How much our present love is rooted in an old attachment style?
When we fall in love, the influence of this powerful emotion in us makes our perception to expand. Feeling secure and trusting, we tell each other everything; and our frustrations and negative experiences go away. We feel alive, smarter, sexier, and expansive to new experiences. Love makes us feel a new connection at a level that completes us and gives us the illusion of being grown up into adults.
But inevitably, reality has a way to reclaim back its power. Sooner or later we discover that our partner has some qualities we didn’t see before and don’t appreciate now. The worst part is, while you are expecting a new, more fulfilling love experience, you find yourself again feeling not loved or cared for. Then, an open battle ensues where you try to explain your needs, ask for love and care using guilt, intimidation, drama, or anger, with very poor results….
You can continue in this struggle for years, asking your partner to understand your needs and give you the love you need, up until the moment anyone decides this union is a mistake and quits.
Why is it that we fall in love with a person that for some reason is so attractive to us, and at the same time is the opposite of the person who could make us happy?
The answer could be in attachment theory. It tells us that as babies we make an imprint, a deep connection with the person doing the caretaking, and this priming conditions our brains to equate this person with security, love and attention. Sometimes, almost always, there are gaps in the care and attention, causing an emotional wound that survives adult life…and this lack prompts us to project to the future an ideal love figure who would fulfill all our needs and understand and accept all our inadequacies.
So, the prince of our dreams coming to rescue us from pain and loneliness is a childhood figure? Mostly so…This hidden, unconscious program makes us search for, identify and fall in love with someone who resembles a partial duplicate of this long-lost childhood attachment figure. So, this time we will receive all we needed and could not get before, right?
This internal image of our ideal lover motivates a romantic interest in people who could somehow resemble those past figures with which we know how to have an interaction. Having the hidden hope that this person will heal the failed satisfaction we didn’t get then from our caretakers provides the fuel for the romantic aspiration of becoming one.
As we actively seek someone with the characteristics that wounded us in the past, without realizing it, is highly probable that this person is trying to manage and solve the same unsolved needs for love and connection that we try to satisfy.
Unconsciously, we need to be healed by someone with the very deficits that hurt us in the first place. Since we don't understand what's going on, we're shocked when the awful truth about our beloved surfaces, and we see again those painful negative traits of our caretaker now in the person we love.
This is a depressing scenario if we only see that we tend to repeat negative experiences with no learning insight…how can we help each other to heal childhood wounds and finally become an adult in a positive relationship if we keep selecting partners that wound us again?
You are condemned to repeat what you know: the frustration of childhood love is this unconscious mechanism that keeps hidden and unconscious forever. Taking the first step to heal would mean to accept that we were attracted to this person to deal with past wounds and heal them, so the disappointment has the function to make us stop and ask:
- What childhood wounds do I feel now, as reactivated by my present relationship?
- If I complain of the lack of loving attention from this person to me now, how much is this an old claim against my caregivers?
- How can I own my childhood wounds and become responsible for healing them?
- How can we both agree to support and heal the other in those needs?
In the second stage of love, disappointment has not to be a disaster, but a useful step towards maturity. Our partner didn’t promise to be perfect for our needs; only to be there when we decide to heal those old wounds. Being able to accept them, and ask for satisfaction is all that it takes to cement the relationship into a partnership.
When you understand that you've chosen your partner to heal certain past wounds and that this healing is the key to the end of hurting, you've taken the first step on the journey to real love. Self-awareness is followed by reciprocal feelings of respect, while both people accept that they are partners healing past wounds and nurturing present needs for love, appreciation, and respect. This degree of vulnerability is based on reciprocal trust.
How are attachment patterns shaping now your unhealthy marriage? If you have learned a little more about both of you by reading this post, but are unsure how you can apply that knowledge, we have many resources for you.
The best place to start would be a free consultation to discuss your questions. Coach Nora can guide you through the process by which you can learn to identify and understand old attachments, and even learn to rewire old patterns into new, secure ones!