Several of my recent readings have prompted me to think about the attachments we form in life. Attachments formed with those significant in our lives–our parents, partners and children, followed by our attachments to objects in our environment such as homes, cars, our way of life. In addition, we can’t overlook the attachment we form to who we see ourselves as being, defining ourselves by our careers, our interests, the choices we make in life, the image we want to project, both to ourselves and others. Often we see our attachments or connections, as representative of what defines us.
In her book Hold Me Tight, Dr. Sue Johnson discusses the problems arising in relationships when our attachment needs are not being met. In essence, feeling disconnected from our partner can instigate an avalanche of negative thoughts resulting in greater disconnection. Our fear of feeling as if our partner is not there for us morphs into the more powerful feeling of anger, further fueling the cycle of negative thoughts towards our partner. Dr. Johnson states that it is the periods of emotional disconnect between couples, rather than conflict which results in failed relationships.
In my own practice with couples I have seen that better communication/conflict management skills are helpful, but not usually the main issue. Couples need to feel safe enough to be vulnerable with each other. To be able to say to each other, in word and deed, that they are afraid, that they want to be accepted by each other, and that they will be there for each other.