When couples do not feel emotionally safe and secure, it’s not uncommon for them to create distance and be mean to each other. Sadly, the more two partners speak harshly to one another, the more negativity dominates their relationship. Leading to feelings of polarization and isolation.
During our Facebook Live discussion, Briana and I discussed:
- What the four attachment styles are and how the insecure styles differ from the secure styles
- Attachment relationships, such as the anxious-avoidant, the anxious-anxious, and the avoidant-avoidant, as well as how those relationships can increase insecurity despite efforts to create security
When I think of attachment styles, I think about my past relationships. It’s no secret that I have battled with my own insecure attachment style, which caused me to remain in relationships that were toxic.
An important thing to note about attachment in relationships is that attachment in and of itself is not good or bad. Attachment is there in every relationship, and the attachment itself is not what causes problems between partners. It is the quality and nature of the attachment that can make or break a relationship.
When the attachment bond is between partners who do not trust each other, who are not committed, or who speak to each other in ways that do not make attachment feel emotionally safe, such as using criticism or contempt, the bond suffers.
Since the attachment system is wired more for survival than for helping love thrive, it can lead us to cling to an unhealthy bond, even when we know it’s a bad relationship.
The various couple dances, the patterns of interacting with each other, are created by both partners. In an anxious-avoidant trap, the needy partner seeks closeness (sometimes constantly) while the distancing partner feels threatened by the closeness and distances themselves. The needy partner in turn feels afraid that they may lose their lover and pursues more closeness, influencing the distancer to distance even more.
Sadly, both partners trigger and re-trigger each other’s deepest wounds and do not have the experience or skill when vulnerable to express their deepest insecurities in a way that creates emotional security.
(To start the necessary process of understanding and expressing these things within your relationship, check out my workbook Emotion Mapping for Couples.)
Often the aforementioned dance is repeated, even when it comes to the couple seeing a therapist to get help. The clingy partner pushes for seeing someone and the distancing partner dismisses the idea.
Here are some additional interviews I have on this topic:
- Stopping the Pursue-Withdraw Pattern: An Interview with Scott Woolley
- The Anxious-Avoidant Relationship Trap: An Interview with Amir Levine Part II
- Small Things Often Create Secure Attachments: An Interview with Amir Levine
This isn’t the only trap that couples fall into. There is the one that involves two anxiously-attached individuals and the one that involves two avoidantly-attached individuals.
Briana and I discuss this in further detail in our video.
Negative Emotional Connection
In our discussion, Briana highlights one of her client’s experiences of a negative and abusive emotional connection with a parent. The foundation of attachment theory highlights that our adult attachment styles, beliefs, and patterns of behavior stem from our childhood relationships.
Sometimes we can be taught that if we are on the receiving end of negative interactions, it means we are cared for because we are getting some attention from someone important to us.
For example, Briana’s client was a younger brother whose older brother had experienced consistent physical abuse from their father. But the younger brother also noticed that the father and the older brother were more emotionally connected (from the little brother’s perspective). To the younger brother, this leads to a mistaken belief that abuse, while deeply harmful, equated to importance or affection.
This can be the case with both physical and emotional abuse.
Regardless of whether you’re going through challenging couple’s dances, remember that there is hope that you can overcome these difficulties and achieve the connection and dynamics that you are wanting.
If you want to learn more about how I assist couples with fostering intimacy year round, check out my Intimacy 5 Challenge.
If you are interested in learning more about what attachment style you have, and how knowing your attachment style might provide simpler solutions to your relationship problems, I invite you to take Briana’s Quiz.