Have you ever considered that your intimate relationship has "DNA"? More specifically, that you have a relationship "attachment style" that may be similar to your personal attachment style developed from both childhood and adult life experiences? Take a moment to consider this: are you securely attached in your relationship, anxiously attached, or avoidant in your attachment to your partner? Maybe you are not familiar with the difference between the three.
Here are some basic distinctions between these attachment styles (adapted from the book Attached, 2010, by Amir Levine and Rachel S. F. Heller. Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin: New York, NY):
Secure: You find it relatively easy to get and be close to others, depend on them, and vice versa. You don't worry that you will be abandoned or whether or not someone is too close to you. You feel confident in your relationship and satisfied overall.
Avoidant (sometimes called Fearful Avoidant): You are uncomfortable being close to you partner and find it difficult to trust people completely. You have a hard time depending on others and feel nervous when people get too close to you. More often than not, your partner wants to be closer than you feel comfortable.
Anxious (sometimes called Preoccupied): You worry that your partner doesn't fully love you and notice that your partner tends to struggle to be as close as you would like. You find yourself preoccupied with wanting to merge completely with them which can scare people away at times. You are unhappy if you are alone and may find yourself constantly seeking a relationship. *To further explore your attachment style, you may want to consider looking reading literature such as the following referenced book, take and attachment quiz, etc.*
In their book, Attached (2010) A. Levine and R. Heller contend that there is a flawed premise related to adult attachment theory, specifically one that assumes that someone should control their emotional needs and soothe their own stress. However, research on attachment actually endorses the opposite.
Levine and Heller assert, "Getting attached means that our brain becomes wired to seek the support of our partner by ensuring our partner's psychological and physical proximity. If our partner fails to reassure us, we are programmed to continue our attempts to achieve closeness until our partner does" (p. 20). This may be in the form of protest; children with anxious attachment styles tend to protest when away from their caregivers.
For years, popular psychology has encouraged men and women to seek independence in their relationship, all the while firmly establishing that something is wrong with a person for feeling needy and/or having a strong dependency on their partner.
Even the term "codependency", while initially developed to be used in relation to families of substance abusers, has become a generic term thrown around for everyone in relationship. This can be particularly damaging, as it presumes that depending on one's partner to fulfill various needs is unhealthy; therefore, boundaries need to be established to increase one's "sense of self" and one must find their happiness solely from within (p.25).
The reality is that we are wired for connection. It is human nature to want to be close to our partner just as we desired that from our primary caregiver(s). It is common to seek a secure base to help give our world meaning (p.30).
Research shows that once we choose to be in an intimate relationship, our physiology changes. "Once we choose a partner, there is no question whether dependency exists or not. It always does"(p.28).
When two people become a physiological unit, it is common to see this: When she/he reacts, the other partner in turn reacts; if she/he is upset, the other partner is likely also going to feel upset(p.28). This is normal!
Attachment theory further suggests that "...people are only as needy as their unmet needs" (p.21).
For individuals with unmet needs, it is common for them to either seek resolution with their partner in order to get their needs met (one way being to "protest"), or withdraw as part of their attachment style.
Likewise, if an individual is securely attached to their partner, they will likely find more satisfaction overall in their relationship. Levine and Heller assert, "It turns out that the ability to step into the world on our own often stems from the knowledge that there is someone beside us whom we can count on" (p. 29). This is good news, along with the fact that in time and with awareness, people can change their attachment style to feel more secure. In some cases, this may mean leaving one's current relationship and finding one that is more "secure" in it's DNA structure; however, this is not always the case. Every relationship is different.
This week, take some time to consider what your attachment style is; your relationship "DNA." See if your partner (if you are in a relationship) is willing to explore this with you. Trust that if there are some issues with your current DNA, with the appropriate education, awareness, and support you can strengthen your attachment to one another.
As always, please remember you are worth it!
November and December! "Tis the Season the Be Healthy" Class with Cari Junge, Integrative Health Advisor. Come learn how to have balance with food, exercise and rest so that you can take the holiday season in stride, and set some healthy goals for the new year! Cari will offer a monitored cleanse for folks interested and attending the class. RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coming in the New Year! Couples Yoga Intensive with Namasté Founder Candice Christiansen and Master Yogi and owner of Mudita Be Joy Yoga Carrie Coppola. Increase your emotional and physical/sensual intimacy through breath, process and gentle movement with your partner (many poses will be done with the couple working together). Connect with your partner on a whole new sensual and intimate level!!
* As always, we have several mens and women's groups throughout the week as well as our Relationship Recovery Class this coming Tuesday, Oct 27 from 6-7:30 p.m. with Candice and Jenny Jo. Topic: Forgiveness as a value, along with how to be proactive instead of reactive in responding to issues. This will be an experiential class (be ready to participate)! RSVP email@example.com or just show up! $45 per person; $75 per couple.
Contact info NAMASTEADVICE.COM; 801-272-3500