How can we know if a person is a responsive and secure partner?
When we imagine a life together with our chosen person, the mainframe of that image has to give us a sense of security.
This security is an overall sense of confidence in a partner's love and commitment to us. It includes also some expectations concerning the partner being responsive to our needs. If we feel secure in this sense, we will feel valued and cared for by partners who are emotionally available and responsive to needs, when they happen.
A secure partner is a good responsive person who is willing and capable of perceiving and fulfilling one's needs through thick and thin. In selecting a life partner, we need to learn whether we can count on them to understand our needs, accept responsibility for our well-being, follow our community's norms about how to care for each other, and make themselves emotionally and physically available to us.
Underneath all the distress of the marital conflict, says Sue Johnson, partners are asking each other:
Are you there for me?
Can I count on you, depend on you?
Will you respond to me when I need, when I call?
Do I matter to you?
Am I valued and accepted by you?
Do you need me, rely on me?
The person with the capacity to be a secure partner, that will respond to the questions in an unequivocally positive way is a secure base. If there are ambiguous responses, half-way commitments, and delays in the response, then some other kind of attachment is playing. Of course, it will not be a secure attachment!
What happens when this is not the case? we can then imagine that the person selected has had a childhood experience that left him/her with an anxious or avoidant mindset. Neither will know how to give us a sense of security that makes a marriage a safe haven because it is not on their mental map. They never had it themselves, when growing up.
An anxious partner will show additional needs for approval that will color the help they can give us, ("please, make me feel accepted/approved so I can hear your need and help you") or the fear of rejection will make the process of asking for help convoluted and frustrating: we need to ask for help at the same time reassuring the source of such help that he/she can do it...
If you have an avoidant person as a partner, once you dare to express your need, you will see your partner keeping a careful distance, or trying to control the emotional climate of the situation ("Calm down and stop crying, so I can hear you"), or changing the subject to something more neutral like the weather, or worst, their own personal needs. This person is so concerned about avoiding rejection or abandonment, that will keep a more controlled distance when more demands for proximity and care are formulated.
There you have it! You can compare your feelings with the response in each case and decide if you have a secure partner, or if your chosen one has work to do in the kind of attachment he/she is bringing to your relationship. This is such an important aspect influencing the long term stability of the marriage, that we should all be dating with a label on our chest, below our name, that says either: "Avoidant," "Insecure" or "Secure."
Of course, this last suggestion is only aspirational...but it would help a lot if we knew from the start the quality of the stone upon which we plan to build our marriage!