to-die-for, but do I want to drive a “sexy” car without good brakes, tires, motor, even windshield wipers? As I said, high risk, high stress.

Forging the best pair bond you can means a long-term investment in the best person who’ll have you. Someone who’ll invest in you because you do what it takes to be worth it. How long and how well you both shall live depends on it.

Maybe long and well enough to deserve a big helping of icing on your cake.

Bruce Ippel, M.D., is a rural family physician in central Indiana and an adjunct scholar of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation. He and his wife of 42 years have 10 children. For the last 38 years, Dr. Ippel has run a private, solo “hardscrabble” clinic serving the under-served.

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