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November 6, 2020

How attachment theory transforms relationships

We often jump into relationships because we feel the “spark.”
But this is not a solid foundation for long-term relationships and says little about compatibility.
There are some critical areas of compatibility you should look at instead.
Let’s look at one of our most critical needs in a relationship, and the main reason we seek out connections in the first place: it’s our need for safety and comfort.
We feel safe when we know our primary caregiver (a parent or partner) is responsive to our needs, and we know they will not leave or abandoned us.
Jealousy is a fear of abandonment and loss.
Emotional responsiveness is key to relationships that flourish.
When our partner is not emotionally responsive, it creates insecurities that will play out in feelings of jealousy, the need to control, or push away.
Control often shows up in inhibiting their partner, eventually leading to a drop in desire and intimacy, and makes way for resentment to take its place.
The partner who feels the attachment threat and fears abandonment will often attack in the form of criticism, anger, or blame to get a response.
Indifference is worse than conflict.
So often, you can calm these attacks down by addressing the underlying attachment, fear.
You do this by being emotionally responsive.
Trust is built in small moments called key moments, and they define the relationship.
Being emotionally responsive means that when you sense a need for security, in the form of jealousy or trying to control you, then make them know how much you care about them and how important they are in your life.
We will talk more about this later in attachment styles and love languages as your partner will have their specific way, they feel valued and safe, and once you know this, it’s straightforward to give them what they need.
If there is no emotional responsiveness, the anxious partner will eventually give up and become avoidant as they get stuck in helplessness.
This might seem like peace, but if the attachment wounds are not dealt with, it will often be the final death blow to a relationship.
At this stage, a relationship either fall apart, or they live together as two disconnected people.
The cause of many emotions, such as irritation, resentment, and anger, are attachment fears.
The fear of being left or that the other person does not care about us is not a reliable attachment that will keep us safe.
We learn to know who we can trust to keep us safe by how responsive they are to our needs.
That’s how our caregiver shows us we are safe, and these patterns will continue the rest of our lives.
Once we address attachment fears, our partner can easier hear and accept our individual needs.
Just as a child, we all need to know someone will be there for us, care about us, and value us.
We need to know we are safe before exploring the world and experiencing the excitement it holds.
When we lash out or get defensive, we often feel unsafe and feel our attachment is threatened.
We fear our partner won’t be there for us anymore.
Only when we engage with that need can we get past the nagging, arguments, and withdrawal and deal with the issue’s root.
We learn to know who we can trust to keep us safe by how responsive they are to our needs.
Rather than judging your partner as needy or insecure, an accurate description would be that your partner has likely had a close attachment broken at some point in their life, which has created a genuine fear for them.
It’s a cycle of anxiety, and while it might seem like personal attacks, it’s an expression that they need reassurance.
The arguments are a negative cycle and express how much they care and want to be close.
When we focus on the argument, we see the action and not the cause.
Don’t waste time fanning the flames when you can put out the fire.
The first step is to spot these cycles and identify attachment fears.
The aim is to spot these auto-responses that create disconnection and heal them.
It can be hard to admit to having attachment fears or that we need someone to feel safe.
Our western society glorifies individuality and not needing others.
I learned a few things from premarital counseling that proved decisive.
Have you ever heard the “just learn to love yourself,” “you don’t need someone else, you can be happy on your own?” Well, research has clearly shown the above quotes to be incorrect.
We learn to love by experiencing this in our relationships, and if we don’t have a map for love, then we can’t just love ourselves.
Also, extensive research showed that our long-term emotional and physical well-being are the most crucial factors in our relationships and how close they are.
Everything worth doing in life, we do with others.
As humans, we need each other to survive and to flourish.
Our most fundamental needs depend on others.
We need to learn to embrace this and see needing each other as a healthy expression of our humanity.
The shame we as a culture have created around needing others is holding us back.
If you address this, you can help them heal, and you both get a more intimate relationship.
The logic goes out of the window when we are triggered and fearful of losing our essential attachments.
Our most basic responses of fight, flight, or freeze tend to be our automatic options.
So, we need first to calm that response because all the best advice in the world will not help once we are fully triggered.
So, when you feel triggered, there are a few ways to restore calm in your mind.
We will look at those in the next article.

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