We are supremely aware of a child's need for a securely attached relationship with his/her caregiver, but what about adults? These needs do not fade as we age. They do change a bit, however they are remain a crucial part of our biological, psychological and physiological and spiritual makeup. As adults, attachment relationships (couples relationships) serve as the "safe base" from which we deepen our understanding of love, trust and inter-dependence. As a 2 year old glances back at his mother while he strays a bit farther in his exploration of the world, a safe, connected couples relationship is "home base" as we continue to engage the world around us.
When we enter into relationships, we bring along our childhood patterns of attachment (secure, ambivalent, anxious, avoident or disorganized), and act out unresolved fears, hurts and expectations. Attachment injuries in childhood become emotional triggers in our adult relationships. We often look to our spouses to fill empty spaces and heal wounds left gaping from unfulfilled childhood attachments to parents. In truth, this desire for a spouse to help in these areas is not wrong, it is, however, often misguided in what this really looks like in a marriage.
The attachment styles we learn in childhood are not set in stone. While a husband can never replace an absent father in the life of his wife, and a wife cannot be the loving, connected mother her husband needed when he was young, spouses are can be a vessel of healing to each other. Helping couples finding healing and deepen their love and trust for each other is the goal of Attachment Therapy for couples. Together in therapy, we create corrective emotional experiences that lead to a "secure" attachment style. Learning to trust and to act from a "secure base" in your relationship (mirroring the security of a parent/child relationship), creates an atmosphere that supports healing from old wounds and fosters a deep bond for the future.
The following are descriptions of attachment styles in couples relationships. Be aware, these are only descriptions, aids to help understand the patterns in relationships. This is not a diagnostic tool.
- Trusting, close, able to depend on partner
- comfortable with partner depending on them
- Responsive to partners needs
- Emotionally available
- Able to commit to long term
- Tolerant of differences
As children, these adults maintained a secure attachment to at least one parent or caregiver or were able to develop what is called "earned" security of attachment in later life. Earned security occurs when an adult experiences problems in their families as youth, but may be able to make sense of these things, resolve how those experiences have influenced their lives, and go on to form healthy or "secure" attachments as and adult. They may also have formed a close trusting and healing relationship with a therapist, friend, spouse or other significant person.
- Anxious with closeness
- Avoid conflict
- Find it difficult to trust others
- most comfortable being self-reliant
- Emotionally distant
- find it difficult to ask for or accept support from others
- Spouses want more connection/intimacy then they can or will give
- Often ambitious, successful
- Often cool and controlled, often good with crisis because of their ability to distance themselves from their emotions.
- Can be sarcastic/ passive-aggressive
- Relationships are filled with anxiety and ambiguity
- Have a strong need for closeness, however they have little ability to trust in the emotional availability of others
- Believe they are unlovable
- needing and demanding constant reassurance (which tends to push people away)
- Often argumentative, controlling and critical
- View themselves as defective
- Do not believe they are worthy of love
- Afraid of closeness
- Incapable of intimate, trusting relationships
- often antisocial, have no regard for rules
- lack empathy and remorse
- High risk for drug and alcohol abuse
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