The quality of our relationships has a deep impact on our overall wellbeing. Research shows that our very sense of who we are is established through moment-to-moment interactions in our closest relationships. This starts in our very earliest love connections and tends to inform how we continue to feel about ourselves and interact with others throughout our lives. These are known as attachment styles.
Insecure attachment styles can in fact be coping mechanisms which are used unconsciously to avoid feelings of anxiety which arise from the difficulties we face in our relationships.
However, they are not always effective. We may disconnect or become obsessed with our loved ones in an attempt to gain connection or avoid anxiety. When it’s like this, there is a lack of security, both within ourselves, but also in our relationships. So, what does it look like to be securely attached?
If you have secure attachment, this means you generally have a sense of yourself as being worthy of care and affection and are therefore more flexible and capable of dealing with life’s various stressors. In intimate relationships, secure individuals actively seek emotional support when needed and are able to recognise the cues for emotional support when their partners need it too. However, does this mean that life is now perfect and marital bliss is the forever after in securely attached relationships? The answer is no!
In fact, a relationship which involves a lack of difficulties may be a sign that you’re more insecurely attached then you think!
The reasons for this is that ruptures in our relationships create the opportunities for repair. And they have measured that 70% of ruptures occur in a healthy and securely attached relationship. But the most important part is the 30% repair – and that is the crucial bit. Because when we repair our ruptures, we build resilience in our relationships and ourselves!
Learning how to tolerate difficulties, painful emotions, and clashes with our loved ones can be hard for those of us who did not have good modelling in our childhood.
The good news is, with the help of an experienced
therapist, all of this can be worked on. You can learn ways to tolerate painful feelings, and you can also learn ways to respond to your loved ones in ways which facilitate a positive connection. Sounds good to me.
Jacqui Snooks is a counsellor and psychotherapist and the Clinical Director of Haven Counselling and Psychotherapy on the Mornington Peninsula. Click here for more information.