The need for Attachment
Couples and relationships begin with two individuals who seek a loving connection with one another and set out to make choices that impact both partners. This loving relationship sets out to share their lives together through marriage, career, raising children and maintaining a sense of wholeness, a shared unit of "us" versus, you and me. It is only natural that the two individuals begin to develop a sense of interdependence on one another and seek comfort and attachment. What happens when this connection is lost? When two people who drift apart with their concerns unmet, are left feeling unwanted, misunderstood and neglected?
There are many directions that a relationship can take when needs are unmet. The most common scenario is for one of the two partners to protest this change and the other to experience feelings of inadequacy of never being able to satisfy their partners' needs. This leads to feeling of rejection for both partners and sense of hopelessness of ever being able to restore their loving connection. Another direction that partners take is one of self protection. The feelings of rejection are difficult to bear and leave individuals to deal with their vulnerability of being exposed and showing their frailty of their emotion to their partner. Instead of showing the pain, a partner will engage in never showing the emotion. This leads to further conflict in the relationship. Some couples may solicit comfort outside of the union by engaging in emotional connections with colleagues, friends and/or relatives. Many relationships continue for years in this negative pattern of acceptance of their partner's shortcomings.
To begin to change the dynamic of any relationship, acknowledgement of the problem is vital and a good starting point towards resolution. Couples who have had a long history of conflicts may have difficulty in this regard and may fall into the pitfalls of blame and rigidity. It is best to consult a therapist to allow for active listening and promote effective change. Once the conflicts are recognized, couples can listen to each other in a way that helps them to hear their partner's internal struggles. Partners are not only in conflict with each other, but sometimes with themselves. When both have shared their internal and external perspectives of the problem, they can begin to see how they cope with their unmet needs or feelings of rejection or sense of abandonment. Couples can identify ways in which they protest, flee, deny, retreat or protect their emotions in an effort to cope. Change will arise when these processes are understood by both partners and a commitment is made to restore a sense of connection.
Attachment is a healthy condition in which all human beings thrive and sustain their lives. It is through the eyes of the ones we love, that we learn to love and respect a sense of ourselves.
For more information on this topic, feel free to contact me.
Zarna Shah, LCSW,
Professional Psychotherapy Services