How attachment takes toll on love life

Jun 07, 2012, 05:04 IST | ANI

An author has suggested that in a relationship, one should forget about learning how to argue better and stop analysing how our early childhoods have affected us

Couples who come for therapy are usually stuck with issues they are trying to resolve. They are on guard, feeling that their entire relationship is threatened with the distance they are experiencing, a news website reported.

But a number of them can solve their own problems if they find a self-help book that gives has sound advice, is easy to follow, and has useful exercises to practise the theory, and Dr Sue Johnson’s ‘Hold Me Tight’ is one such book.

Sex and relationships, How attachment takes toll on love life

“Grand romantic gestures or experiments with new sexual positions” are not going to help either, she said

Instead, she focuses on the core issues of how we are emotionally attached and dependent on our partner, in much the same way as a child is dependent on a parent for nurturing, soothing and protection.

Johnson reminds us that the fear of being alone and of being helpless will switch on an alarm that is built into our survival system.

In response to insecurity, an alarm goes off in the part of the brain called the amygdala, or the Fear Central, as Joseph LeDoux of the Centre for Neural Science at New York University calls it.

Most of us experience some fear when we have disagreements or arguments with our partners. For those with secure bonds, these are shortlived and will settle as we are reassured.

Those who have weaker bonds, however, can be overwhelmed by this distancing. In our panic, we do one of two things – we become either demanding or clinging in an effort to draw comfort and reassurance from our partner, or we withdraw and detach in an attempt to soothe and protect ourselves.

Regardless of what words we use, we really mean “Notice me. Be with me. I need you” or “I won’t let you hurt me. I will chill out, try to stay in control”.

These are unconscious responses, and they work, at least initially. But when couples resort to them more and more, the vicious spirals of insecurity only push them further and further away, with fewer safe interactions and each assuming the worst about the other.

Some of us minimise our longings to be emotionally close and focus instead on actions that give only limited expression to our needs, the most common one focusing on sex.

This focus will soothe us initially, but if the hurt remains unresolved, it can be hard for our lovers to respond in the same way.

Why don''t we just hear these calls for comfort? Why not respond with caring? Johnson suggests that sometimes our own agendas get in the way, or that we don''t know how to speak the language of attachment.

Often we don’t give clear messages about what we need or how much we care. Nor do we always know our own needs.

Her Emotionally Focussed Therapy suggests you to see your relationship through the attachment lens. 

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