How Understanding Yourself Can Help in Building Healthier Relationships

Do you find love to be easy, difficult like a tug of war, or something you run from? We all have goals for our personal relationships or more commonly said in our generation,.. #RelationshipGoals. When two people get into a relationship, they each bring their own set of experiences from previous relationships and family-of-origin (family in which we were born or grew up in). Our family-of-origin influence the way we express our emotions, how we love, and how we view ourselves and the world.

If you grew up in a critical, angry, or abusive family then you may have a negative view of yourself, others, and the world. This view may hold you back in relationships whether it is by becoming insecure about your partner’s feelings toward you or not seeking out relationships in fear of rejection, abandonment, or loss. If you grew up with parents who told you good things about yourself and openly expressed love then it’s likely that it’s easier to give and receive love and feel more secure in relationships. Our early relationships especially with our parents or caregivers shape the way we approach and behave in intimate relationships.

John Bowlby first explained this through Attachment theory and identified attachment styles as being either secure or insecure. Mary Ainsworth later developed this theory through her study called A Strange Situation which explored varying forms of attachment; secure, insecure avoidant, ambivalent, and disorganized. Someone with secure attachment is able to openly give and receive love, and feel secure in relationships. Avoidant attachment style may avoid relationships or have no desire to become attached in a relationship. Anxious/Ambivalent attachment style is resistant where it may feel like a push and pull in a relationship.

“Bowlby (1977) suggested that this pattern stems from attachment experiences that give rise to anxiety and doubt about the availability and responsiveness of significant attachment figures” (Bradford, Lyddon & Nelson, 1993). If you had parents or caregivers who were unreliable or absent either physically or emotionally then you might expect relationships to end and people to leave. Whatever your story, learning about Attachment styles can help explain the way you experience love.

In the book Attachments: Why You Love, Feel, and Act The Way You Do, Clinton & Sibcy (2002) describe the viewpoint of each attachment style:

 

Avoidant Ambivalent Disorganized Secure
•    I am worthy of love and Im capable of getting love and support I need. •    I am not worthy of love, Im not capable of getting love I need without being angry and clingy. •    I am not worthy of love, Im not capable of getting the love I need without being angry and clingy. •    I am worthy of love, I am capable of getting love and support I need
•    Others are unwilling or incapable of loving me. •    Others are capable of meeting my needs but do not do so because of my flaws. •    Others are unable to meet my needs •    Others are willing and able to love me (p.50).
•    Others are not trustworthy, they are unreliable when it comes to meeting my needs •    Others are trustworthy and reliable but might abandon me because of my worthlessness. •    Others are not trustworthy or reliable, others are abusive and I deserve it.

Being aware of the way you love can help improve your approach to relationships and change these patterns that are no longer helpful. Therapy can be beneficial in helping bring awareness of the effects of past attachment experiences on current relationships and in developing a more secure sense of self (Bradford, Lyddon, & Nelson, 1993). Individual or couples therapy can provide a safe space to explore the origins of pain and recognize where the need is for healing so you may move forward in meeting your #RelationshipGoals.

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Mara holds a Master of Arts degree from Dallas Baptist University and a Bachelors of Arts Degree from University of Texas at Dallas. Mara has experience working with children, adolescents and adults and is warm, confidential and non judgemental. Mara has worked with people adjusting to change, victims of domestic violence and trauma, people experiencing anxiety and depression, refugees and victims of human trafficking, people experiencing work and family stresses, persons with mental illness, and people wanting to better understand their emotions and experience personal growth.
Mara uses a variety of technques to help individuals clarify goals, take steps toward personal growth, better understand situations and conflicts, gain new perspectives, and experience resolution of conflicts and concerns.

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