Childhood attachment issues addressed in marriage counseling

Tell me a little bit about attachment or attachment disorders.

Attachment is a phrase that has been gaining a lot of popularity in the last couple of years and really it started off with children and parenting styles. That’s kind of where it stems from and a lot of the research has shown that depending on the way that we attach to our care givers is how we attach to other human beings, and especially our partners that we’re engaged with romantically. With the whole theory of attachment there is four different types of attachment. The four types of attachment are secure attachment, avoidant, anxious attachment, and disorganized attachment. In couples this usually shows up where one person has one attachment style and the other person has a different attachment style.

Having these two attachment styles, for the most part, can create conflict and a lot of times what I try to educate couples on is I use the inner child perspective, and that inside of each of them there’s a little boy or a little girl because a lot of times I get partners and this is the wording that they use. You know, “She’s behaving like a child” or “He’s being a baby” and they get caught up on the behaviors. The, “She’s screaming and crying and throwing a tantrum because she can’t get her way” and that, “He is excessively needy and always wants validation, and wants to be cuddles all the time, and wants to be told what a good boy he is,” and that’s the language that they use. I’m glad when they actually bring that language in because I validate that and I say that’s absolutely right because there is a little girl inside of her and there is a little boy inside of him. Really it’s about each person seeing past the behavior and looking at what that person really wants, and I use the example of children.

A lot of the couples that I see do have children and I tell them, I say, “If you have a two year old that is throwing something and screaming, and crying how would you react to that child?” You would go over to the child and hopefully you would want to make them feel safe and that they have your attention, and you don’t caught up with what they’re throwing. You may set a boundary and say, “No it’s not okay to throw things” but you tend to look past the behavior, and really go what they need, and that’s basically the formation of secure attachment. Now with that being said, a lot of the adults that I see today don’t have secure attachment. Not to say that there aren’t people out there with secure attachment but obviously that’s not the people who come to see me. Part of it first is realizing how they attach to their own parents or care givers an then how they may be projecting some of that stuff onto their partners or displacing it really where it doesn’t belong.


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