A Different Look at Attachment

I believe that I’ve shared with you the fact that aside from being a psychologist in private practice, I also serve on the faculty of a local University in the undergraduate Psychology Department. In this role, one of the things I pride myself in is the ability to explain to a student a concept that she may find difficult in a way that is understandable. Admittedly, it gives me great personal satisfaction when I see the student’s face change from a blank stare to one of acknowledgment.

On the flip side of the coin, one of my pet peeves is when I don’t “get” something and the person at the other end merely responds with the exact same statement I didn’t get the first time. This is especially frustrating to me when the person with whom I’m speaking is a Customer Representative of some company — it sort of feels like he or she isn’t doing what their getting paid to do.

The low down on attachment

In former postings, I’ve written to you about the importance of attachment in your relationships. In case you missed those or need a quick refresher, here’s the low down: the need for attachment is a biological one that exists at birth and continues till death. Basically, attachment lets you know you matter to someone. It allows you to feel connected to the people who are important to you.

So, in the relationship with your significant other, you want to try to express behavior that exhibits things like: “I’ve got your back,” “I’m here for you,” and “You are important to me.” All of these will let your partner know that he/she has meaning and your partnership will be a more connected one.

Same end point, different path

In some recent work with a couple who really didn’t honor one another as respectfully as they should, I started to speak to them about the fact that they were being destructive to one another. They, as so many of you, knew one another’s “soft” spots, one another’s vulnerabilities. And … it was those areas that were coming under attack.

First, a note of warning: when your partner has revealed something about him or herself that is considered private — make sure to honor it. Never throw this information back at him or her because it will be construed as a major violation in trust!

When I was working with this couple, it occurred to me that another way to explain attachment was in terms of knowing one another’s shortcomings and helping each other feel better in their area of vulnerability. For instance, if your mate is uncertain of his ability to do a task but attempts to do it, be encouraging and reinforcing. If your other half is apprehensive about something, rather than minimizing it, let her know you believe in her.

When you offer support, the message you are giving is one that is positive rather than negative. It is another way of saying, “I am here for you.” It is vital that you be a cheerleader for one another. Though you may think that this is not such a big deal, do not underestimate the power of someone feeling that another believes in you.