From the moment we are born and throughout all our years we seek contact, comfort, safety, affection, warmth, emotional attunement and recognition from the important people in our lives. Our relationships with our parents serve as the first models of how this seeking will go and those models become part of our deepest anticipations.
John Bowlby, the founder of Attachment Theory, said that the capacity to seek physical and emotional closeness and support was intrinsic to human nature. He called these deeply structured anticipations our “working models” of attachment. Science and research from converging fields have provided abundant evidence that secure attachments are essential to healthy development through childhood and that they are also essential to physical and emotional health and well being in adulthood.
In adulthood the main difference is that attachment relationships are mutual. Also, as you develop through life your capacity for relating becomes more differentiated and nuanced. Each person must increasingly grow a capacity to be true to one’s separate sense of self without giving up his or her inherent need for their partner and without giving up on a partner’s inherent need for himself or herself. The security you make in your relationship strengthens confidence in each of you that you can seek support. Physical and emotional closeness allow you to move in positive directions with each other with less disruption resulting from conflict. Emotional closeness with a partner provides real healing that ameliorates the costs of stress in life and provides a secure base from which adults make broad and deep contact with the world. Inner and outer security mutually affect each other and empower self and partner.
Though many people come to adulthood with a working model of insecure attachment, the beautiful truth is that we are capable of developing, through our most significant love relationships, an “earned” secure working model of attachment in adulthood. (We are capable of changing our working models.)
Couple relationships are primarily attachment relationships and the central aim of couple therapy is meant to strengthen your attachment with one another. Couple therapy is also an endeavor which can help each partner use their relationship to develop an earned working model of secure attachment.
With wishes for a close, connected and secure bond,
Robert Ogner, May 19, 2008