Our emotions carry important signals and information about everything from love to survival. Emotions guide all our relationships, and in turn our relationships are shaped by our emotional experiences.
The importance of relationships, all the way from infancy to adulthood, was highlighted by John Bowlby in his attachment theory work. John said that attachment relationships are those we turn to for security and significance. The obvious one is a newborn who turns to mum (usually) for comfort and security – especially when he or she is in distress.
As adults, our romantic relationships also provide a source of emotional stability and support. This is often easier said than done, as most married couples tell us! For couples, the strength of the attachment bond depends on each partner’s ability to remain emotionally engaged, especially in time of trouble or uncertainty. It really comes down to how we answer this one question: ’Can I depend on you when I need you?’
THE CHARACTERISTICS OF A SECURE ATTACHMENT
The main characteristics of a secure attachment are:
- Someone you can count on
- Someone you can turn to in times of trouble
- Someone who gives you confidence
Each of these help create a ‘safe haven’ of protection and safety amid the storms and stresses of life. They also encourage growth and self-exploration in each partner – enhancing the ability to take personal risks and explore life together
STRENGTHENING YOUR CONNECTION
Most couples who present with difficulties in their relationship experience problems with their attachment bond. When Tim and Clara* (not their real names) came to see us for couple counselling, they each complained they had grown emotionally distant over the last 12 months. The good news is that attachment bond can be strengthened and enhanced with willing commitment. There are two keys to doing this: being accessible and being responsive to your partner.
This is what it looks like, and what we worked with Tim and Clara to put in practice:
|Giving attention to requests or concerns
|Being there in times of need
|Being available at an emotional level
|Responding to your partner’s need for closeness
|Giving your partner priority
|Providing support in times of uncertainty
|Making your partner feel included
|Making efforts to reconnect after an argument
|Listening to your partner’s deepest concerns
STAYING IN SYNC
Couples who are willing to work together at an emotional level often find deep and powerful ways to be in tune with each other. This involves being in touch with one other in physical and emotional ways:
- Physically – for example, by making eye contact or holding hands
- Emotionally – for example, by displaying empathy or offering support
Both are necessary and important, and well worth the effort, guaranteeing your growth both individually and as a couple.
So there you have it, our 7 tips on the emotional world of relationships:
- Be someone your partner can count on
- Be someone your partner can turn to in time of trouble
- Be someone who champions your spouse
- Be more accessible to your partner
- Be more responsive to your partner
- Aim to be more in-sync with you partner physically
- Aim to be more in-sync with your partner emotionally
Look out for our next blog on this series as we unpack what happens when attachment insecurity is triggered, the role that our anxious coping strategies play, and how to identify the three levels of emotional experience.
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