Are you feeling secure when being with your romantic partner?

Among my clients, many of them feel insecure in their relationship with their romantic partners.  They frequently felt worried about being betrayed or abandoned by their partners.  Since some of them are being abused in their childhood, it is common for them to develop insecure attachment styles, such as ambivalent attachment or avoidant attachment styles.  Is there a chance for them to learn how to be more securely attached to their romantic partners?  What typical qualities can we find in a securely attached romantic relationship?

In our childhood, we attached to our parents for attachment relationships.  Our parents acted as our secure base for us to seek closeness when we were in distress.  Their presence also acted as our basis for exploration in this world.  In adulthood, our relationships with our romantic partners are our main attachment relationships.  If we are securely attached to our partners, we are confident that we can seek their help when we are in difficulties or stresses.  We also feel some distress when we need to separate with our partners for a long time.  Furthermore, we also rely on this attachment relationship as our secure base for us to explore our world.  We can seek comfort when we are with our partners.  The key difference between securely attached relationships in childhood and adulthood is that attachment relationships in adulthood are reciprocal.  The reliance to meet the attachment needs are two-sided in adulthood.  Each partner is also the caregiver to the other.  In fact, the two partners in an attachment relationship in adulthood may also need to collaborate in taking care of their offspring.  This kind of attachment relationship also have the components of companionship, friendship and partnership.

Whether or not a person has a secure attachment style partly depends on one’s own attachment with one’s parental figure in childhood.  If an individual having parents who are sensitive and responsive to his or her needs in the childhood, the individual is more likely to develop a secure attachment style in one’s adulthood.  If a person whose parents were inconsistent in their responsiveness to their needs and felt frustrated frequently in one’s childhood, he or she may develop ambivalent attachment style.  In the adulthood of this person, he or she may simultaneously desire for closeness and comfort, but also being frustrated and resistant to care and comfort.  In another instance, if an individual was frequently being rejected by one’s parents when seeking for their support and love in one’s childhood, he or she may be more likely to develop avoidant attachment style.  In their adulthood, they tended to avoid attaching to others for seeking love and support.

How can those with insecure attachment style develop secure attachment with their romantic partners in adulthood?  First, it is important for one to be more self-aware of one’s own attachment style in romantic relationships.  A person needs to learn to be more self-aware in one’s thinking, feelings and behaviors.  By regularly practicing mindfulness, a person can be more emotionally self-aware and more reflective on one’s pattern of behaviors associated with a particular attachment style.  For instance, an individual with ambivalent attachment style might keep texting her boyfriend when he failed to reply to her promptly.  When the boyfriend found the time to reply, she suddenly detached and threw temper by not communicating with him.  By being more self-aware, one can hold back to react impulsively and communicate one’s worries or negative thinking with the partner in a calm way later.  In the communication, both partners can develop some strategies to help the boyfriend to reassure the individual for his love when the girlfriend needs it.  Gradually, the girlfriend learned more adaptive way to relate with her partner and learned to attach more securely. 

Second, people with insecure attachment style may usually have internal issues that warranted some psychological work.  An individual may try to reflect more on one’s internal issues, such as self-image and needs for approval, etc.  Before an individual can develop a more secure attachment style, one needs to focus on oneself to work on his or her internal issues.  Of course, it may be easier for an individual to work on one’s internal issues through psychotherapy.  Seeking professional help to deal with these internal problems first is beneficial for one to learn to relate with one’s partner more securely.

Last but not least, it is also important to know that people with insecure attachment styles also deserve fruitful and loving romantic relationships.  Learning to be more securely attached to our partners may be a life-long process.  Let us learn to be more compassionate and accepting to our romantic partners and to compromise a more suitable way to collaborate with them in this journey.

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