HE.S.T.A.F.T.A. - Scientific Society of Mental Health Professionals


  • Katerina TheodorakiChild Psychiatrist – Systemic Psychotherapist
  • Nikos Vaidakisformer Associate Professor of Psychiatry

 Katerina Theodoraki, Child Psychiatrist, Systemic Psychotherapist


Nikos Vaidakis, former Associate Professor of Psychiatry

The strongest force pushing man toward the creation of bonds is the reproductive function


The present paper consists of two parts.

In the first one (the macrolevel), an attempt is made to view the evolution of the institution of marriage on a social level, from the so-called primitive societies (or more accurately, according to modern social anthropology, pre-literate societies) that evolved into civilization, and to study how social and economic developments gradually changed the institution of marriage. We trace the creation, course, evolution and transformation of family and marriage as they sometimes precede and other times follow the socio-economic changes. The data are mostly drawn from anthropological and sociological studies that take us back in time, and assist us in seeing the long evolutionary process of man and family, with all its positive and negative elements.

In the second part of the paper (the microlevel), the lens focuses on the relationship of the couple, investigating the concepts of love, friendship, passion and bond of the couple, as well as how these are shaped and affected by social changes, and evolve with the passage of time. In the end, there is a reference to how technology obliterates otherness, creating a new ecological environment in which machines reach tremendous achievements, but children’s capacity to develop empathy is hindered, narcissism is favoured, and thus, close intimate relationship skills are reduced.

The historical evolution of marriage

Marriage is a social institution that comprises the context in which humans are born and socialise. F. Engels, in his book “The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State” is inspired by Louis H. Morgan’s (Ancient Society, London 1877) studies of Native American Iroquois, and in turn inspired Marx.

According to materialism, the defining elements of history are production and reproduction of the species.

Engels notes that Morgan located in the kinship unions of the North American Natives the key to solve the - up to that point - unsolved enigmas of history of the ancient Greeks, Romans and Germans.

Family had been a social institution that had its own history. The study of the history of family dates back to 1861, when Bachofen’s “Mother Right” was published, in which the following postulations are put forward:

1.     At first humans had reproductive relationships without boundaries (Palaeolithic humans possibly exercised their reproductive functions only during specific periods like all living organisms).

2.     Descent could be reckoned only in the female line, according to Mother Right, as there was no certainty of paternity.

3.     That is the reason why they respected women, as they were the parents that were known with certainty.

4.     The transition to monogamy involved a violation of a primitive religious law (the traditional right of the other men to this woman), and that, in order to expiate this violation or to purchase indulgence for it, the woman had to surrender herself for a limited period.

5.     Bachofen studied multiple works of classical literature and reached the conclusion that – especially where Greeks are concerned – the evolution into monogamy and the transition from Mother Right to Father Right came as a result of religious presentations, and the introduction of new deities into the traditional pantheon. In line with this, Bachofen presents Aeschylus’ Oresteia as a dramatic description of the struggle between the Mother Right that was setting and the Father Right that was rising. The Erinyes (Furies) that persecuted Orestes represent the Mother Right, while Athena and the Areopagus represent the Father Right.

6.     McLennan was a direct follower of Bachofen, who as a jurist distinguished tribes into those practicing exogamy and those practicing endogamy, and viewed them as very rigidly antithetical to one another. McLennan knew of three forms of marriage: polyandry, polygamy and monogamy. Indications were progressively presented, however, that there were other people that had other forms of marriage, where men had a multitude of wives.

Right afterwards came Morgan (the American Anthropologist) with new decisive material. In his work “Ancient Society”, he proved that there is absolutely no antithesis between endogamy and exogamy. Morgan distinguished three stages of human progress: 1) Savagery, 2) Barbarism and 3) Civilisation. The first two are divided into three subperiods each, the lower, the middle, and the upper, depending on production and subsistence. In savagery, man is predominantly a gatherer, while it is during barbarism that agriculture and animal domestication begins. The Greeks of the heroic era (Iliad) belong in the upper subperiod of barbarism. According to Morgan, civilisation is the period during which man learns to process natural products further and learns manufacturing and the arts.

“The family”, according to Morgan, “represents an active principle. It is never stationary, but advances from a lower to a higher form as society advances from a lower to a higher condition, and finally passes out of one form into another of higher grade. Systems of consanguinity, on the contrary, are passive; recording the progress made by the family at long intervals apart”. The same is true for legal, religious and philosophical systems Marx will add. While the family evolves and outgrows the consanguinity system, the force of habit still exists. Thus, we conclude from a historically inherited kinship system, that its corresponding family form once existed and has since become extinct. Morgan reaches the conclusion that there once was a “primitive” condition, where within the tribe reproductive relationships existed without any restriction for both sexes. However, the traces we find today lead us to a much more recent form, that of group marriage, where entire groups of men and entire groups of women mutually own one another. In order for humans to exit this situation and produce civilisation, they needed to substitute the lack of defensive ability of the individual with the united power and collaboration of the pack.

According to Morgan, during the first stage of relationships without restrictions, the family was organised based on blood kinship; here the married groups are separated into generations. In this family form there are only ancestors and descendants. In the second stage, we have the “Punaluan family” (a term coined by Morgan that derives from the Hawaiian word “Punalua” meaning “close kinship”), in which several brothers, cousins etc. are married to each other’s wives in a group, and sexual relationships between siblings are prohibited. In this system a father and daughter, or a mother and son could not be in the same group. There is no doubt that tribes in which incest was limited evolved faster and fuller than others. This brings the system of gentes into play, which stems directly from the Punaluan family, and comprises the basis of the social structure of most of the “barbarian” people of the world. As soon as the prohibition of sexual relations between siblings is put into effect, the group becomes a consanguinity system, meaning that it is organised into a circle of blood relatives from a female lineage (with a common female ancestor).

The next evolutionary stage is the Pairing family, where even in a group marriage a pair was formed for a shorter or longer period, when a man would have a main wife among the several women. With the increase of sexual prohibitions, group marriages became increasingly more impossible. In the Pairing form of the family (which according to Morgan is the most characteristic form of family in the barbarism subperiod), a man lives with a woman, yet polygamy is still considered a man’s right, while women are expected to be strictly faithful to a single man. The bond of marriage can be broken from either side, and the children – as was the case previously as well – belong solely to the mother. Woman, in the lower and middle stages of both the savagery and barbarism subperiods – and in part even in their upper stages – occupies a position that is not only one of freedom but also of reverence. This, of course, was due to the fact of being able to recognise the one real mother, as it was impossible to be certain of the real father. In pairing, the group had been limited to its last possible unit: one man and one woman. Natural selection and the taboo surrounding incest had fulfilled their task, excluding progressively more people from bond of marriage.

Here, social and economic factors come into play. Pastoral people gradually obtain property from their herds that increase in numbers. This property initially belonged to the gen. Early on though, individual property regarding herds must have come into existence. This was a major change for society that was founded in pairing marriage and matriarchy, as men were now burdened with finding food. Thus, the necessary tools for finding food, including animals, animal food and subordinates (we do not know whether slaves existed during that period), came into the possession of men. Yet children, in Mother Right, did not inherit from their father but from their mother, as they belonged to their mother’s gens and the father’s property had to remain within his own gens. This gave men a more important position as compared to women, and created the motive to overturn the old succession line in benefit of their own children. This, however, could not be done if mother right was in effect. Thus, the male succession line was applied along with the father inheritance right. The overturning of matriarchy was a momentous loss of power for the female sex. Woman became a mere tool for the production of children. This is clear in the Greeks of the heroic, and even more so, of the classical era. In order to ensure the woman’s fidelity, the paternity of the children that is, the woman surrenders unconditionally to the power of man. With the patriarchal society we enter the era of written history. The monogamous family is born from the pairing family as we transition from the lower to the upper stage of barbarism (according to Morgan). Here, paternity must be undisputable as children will be the direct heirs of their fathers. This is distinguishable from pairing marriage because of the much greater stability of the marital bond that can no longer be broken through mutual concession; only the man can send his wife away. Monogamy here is only expected from the woman and not from the man. It appears as the enslavement of one sex by the other. In one of his manuscripts Marx notes: “The first distribution of labour is that between man and woman for the production of children”. It coexists with slavery and hetaerism (as Morgan terms sexual relations of men with unmarried women).

Thus, we arrive at the bourgeois marriage of Engel’s era that is a “marriage of convenience”. With the patriarchal, and even more so, the monogamous separate family, the management of the household lost its public quality and became a private affair. The form of the family changes, as does society. Gens is an institution that is common to all barbarians until they enter civilisation, and is descended from the single ancestress that has founded the gens (gens, faction, tribe). Many gentes unite in phratries, and many phratries form the tribe.

In the status quo of the gens, the family was never, and could not have been, an organisational unit, because man and woman necessarily belonged to different gentes. The phratry was an initial gens/mother, divided into many gens/daughters that united them. In the Greek status quo of the heroic era, the old organisation of gens is still alive, yet we see the beginning of its undermining. Father right though be quethal of the property to the children benefited the accumulation of wealth within the family and made it more powerful, as compared to the gens. Moreover, the gentes system is totally incompatible to monetary economy. Gens (according to Morgan) appeared during the middle stage of savagery and reached its peak in the lower stage of barbarism.

The invention of marriage for love

Up until the Middle Ages, marriage in Europe was almost never founded on emotion. Only seldom did love exist in marriage, which was a union based above all in convenience, and was arranged by families without the couple’s actual consent. In the Middle Ages, marriage was a collective affair that was thoroughly guided by tradition. As the marriage was agreed based on convenience -i.e. the cooperation of two families – it was an issue that involved the entire community. Moreover, dysfunction within a couple was treated by the entire village.

The purpose of marriage was, on the one hand, to ensure the genealogical continuation, the passing down of the name and the family property to the first-born son, and on the other hand, the production of hands for labour that would sustain and work the fields.

Genealogy, biology and economy are the three pillars of family union. The couple had no margin of freedom. The birth of modern romance is largely connected to the transition from arranged or convenience marriages to marriage for love.  

M. Montaigne would write: “A good marriage, if there be any such, rejects the company and conditions of love, and tries to represent those of friendship. ‘Tis a sweet society of life, full of constancy, trust, and an infinite number of useful and solid services and mutual obligations”.

Thus, M. Montaigne, in line with his era, (the 16th century) distinguishes between passion and marriage. In fact, he considers the thing that to most young people today seems as the absolute ideal, namely marriage for love, embarrassing and disgraceful. 

There are however cases of famous people during the Roman era that were in love with their wives, as contemporary authors – Ovidius, Cicero, Seneca etc. – assert.

We need to note, however, that Roman antiquity is much closer to modern times than the Middle Ages that were marked by a unique regression on all levels (artistic, intellectual, and moral alike). During the period before the establishment of Christianity, there were several similarities to modern times. Yet, we do not know if these Roman marriages, where love sometimes did exist, were marriages for love as we conceive them today.

We could say that there are arranged marriages were people end up loving one another, and marriages for love where they end up hating one another.

With the establishment of wage labour and the labour market, individuals flock to the cities and the traditional communities lose their power over them. Individuals obtain a new freedom and simultaneously a materialistic autonomy, through their salary. Thus, the obstacles of traditional life are overcome, and marriage for love is gradually established. This will take place with differing manner and pace in different classes.

The transition from arranged marriages to the free selection of a partner based on love, changes the picture on every level, both social and political. The individual obtains a new value. The four periods of family during this era are the following: The first era is that of the old regime, in which marriage is not a result of love nor is it legitimised by it. The second era is that of the bourgeois (1850-1950), where there is a mixture of traditions and love, of the old and the new, where marriages are arranged but some level of love can be reached. From 1950 onwards, we enter a new era for the family, where marriage is for love almost exclusively. After World War II marriage for love will score the decisive victory over arranged marriage for convenience.

According to Luc Ferry, the revolution of love has certain consequences. The first one is the sharp increase in divorces. Gradually half of the marriages are dissolved. Another consequence is the birth of intimacy in the private life and the surfacing of love towards the children, parental love, that is often simultaneously without limits. Today, the death of a child is one of the most grave events. The love that develops in private life also has consequences on the collective, with the development of new values, like those of solidarity, care for the other person, fraternity, compassion, volunteerism, and the development of a second humanitarianism (that of the heart and of emotion). Love requires a mutuality in the relationship with the other person. Passion has a specific duration in which it will either fail or it will mutate. In order for true love that derives from erotic and passion to last even after the passion has fizzled out, it must transform into a voluntary choice. Thus, love must transform into friendship for which we are happy for the other person’s mere existence, as Luc Ferry will note. In the fourth era of marriage, which is the one that we experience presently, the roles of the sexes change, patriarchal power is reduced or altogether eliminated, and the partners try to enjoy cohabitation, while still each one is able to be themselves, sustaining and satisfying their individual needs, without the relationship becoming dependent. 

Simultaneously, new family forms appear, like those of same-sex couples, blended families with parents and children from different marriages, single-parent families of mothers with children from sperm donors etc. Even the words “father” and “mother” may in the future be eradicated, with the terms “parent 1” and “parent 2” already having replaced them in some school forms in Greece.

These new forms of family also change the dynamics of familial relationships in manners that may, on the one hand, liberate individuals, but on the other can hinder interaction and communication, as the roles of the partners and of the parents are invented in uncharted waters, with no experiential knowledge from previous generations. 

Love and the Bond of the Couple

Ancient Greek philosophers distinguished between three different concepts of what we refer to today as “love”: Eros, love, friendship.

Eros initially meant the passionate desire for a person or an object. Today it is considered to be connected with sexual relations and it is often presumed to have a biological basis.

The ancient Greek word for “love” (“αγάπη”) initially meant a form of altruistic, giving, and complete love that was not sexual. This was appropriated by Christian authors to describe the attraction where no sexual desire was present (Dover, 1978). For many people there is no stronger emotional condition than that which we call “love”.

Popular knowledge refers to the emotion to interpret what being in love is and uses love as the best example of emotion. Thus, we find ourselves dealing with intertwined concepts (Lamy L.).

“Friendship” is usually mentioned as a deep and tender respect, an intense fidelity and devotion towards members of one’s family, friends or partners, ethnic group or even an ideology. According to this view, the concept of “friendship” reflects the complete commitment of the body and of emotions in the act of relating to others.

The three categories (Eros, love and friendship) often intertwine in the popular concepts of love. They share the main theme of profound and emotionally charged commitment (attachment) to others.

Contemporary philosophical tradition attempts to classify love through four different manners of analysis. The four common classification of love are the following: a) love as a union (the desire of achieving a unifying bond, for instance a sexual one or a family one, b) love as a main concern (commitment, devotion, emotional investment, compassion), c) love as assigning value (distinguishing the “true” value of an individual or an idea, or assigning a higher value to the individual or the idea), d) love as a multifaceted emotion that could possibly include all the aforementioned properties (Fuentes, p. 238).

Love, however, can also have undesirable effects. Love for our own group is accompanied by progressively more hatred towards other groups. Faith in the power and capability of love also offers the capability of hate, which plays a central role in conflicts between societies (Fuentes, p. 252).

The Evolution of the Bond into a Couple

Bipedal walking, the narrowness of the pelvic passage and the large brain comprised a difficult problem for adapting. The compromise solution offered by evolution was that our new-borns are born so weak that they need long parental care, and a large energy cost with which a mother cannot cope alone. Humans are born prematurely, with a large brain, without the ability to stand or walk, without the ability to regulate their temperature, or eat. Without the helping hand of the father and the rest of the family members, the new-born is doomed (the symbiotic adventure, G. Manetas). These inabilities (especially the inability to hang on to their mother’s fur) were accompanied by: (1) modifications in anatomy, (2) development of behavioural, (3) psychological mechanisms, in order to ensure a better and longer parental care of the children.

Evolution gifted children, not only with youthful features of anatomy that activate care-giving responses, but also with the ability to laugh and “cry”, because these behaviours contribute in surviving. In a similar manner, attachment theory maintains that humans are genetically equipped with behaviours of attachment that produce intimacy, attract support in danger and endangering conditions, and contribute to the survival of the youngest.

From an evolutionary and biological perspective, there are two types of couple’s bonds: The social bond of a couple, and the reproductive/sexual one. The social bond is a strong behavioral and psychological relationship between two individuals that from a physiological and emotional perspective differs quantitatively and qualitatively from general friendship and other kinds of relationships. The reproductive/sexual bond is a behavioral and psychological bond between two individuals, with an intense element of sexual attraction.

In humans, couple’s bonds perpetually evolve, as they are shaped by the social context. Experts recognize evolutionary stages of one member of the couple (i.e. professional changes), evolutionary stages of the other member, evolutionary stages of the relationship (i.e. the presence or absence of children) and the evolution of the environment (i.e. the economy, epidemics etc.). Every stage reflects changes in the couple’s bond and all the stages collectively lead to the reframing of the bond.

The majority of societies today consider the stable bond of a couple (marriage) as a human ideal, and have an array of institutions, laws and convictions in place, regarding how and why one should pursue it. The manner in which every society perceives marriage involves or does not necessarily involve that, which we could term “love” (Fuentes p. 245).

Some authors use the word drive as a synonym of instinct: (a) as the root of human behaviour, as an impulse that assists human survival, (b) as the reproductive drive for the survival of the species. The second meaning is that of a motivation, a desire a lust for reproductive/sexual activity. The primal drive from which love emerges is without a target, while the desire has one (i.e. a partner). The objectless need for love/attachment will focus on a specific partner, whose image coincides with our love scenario.

Afterwards, objectification will retreat, in favour of an idea or an ideal, where “the other person is now a concept in fantasy” and thus, the “emotion is connected to the concept and not the actual person”. The closer love is to fantasy and idealisation, the deeper and it will be and the longer it will last. Idealisation seems to be working on a cognitive rather than an emotional level. Every partner perceives the other as having a higher value than a typical man or woman, and each one assigns a greater value to the other than to themselves.

In the process of psychological development, the identification and awareness of our emotions requires the “Other”, the ability to empathise. Only attachment allows the resolution of this paradox of the human substance. I need someone else in order to become myself (Boris Cyrulnik).

Attachment and Love

The extended period of childhood that began early in our evolutionary line, exerted immense pressure to mothers (Fuentes).

In order to deal with this pressure, our ancestors utilised a variable of their emerging ecological niche; their high ability in communication, cooperation and social coordination. Thus, early Homo sapiens collaborated in taking care of their children.

More than any other species, Homo developed a standard of prolonged brain development and extended care, introducing children to a world of intensive cognitive and social stimulation.

Changes in behaviour had of course preceded this. Our ancestors developed a system of collaborative care for children. It is this system that ultimately led to changes on the physiological level that equipped humans with the ability to offer care on a wide scale. The collaborative care system reduced the pressure on mothers, and broadened the social horizon and the learning capabilities both for the young and the adults. The system that creates the bond between mother and infant extended in humans and developed into a social and physiological bonding system between individuals of every age and every biological or social gender.

Overall, love is not an isolated thing. It is a word that we use in order to schematically express the amazingly diverse reality of human relationships, bonds and commitments.

Social shaping of love

Society (the mass media, cinema, theatre, literature etc.) offer a script to aspirant lovers, and convictions about love (i.e. the person truly in love will overcome all obstacles), thus, love that remains stable will, ultimately, become reciprocal. Rejection can be translated as a stage during which the feelings of the person that is in love have to be tried. In this case, the initial impression can be combined with the scenario for a dysfunctional relationship. This process may be facilitated by the fact that the social script for love contains tensions and recessions, conflicts and reconciliations, joy and sorrow. 

Passion and intimacy

Intimacy implies: (1) mutual disclosure of personal information, (2) a strong favourable attitude toward the other person, (3) emotional communication, both verbal and non-verbal, that is intended to express care for the other person.

Passion is conceived as a fluctuation of the level of intimacy (the first component of intimacy). This means that passion will be experienced as more intense during the period where intimacy emerges faster. When intimacy is stable, regardless of whether it is high or low, passion is generally low.

Love seems to be experienced in two ways, a long-term one and an opposing one, which is more intense emotionally, but is shorter, like a wave of love.

Long-term relationships of a marital type increase familiarity, while at the same time reduce the passion of each partner for the other one. Familiarity is a fundamental component of companionship love (harmonic love) that develops over time. Long-term relationships of a marital type increase familiarity, while at the same time they reduce the passion for each partner for the other.

Love within the context of the Couple’s Bond

Attachment seems to be a key component of love (in both its meanings). Love causes attachment, and attachment causes love. Attachment that leads to love facilitates the care towards the other person.

Sexual attraction is often connected with love that, in contrast to casual sex, is not necessarily required for reproduction, and thus does not have any main reward functions. Love causes attachment and facilitates caring for the offspring, thus supporting the propagation of the gene.

Erotic love can be considered as an attempt of unification of necessity, emotion, desire for sex/love, recognition that the other person is compatible with the script for love that we have in our minds. The best partner will be, in reality, the one that will more successfully activate the concept of love in their partner’s mind. The concepts of love and companionship may be fruitful as far as marital satisfaction and other relationship parameters are concerned, to the extent that they overlap in the lovers’ minds.

If true love that always begins with passion and falling in love wants to “evolve” and last, it must transform into a voluntary decision, a responsible choice as soon as the passion starts to become tempered as it is doomed to. We must select the other person, deliberately decide to live with them, and attempt to “create” something rather than surrender to passion (Luc Ferry, p. 394).

Reason will have to study how opposites can relate, biology will have to study how differentiated structures and processes conform within the organism, and physiology as well as psychology will need to study how the mind discovers an order in the contradictions that it observes.

The unconscious biological drive is shaped by the social regulatory context that is offered through representations of love in myths and in written texts, and shapes an emotional condition that we term love.

Even though modern technology separated reproduction from pleasure, sex continues to serve its social role in approaching the other person (Boris Cyrulnik).

Technology obliterates otherness. It creates a new ecological environment in which the machines reach tremendous achievements but it does not offer children the capability to learn the rituals of interaction, the imitative expression, the silences, the various gestures that align us with the other person. In such an environment of advanced technology and emotional hibernation, empathy does not develop properly and narcissism is favoured. This increasing loneliness is the most malignant wound for modern man in western civilisation (Boris Cyrulink).  

Selected Bibliography

Engels F (1891), Η καταγωγή της οικογένειας, της ατομικής ιδιοκτησίας και του κράτους, Εκδόσεις Θεμέλιο 2004.

LucFerry (2012), Επανάσταση της αγάπης, Εκδόσεις Πλέθρον.

Dover J.Κ. (1978), Η ομοφυλοφιλία στην αρχαία Ελλάδα, Μετάφραση: Π. Χιωτέλλη, Εκδόσεις Π. Χιωτέλλη. Αθήνα 1990.

Lamy L., Beyond Emotion: Love as an Encounter of Myth and Drive, Emotion Review 1–11, 2015.

Fuentes A (2019), Γιατί πιστεύουμε: Η εξέλιξη και ο ανθρώπινος τρόπος ύπαρξης, Μετάφραση: Θ. Παραδέλλης, Εκδόσεις του Εικοστού Πρώτου, Αθήνα 2023.

Μανέτας Γ., Η συμβιωτική περιπέτεια, Πανεπιστημιακές Εκδόσεις Κρήτης, Ηράκλειο 2023.

Boris Cyrulnik, Η αυτοβιογραφία ενός σκιάχτρου, Μετάφραση: Α. Πλεύρη, Εκδόσεις: Kέλευθος, Αθήνα 2010.

Baumeister RF, Bratslavsky E (1999), Passion, intimacy, and time: passion ate love as a function of change in intimacy, Personality and Social Psychology Review 1999, Vol. 3, No. 1, 49-67.

Claude Levi-Strauss, Μύθος και νόημα, Εκδόσεις Καρδαμίτσα (1986).

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ARTICLE 5/ ISSUE 24, April 2024

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