If you’ve had a secure childhood—you were brought up in an environment in which you had secure relationships—you’ve got a head start in the world. An early close connection gives you a firm foundation for future healthy relationships. You have a positive sense of self and the strength to weather emotional storms. You are also able to turn to others for emotional support to help you deal with trauma, learn from it, recover and grow.
When your partner was raised in a similar environment as you, you are both emotionally available and responsive. You can turn to each other in good times and troubled times and support one another.
The problem comes when one or both of you have attachment issues, and have not been brought up to feel emotionally secure. When conflict arises, as it always does in any relationship, those with attachment problems suffer. They can avoid conflict with their partner by remaining cool and calm, but avoiding emotion can be unsatisfying. People long for emotional connection on an intimate level with a partner who will share their inner most thoughts.
If you are in a relationship where one or both of you have attachment issues, ask yourself:
1) Is my partner there for me? Will he respond to me? Do I matter to him? These are questions about how you interact as a couple, and they reflect on how well resolved your attachment problems are. If there are no problems, the answer to all these problems is Yes. Your partner is there for you and pays attention to you and you do the same for him.
2) Do I listen to my own emotions? To my partner’s? If you are emotionally aware, you pay attention to this important aspect of your inner life and your partner’s, too. If you were raised to believe that emotions are evidence of weakness, and should be tamped down, swept under the rug and ignored, then you will be able to avoid fighting with your partner. But the emotion is still there and when you acknowledge it you are on your way to creating a compassionate, loving relationship.
3) Can I deal positively with stress and problems? Whether the cause of the problem is outside or inside the relationship, you have a safe emotional connection with your partner so you can address the issue with a minimum of distress. In fact, when hard times come, and you face them with full emotional support together, your relationship can strengthen. There is even some evidence that loving partners are connected by a neural network and when they are tuned into one another, they optimize each other emotionally and even physically.
If you have a partner with whom you cannot connect emotionally, then you can fall into a spiral of negativity. You are deprived and emotionally starved. You try to connect any way you can, even when it’s in a negative way. When that fails, you can feel a real sense of abandonment. You nag or blame in a desperate attempt to make that connection, which, of course, pushes your partner farther away.
Or you can pretend you don’t need that emotional closeness and become numb, shutting your partner out. You avoid attachment and withdraw from the relationship emotionally. Either way, attachment-oriented therapy can help you stop the negative spiral and give you a road map to a loving connection.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: https://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact