Please note, for relationship counselling, marriage counselling, marriage guidance, relationship advice & marriage advice I only see individuals who want to work through their own marriage or relationship problems.
I don't see couples for relationship counselling or marriage counselling.
Relationship Counselling London, Marriage Counselling, Sexual Relationship, Sexual Marriage, Trust in Relationship, Fear Of Intimacy
Trust, Intimacy, Love, Touch & Sex In The Relationship Or Marriage
Trust, Vulnerability & Intimacy In The Relationship
When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable.Madeleine L'Engle
But to grow up is to accept vulnerability... To be alive is to be vulnerable.
Vulnerability, Tenderness & Fragility Accepting our vulnerability and vulnerability in others may enrich us, connect us with others. Some of us may now numb our vulnerability, yet feeling it, showing it, experiencing our uncertainty takes courage, because to be vulnerable is emotionally risky, yet helps us grow as a human being (see also Emotional Responsibility; Emotional Energy, Emotional Health, Emotional Wellbeing, Emotional Evaluation, Emotional Resilience, Emotional Intelligence, Emotional Growth, Emotional Maturity - Being Emotionally Connected). Being in touch with our vulnerability also empowers us without being like a victim. Certain vulnerabilities are common to us all and can often be revealed during a crisis. We may not only try to hide our vulnerability from others, but also from ourself. Yet being vulnerable and close to our human fragility, tenderness and gentleness, enable us to feel exactly what we feel in any moment without thinking about it, judging it (as if being vulnerable is weak or unmanly, damaging, shameful, making us insecure and not wanting to show this part of us to others). Being resilient, powerful, yet vulnerable, open to surrender, may be our challenge. In our vulnerability we find deeper truth. Being truthful in our relationship may also matter to us. How we express our vulnerability can enrich our relationship. Some of us may mistake shyness for vulnerability. Vulnerability and tenderness can be seen as primary emotions, experienced close to our soul and allowing ourself to be vulnerable - letting our partner know the parts of us that are difficult to share, can at times promote intimacy. Holding onto our independence, we can choose whether or not we put up our barriers or whether they are necessary. Our vulnerability, tenderness may also connect us to the innocence of our childhood and how our vulnerability was responded to in our very early years. If we had some wounding experiences it may be understandable that we are reticent now in showing our vulnerability. When vulnerable in the past, we may have felt exposed, humiliated, wounded, building our defences around our wounds, and we may have not only hidden our vulnerability but also our self. Perhaps hurt from previous relationships, "Why bother being vulnerable?" or "I don't want to be a burden" we may tell ourselves and some of us may have become very cynical. We may believe that vulnerability (or sensitivity) is a weakness, that we are insecure or can somehow be intimate without showing our vulnerability, overlooking that it is part of our humanity - that our vulnerability informs we are alive and connects us with ourself and emotionally connect with others, including our partner, as part of our healthy dependency needs. And being comfortable and secure with our vulnerability, finding meaning, keeps us close to our own truth. Our vulnerability may also be a doorway to letting ourselves be seen, change, be creative and in touch with our sense of personal power. Trusting that we are enough, our innateness and vulnerability may be important, alongside utilising our healthy boundaries to protect us when we need. When in touch with our vulnerability or tenderness we may keep our barriers up and:
- Feel unsafe in our relationship
- Believe we must remain independent
- Repress, suppress our own dependency needs
- Be secretive, hide our authenticity
- Worry we might be walked all over like a doormat
- Act like a martyr as if we can never be seen in our vulnerability
- Struggle to feel safe & secure in ourself or in our relationship
- Hide behind our narcissistic self
- Forget that to love is also to be vulnerable
- Have difficulties receiving or giving love
- Choose fear over love, fear love
- Fear any love we show will be unrequited
- Try to control others, outcomes
- Not recognise our own vulnerability in ourselves, yet see this, project this onto others
- Be too proud to feel it, express it, believing we should be self-sufficient, struggling to ask for what we need
- Become lost or stuck, especially stuck in our head
- Numb our feelings, close off, shut down, bottle things up, put up rigid or barrier boundaries, emotionally abandon ourself
- Fear being exploited, rejected or abandoned, get hurt or that it is too painful
- Drop our ego when we need to
- Struggle to embrace ourselves with compassion & understanding for us & others
- Struggling with the art of surrendering when we need to
- Become stressed, fearful, anxious
- Keep ourselves busy
- Try to hide this through our perfectionism
- Become angry
- Avoid having a healthy sex life
To know the pain of too much tenderness.Kahlil Gibran
To be wounded by your own understanding of love.
Softness Some of us may believe that the softness of our smile, our kindness, the tenderness of our touch is weak yet it is weak if we allow others to control us and powerful when we are coming from our loving adult self, unafraid to be soft (see also Protecting Our Personal Power), express our love, truth.
Intimacy - Deepening Our Relationship Some of us may no longer feel the flame in our relationship and want to rush to end the relationship. Emotional connection with our partner begins with ourself and we may believe that if only someone would connect with us, love us, we will feel happy and complete inside, yet this can be a form of self-abandonment, avoiding our own feelings, making someone else responsible for our sense of worth, safety, wellbeing. Envy and jealousy may also affect our level of intimacy. One of us may find it hard to feel safe enough with our partner in the way we need. We may try to create intimacy with our partner without first connecting, being intimate with ourself, the roots of which may point to our attachment, relationship style and if we try to do this from our head, we may struggle without opening our heart to our own feelings, willing to learn what our feelings are telling us, being kind, compassionate to ourself. And when we are loving and caring to ourself, we are able to feel emotionally close, connect and bond with others from our heart rather than our head, enrich and deepen our relationship. We may want to express to our partner who we really are, what we really need, risking our vulnerability and tenderness. (See also Intimacy Avoidance In Relationships)
Closeness & Intimacy In Our Relationships Some of us may enjoy the pleasures of closeness, intimacy, yet without commitment or passion our relationship our relationship may be based on liking rather than loving, missing consummate love. We may want to be both strong, yet vulnerable at times, be compassionately loving through intimacy and our consummate love. Some people may be successful in other areas of our life, relatively competent in our social skills, yet have a problem with closeness, intimacy, learning about and trusting our partner, being vulnerable, We may be used to closing off, shutting things down, bottling things up. We may not make the time or opportunity to talk to our partner about what is in our heart, letting them into our Iives in more intimate ways. Deep down, we may want to embrace our relationship, communicate intimately, bridge the intimacy gap between us and our partner. Exploring what these gaps may be, rebuilding this intimacy bridge as a team together may help us. Being empathic, open and willing to learn about each other in kind and caring ways, may increase intimacy and when we are more intimate with each other, our interactions, dialogue can be more gratifying and we can feel more valued. Being close - yet remote, not risking the strength and qualities of our tenderness and vulnerability - may have been our response, which may also reduce sexual intimacy. Risking taking the long way home for a change may be challenging. Establishing and rebuilding trust in the relationship may be important.
Our Own Trust Issues Distrust may be our own issue. Concerns about trusting our partner may also bring us to look at our own home truths and trust issues - trusting ourselves, lack of trust. One of us may have our own trust issue - a personal struggle we have to put trust in ourselves and nothing to do with our partner. Some of our trust issues may go back to childhood traumas, wounds. We may have lost our innocence along the way, yet this doesn't mean we have to lose our love, trust. Passing the burden of this mistrust onto our partner, projecting it onto them without looking what's happening inside of us, may be counterproductive. We may be envious or jealous, struggling to trust our partner that they won't go off with someone else or leave us. We may worry that they or we may die. A part of us may have feelings of disgust, which stop us trusting. If we speak our truth, "Will they leave us?" we may ask. Making quality time together, being open and open to learning, consistent in how we relate with certain responses may be important to us and can help build integrity and trust in our relationship or marriage, yet at the same time it may be a challenge for us to choose to trust others and us, own or share our vulnerability, be all of who we are in our relationship, marriage, free to ask for our needs.
Trusting Our Partner, Trusting Ourselves Without putting trust in us and trust in the relationship, intimacy is difficult and we may be lonely inside. Trust - which is also something that is earned, supported by being truthful and emotionally honest, can be seen as serving the foundations of our relationship or marriage. In our relationship, marriage some may feel taken for granted, others have a sense of betrayal. Others may hold on to misplaced, old or unhelpful loyalties - either of which may prevent us being trusting, intimate. How these get built upon can be explored in the relationship counselling, marriage therapy. For some, trust can get eroded because of one specific event, though often it may be because negative feelings have gradually become absorbed by each other purveying the relationship, resulting in disappointments. Just because our partner made a mistake it does not have to mean that they no longer deserve our trust. We may struggle to forgive our partner for their mistakes. Someone close to us can deeply wound us and we may be tempted to avoid pain, which compounds our trust problem. Maybe caught in our painbody, some of us may struggle to be and remain present, letting people in, receiving, initiating or giving love. Attuning with our partner, empathising with their point of view, can enhance closeness, intimacy. Showing a loving willingness to be there for our partner without negative comparisons with others, recovering any faulty communication, so negative interactions are no longer ignored, may also enhance trust. Trust is also a choice we make.
Trust & Intimacy In The Relationship, Marriage The intimacy we feel, avoid (may be by showing disinterest, being controlling in the relationship, having our own control issues or struggling to allow for what's unknown), may test our wounds. Our emotional connection as a couple, intimacy, trust and mistrust issues may go back to broken promises, struggles in trusting others or previous experiences of being let down, hurt, rejected or abandoned (and may have nothing to do with our partner), which can be explored in relationship counselling and marriage counselling. Struggling to unconditionally love ourselves, we may seek this in our partner, and become afraid when this isn't present. We may expect our partner to read our minds. We may further struggle to know or express our desires, use positive energy to express them and soothe ourselves when unmet. Maintaining our longing, choosing to trust that we can grow together, be open and willing to talk to our partner about what bothers us, asking for what we need, may be important, especially if we hold on to a belief that intimacy may diminish through being in a long term relationship. Our challenge may be to find the strength to risk trusting, loving ourself and our partner, promoting intimacy, where as we give our trust to another, believing they will behave well, have our best interest at heart, won't betray us.
Rediscovering, Rebuilding Intimacy What works for some couples may not work for others... Risking our own vulnerability, tenderness, identifying what we want from an intimate relationship, being open to each other, having heart to heart conversations, accepting differences, focusing on each other's good qualities, what we love about our partner, getting involved, participating in their lives - their interests, re-introducing fun, laughter, playfulness, not taking things so seriously and re-discovering, rebuilding what made our intimacy special can help reignite the intimate relationship. This may entail making and accepting requests for intimacy and time together in shared activities. The therapy can also consider any root causes in us, which stop us being intimate, alongside our options and choices.
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Intimacy Avoidance In Relationships
Avoiding Closeness, Intimacy, Fear Of Intimacy In Our Relationship We may want to make room for intimacy in our relationship, marriage. And lack of closeness, warmth, emotional connection and intimacy may be a concern for some. (Ironically both of us may have set this up as a couple in our pursuing and distancing roles.) Fearing loss, separation, abandonment, rejection, engulfment, we may be reluctant to trust and depend on our partner. Others may experience an "attachment anxiety", being close, attached - sharing our thoughts, desires and feelings, frequently seeking approval, affirmation, reassurance, recognition, validation, appreciation, praise, permission, confirmation, attention. Fear of intimacy may a concern and some of this may be related to past wounds, shame, guilt. We may believe if others see who we really are, they may not like us, or they may criticise, exploit, ridicule or humiliate us. (Ironically our worst critic may be us.) This may be connected to what happened in the past, when we were open, seen or vulnerable and fear showing this now. Avoiding intimacy we may become hard, aloof, cynical and closed as a way of keeping us safe from being taken advantage of, so we make us unapproachable. Our intimacy problems may increase over time, and the impact of this can be discussed in the relationship counselling and marriage therapy. In our fear of intimacy we may keep busy "doing" things, over-analysing things, mistaking intensity or sex for intimacy, or struggle to fully engage. We may also lead a high energy lifestyle to replace our intimacy needs. Backing up our fear of intimacy, we may sabotage, avoid, displace or divert our intimacy needs away from people, onto ideas, work, computer, the television, stimulants, possessions, or safe and familiar yet intimately unfulfilling territory or unwanted habits, addictions. Some of us may do anything to avoid romantic bonding, closeness, intimacy and set up situations, so the relationship or marriage breaks down or ends.
Intimacy Double Binds - Wanting Intimacy Yet Not Wanting it We may want to be seen, yet also not want to be seen, which may link up with being caught between fear of rejection and fear of engulfment. If we are lonely inside, struggle with our own emotions, it may be hard to be intimate and emotionally connected with our partner. A further double bind for some of us may be that we have sex without intimacy and have intimacy without sex. We may protect and isolate ourselves and struggling to let others in, we may fear close intimacy some of which may be linked to our repetition compulsion. Even if we want to be more intimate, it can be scary for some, as we find ways of closing the space down. We may want a different and deeper form of contact, yet at the same time fear intimacy, pushing people close to us away or deflecting from intimacy, shielding and preventing intimacy happening (see also Pushing & Pulling). Wanting yet fearing a successful intimate relationship, or believing we are not worthy of one (maybe fearing we would be "found out"), we can set up resistances and blocks and struggle to allow others close or getting closed ourselves. We may fear engulfment. Expressing our desires, can lead to intimacy. Sometimes the closer we get to intimacy, the more we fear it (and what others will see or do), and this may be a reflection of what we have held on to in the past. If we perceive or experience one small rejection we may withdraw fearing intimacy. If we do get close, we may become worried that our own space and sense of who we are becomes eroded.
Maintaining intimacy as parents and making quality time together may be challenging. Attending to the needs of our children, we may have neglected, sacrificed our own intimacy needs along the way. Adjusting to our roles as mother and father can also divert us from being intimate as a couple. It may be important for both partners to value their own intimate relationship as a couple, share what we are feeling with each other, so we don't emotionally drift apart, that we creatively make space and time to put the intimacy & energy into our relationship. (See also Being A Parent, Mutual Parenting)
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Responding To Our Fears Of Closeness, Intimacy Intimacy in the relationship, intimacy in the marriage may have dwindled. Our relationship may have become stuck, stale. So we can continue to avoid intimacy, keep a safe distance, sustain our fear of intimacy, and we may end up:
- Acting naively - as if don't know things, so we won't be threatened in order to get our way
- Being dismissive, downplaying the importance of intimacy, demonstrating "Nothing bothers me", compulsively self-reliant
- Showing we don't care about our partner so they can't hurt us
- Rejecting ourself before our partner rejects us
- Believing we deserve to get what we want without asking for it
- Giving our partner what they want, but leave nothing for us
- Deciding we no longer have any needs, now that our partner has needs or is needy
- Denying our own hurt, yet believing it's OK for us to hurt our partner
- Not wanting to hurt our partner, but believing it's OK for us to be hurt
- Giving up - believing it's pointless to expect anything from our partner, so we won't
- Totally surrendering - being what our partner wants us to be, as long as they don't leave us
- Turning to unwanted habits & addictions
- In a stuck, stale, neglectful, apathetic relationship
- Isolating us or the relationship (see below)
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Isolating Us Or The Relationship The very rejection we fear we may have also created. We may make a vow not to be vulnerable, so we can avoid pain or face our fears. In doing so we may experience additional pain now for not fully Iiving our Iives. Learning to carry and let go of the pain of past hurts, betrayals and rejections, may be a challenge for some (see also Unhealed Wounds). Being grounded, secure, inhabiting our body, authentic and open, making real connection, nurturing intimacy, giving and receiving love, making it grow and making it grow may be important for us. These considerations alongside our intentions when we touch can be explored in the therapy. It may not be intimacy itself that is a stumbling block, but a fear that bad things may happen if intimacy becomes real. Concerns about our partner (or us) dying can stop us thriving in the relationship. Having an affectionate, sexual relationship may be a goal for others. Marriage psychotherapy and relationship counselling can help unpack the nature of our fears, that we may experience pain, get hurt, be rejected or abandoned, engulfed or controlled (see Our Sensitivities - Pushing Each Other's Buttons). The effects of squabbles, unspoken anger, envy and jealousy can affect intimacy, alongside the fantasies we have about being different, can also be considered in the therapy. We may struggle to accept, embrace true intimacy and let love in. Relationship counselling and marriage therapy may also allow for the other personal ways of protecting ourself without keeping our heart closed - being intimate with ourselves as well as others. Changing our behaviour may also be important. Relationships are dynamic, and we have options whether to move away from or towards connection. We may have a choice between intimacy or isolation (compounded if we turn away from intimacy and loving relationship towards pornography), whether or not we spend enough quality time together as a couple and want to be secure, comfortable with both intimacy and autonomy (see also Self-Abandonment).
Expressing Intimate Emotions Intimacy comes from being open-hearted. We may want to show and validate our tender loving emotions - express our love, create a deeper, emotional connection (also through touch), which enhances trust and security in our relationship or marriage. The therapy can explore this and our relationship style further with us.
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Our Intentions Through Touch We are tactile beings and touch is a profound communication - right from the beginnings of our life and we learn, connect through touch. When coming into the world, how we are touched, held through our early bonding patterns can affect how we experience, give, receive touch now. Our tactile bodies continue to thrive through loving touch. Our intention behind our touch energetically affects both us and the receiver. If we hug our partner and our mind is elsewhere or with meaninglessness, emptiness (to fill ourself up) this hug will do little to foster intimacy, romance and deplete the connection, engagement between each other. Yet if we hug, hold, cuddle, caress, stroke, touch, kiss our partner filled with love, presence, warmth, tenderness and caring alongside enjoying a healthy sex life this can sustain intimacy, romance. The relationship counselling may also explore how we touch others with words, feelings.
Sexual Relationship, Sexual Marriage
Intimacy & Sex Intimacy, and often sexual intimacy, may well bring up anxiety in us (and some of this may relate to our early attachment, relationship style). Valuing each other as two whole people without sexual objectification (not from our wounds but from our love) may for some be a challenge. Some may believe that intimacy is only about sex, excluding human warmth, nourishment, being close to one another emotionally and physically, being intimate, connecting, giving and receiving, bearing our soul. We may have a fear of intimacy, manifesting in different ways. It may be important for us to get to know each other, including each other's bodies in intimate ways, sharing how we would like to be intimate, to be there for each other, together (see also Talking About Our Sexual Feelings, Desires, With Our Partner). Intimacy can be threatening for some and we may prefer to turn to the convenience of pornography, and this may have become a habit, or have an affair, rather than be intimate with our partner.
Sex In Our Relationship Or Marriage The relationship may be intimate in many ways, yet sexual intimacy may be missing for us. We may fear sex (see also Influence Of Our Sexual Past, History, Culture, Social & Religious Background). The sexual relationship, sexual marriage may not be all we would like, yet regular loving sex, nurturing intimacy, offering reassurance that we are wanted, needed is the glue that maintains romance. We may want to explore ways of improving our sexual relationship, including how to be more open and honest with our partner about our sexuality, which can be discussed in the relationship therapy or marriage counselling. Desire and who makes any advances may be an issue. In the sexual relationship, sexual marriage one of us may tend to withdraw or withhold, affecting the other. Either us or our partner may not feel very sexual and there may be other psychological factors affecting our sexual relationship.
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Trust, Intimacy, Love, Touch & Sex In The Relationship Or Marriage Physical intimacy strengthens the bond between the partners. We may have questions relating to fear of intimacy, trust in the relationship, our sexual relationship, sexual marriage:
- How can I establish relationship trust?
- I am afraid of intimacy. I have what some people call intimacy issues. How else I can respond to my intimacy fear?
- How can I get back the intimacy in my relationship?
- How can my sexual relationship, sexual marriage flourish?
Safety In Our Relationship, Marriage
What Keeps Us Safe In Our Relationship, Marriage? We may be looking outside of ourself, to our partner, try to control them so they take responsibility for our safety. Others may cautiously choosing safety over love. Avoiding apathy, neglect we may want to explore what keeps us safe and secure in an alive relationship emotionally, physically, sexually, financially, etc. (see also In A High Maintenance Relationship) and also around issues of respect, dependability, familiarity, predictability, feeling reassured with a shared vision of the kind of future we want together so we can respectfully talk about anything. How to make each other and ourselves safe in the relationship, marriage may be important. Certain things may scare us and we may struggle to drop our fears (see also Relationship Fears, Fears In Our Relationship, Marriage), choose to risk love. Alongside our internal sense of safety, different things for different people make us feel safe in our relationship or marriage:
- Sharing each other's vision of the kind of relationship, marriage we really want
- Being able to trust our partner, be vulnerable
- Feeling emotional connection
- Being congruent, choosing to speak our truth
- Being in touch with & asking for what we need - speaking up for ourselves & letting others, our partner know what works best for us
- Being heard, seen, appreciated & met in the relationship or marriage
- Giving, receiving responses to each other's feelings, needs, views
- Doing what we say we are going to do
- How flirtatious we are with others
- Feeling sexually safe
- How conflict is managed
- Not losing ourself in relationship
- Whether we & the relationship transforms, grows
Love Avoidance, Love Avoidant
Avoiding Love In Our Relationship Or Marriage Some of us may fear love (see also Intimacy Avoidance In Relationships). In our relationship or marriage, we may start off being seen as strong, sexy, maybe charismatic, wanting a relationship. Yet end up putting up impenetrable walls - avoiding love, refusing to take the relationship beyond a certain safe level. It can be a lonely place to be for both parties (see also Emotional Dependence - Dance Between Emotionally Dismissive, Avoidant & Emotionally Dependent Partner). Some of these walls may even date back to childhood (see also Avoidant Style Of Attachment/Relating (Becomes Dismissing Style Of Relating As An Adult) - Wanting A Relationship, Struggling To Find The "Right One"). When we first met our partner, we may have come on strong or have taken on a caretaker role. We may have initially been swept away by our partner, and now that we are safe and secure with them, we may have backed off emotionally, sexually even sabotaging the relationship. Feeling safe in our relationship may be paramount to us. Our fear may have got the better of us, as we push our partner away when they become too close. We may now claim we are smothered, manipulated or drained and want to escape this. We may try to get our intensity away from our relationship, instead of within it. We may habitually be out with our friends, or become too busy at work or with our children - do anything to avoid making the love with our partner the priority. If attempts are made for closeness, we will not embrace this space, or choose distraction. Struggling to acknowledge our own love or dependency needs, some of us may withdraw or withhold our love, what has been called being a love avoidant. We may be in a relationship or marriage with a partner, who is similar to us, or who is very emotionally dependent. Like a dance, if our partner needs us, we retreat and the more withdrawn we become, the needier they become. These roles can be switched. Avoiding love and to be truly known, we may therefore avoid any commitment. Answering to no one, we hate being controlled, may consciously fear intimacy, being seen as vulnerable, dependent or needing anything from our partner yet unconsciously fear separation, abandonment, rejection. Our role in avoiding love, avoidant style of attachment, relating and how we respond to this, can be discussed in the relationship counselling or marriage counselling. (See also Stuckness, Staleness, Neglect & Apathy In The Relationship)
Relationship Style, Attachment Patterns
Source Of Our Relationship & Attachment Style We don't arrive in the world knowing how to talk, think, feel, be resilient. We learn how to experience these through the context of our early relationships, the environment and culture around us. And it is these relationships that structure our brain, desires and the way we embody ourself. Our attachment history shapes all our relationships. We are more complex than can be captured by having just one fixed relationship style, attachment style (often carrying pockets of them all), yet there may be one predominant relationship style we resonate with, pointing at some level towards how we have become who we are and our own sense of truth. We all need love to reflect our essence through attachment bonds and healthy latching-on patterns in order to meet our nurturing needs, the origins of which are co-created with our primary caregiver - usually our mother, in early childhood (also influenced by how different families, cultures having different concepts of attachment, separation, bonding and autonomy). Usually by one year (prior to language) our primary attachment style is created - all pre-verbal and what we can't put into words in how we responded to, seen, met, heard, understood, mirrored back, we embody now (see also Our Painbody) by enacting our experience with others and our attachment patterns can carry on in our later life. Our different attachment patterns contain different patterns of knowing, thinking, feeling, remembering as well as relating, much of which is unconscious. Some of our early experiences and the innocence of our childhood may have got lost along the way, as may our so called intuition reverberating into our adult relationships and we can often experience our primary attachment style when under threat during times of stress (and sometimes when we lose or can't find something), conflict, grief, when we are hungry, irritable, angry, lonely, tired, lost or stuck, under threat, traumatised, feel shame, affecting our internal dialogue, responses, tendencies. Our attachment style is especially triggered through excitement, sexual contact, loss, separation (including separation anxiety).
We can also learn about our attachment style by becoming familiar with themes in our previous and current significant relationships through our responses to trust, intimacy, love and sex, including how we respond to conflict in our relationship. There can be pushing and pulling in our relationship, an emotional dance between an emotionally avoidant partner and emotionally dependent one. There are those of us who tend to have a secure style of attachment, where unconditional love was prevalent and others who tend to have a more insecure attachment style, typified by minimising attachment relationships or compulsively seeking love, yet find it hard to let love in. Feelings of emotional insecurity may relate to insecure attachment styles which may include tendencies to be: ambivalent (anxious, preoccupied - maybe easily jealous), avoidant (dismissing) or disorganised. These attachment patterns and defining moments in our early life may not only shape how we relate (see also Relationship Choreography, How We Engage - States Of Relating, Relating States), but also what we know, remember, think, sense and feel, alongside choosing our partner and include any repetition compulsions.
Intimate attachments to other human beings are the hub around which a person's life revolves, not only when they are an infant or toddler, but throughout their adolescence and years of maturity as well and onto old age.John Bowlby
Our Relationship & Attachment Style Now Our relationship can trigger so many things in us and how we were heard, seen, met, mirrored as a child affects our relationship now (see also Mirroring Back Our Partner's Experience). When we were young we formed a style of attachment behaviour (and protective ego patterns) in order to attain and maintain proximity to our primary caregiver to receive comfort and a sense of security and this becomes our style of relating in our intimate relationships now. Our parent's security, insecurity or trauma becomes unavoidably transmitted to the child. Stress and trauma in our early environment, when we didn't get our needs met, produced higher levels of cortisol (see also Physical Feelings, Somatic Reactions, Other Reactions), and this can get repeated now, when our needs are unmet, echoing back from time through these old triggers, hooks. As an infant, we adapted our behaviour and internal world in order to get our care needs met, feel safe, so the behaviour of us as a child was in response to the behaviour of the adults around us. From these roots in our initial upbringing, and early experiences of refuelling ourselves from our parents, we created our internal working model, silently affecting our emotional, intimate and sexual relationships now. We all have attachment needs, including secure emotional connection with others - to receive care, warmth, physical contact, understanding, validation and approval and how we go about this, get our basic dependency needs met in our relationship, share our thoughts, feelings and desires varies. Our attachment history can make us vulnerable to being triggered through our feelings, behaviour by certain people, where past experiences, threats feel like now, especially in our intimate relationships (see also Being Autonomous Yet Part Of A Couple). The therapy can help explore our own different relationship attachment style, how we love and earlier role models for loving when we were young and how we can move away from attaching to others in unhealthy ways through connection with our own inner child, learning to love ourself, strengthen our attachment bonds now.
Our Intimate & Loving Relationships Now - Strengthening The Secure, Loving Bond Between Each Other The way we relate and respond to conflict in our relationship, the way we love, attach to others, care, be cared for and bond ourselves to our partner, is influenced by early latching on, connections and bonding patterns. And when we love, accept each other exactly as we are, this enables us to accept, love ourselves. And our attachment style now, formed through early attachment bonds, influences many areas including:
- The impact of our past affecting our relationships now
- How we soothe ourself
- What happens when we have a system for supporting ourself when we need to, through catching our fear and seeking care, asking for what we need, having a supportive, helpful environment around us (internally and externally), exploring and sharing our interests with others
- Our individuation, levels of dependency
- The proximity between us and our partner
- How we are autonomous yet part of a couple, our relating states (see also Dependence, Independence, Interdependence, Codependence - Moving In & Out Of These States)
- The closeness and intimacy in our relationships, the safety, acceptance and love we feel
- How we create an intimate setting, being able to be vulnerable
- How we give, receive, share love
- How in touch of our needs we are & asking for what we need, speaking up for ourself, letting our partner know what works best for us
- Holding others and being held
- Our emotional connection, empathy
- Our romantic bonds, the affectionate, sexual and erotic relationship
- How well we communicate through safe, emotional engagement
- All our relationships
- How we want to evolve as a person
- Our vision, visualisation, envisioning the reality we wish to be true
Therapy can be a containing space and secure base to explore our own experiences of these aspects, alongside exploring our relating states. The relationship counselling may also explore what attachments we are willing to let go of. (See also The Need For Secure Emotional Connection - Healing From Our Early Attachment Wounds, Lack of Bonding)
The Quality Of Our Attachment Relationship Now We may have allowed certain painful events, incidents, old traumas to destroy or confirm our assumptions about attachment relationships - when we bond with others including our feelings and needs around dependency, independency, interdependency, codependency. In distressful situations now and certain incidents, events when our partner fails to respond to our needs or we feel abandoned, betrayed, this may trigger a rigid relating state. One challenge may be to restore lost intimacy, trust, a safe haven and secure base. Counselling and psychotherapy can explore how these challenges in our relationship can be overcome (as can they also be seen as opportunities to connect), resolved, and how we can create a healing space in our relationship where we love, accept each other exactly as we are in order to experience a secure bond with our partner (without the familiar pushing and pulling or dance between being emotionally avoidant or emotionally dependent), so we are there for each other in difficult, challenging times as a source of security and comfort.
Secure Style Of Attachment/Relating
(Becomes Autonomous Style Of Relating As An Adult)
The Parenting Style We May Have Received & Behaviour Affecting Our Early History We are likely to have experienced an empathic yet autonomous "caregiver", who was reliable, responsive in a sensitive way, able to intuit and read our mind, think from our point of view, cope with our experiences, range of positive and negative emotions, who was able to manage separations, losses without over-dramatising them and support our autonomy.
Effects & Early Behaviour Coming from a secure base, our secure style of attachment allowed us the opportunity to learn to manage our feelings, explore, be resilient.
Messages We Picked Up - Our Core Belief, Internal Working Model Of Ourself & "Caregiver" We feel loved and worthy of love, care.
Subsequent beliefs, attitudes, sense & experience of self
- We are able to be secure in our own company & beingness
- We are able to take charge of our emotional security, feel centred, anchored, grounded
- We are able to learn from new experience & update the models of self & others
- We are able to reflect, feel, be aware of our physical sensations
- We are able to remain flexible in our thinking, even under stress
- We may have a balanced, coherent, realistic sense and positive view of ourself and others, without idealising, denigrating others
- We are able to regulate our feelings, think about them & soothe ourself be intimate yet separate
- We are able to have room for two, accessing a wide range of experiences in us & others
- We tend to hold a hopeful attitude in the world
Style Of Discourse - How We May Relate, Come Across To Others
- We are confident in giving care to others, being attached
- We may be able to draw on our attachment relationships with others, be co-operative, put things right between ourself & others
- We are able to co-operate in mutually close relationships, accept, receive, trust, reassurance, support, comfort, be both comfortably intimate & separate with our autonomy
- In the way we care for others, we show interest in their concerns, recognise their distress, correctly interpret this, respond appropriately and in watershed moments when others are distressed to provide comfort & communicate well, without attacking, withdrawing or seeing the other as our enemy
- We are able to regulate our distress on separation from an attachment figure
- We are able to send assertive, clear messages when reunited, self-disclose, access our distress in open and congruent ways, which elicit responsiveness, to be responsive, accessible, emotionally connect, be coherent with clear boundaries, open & direct, confident in asserting ourselves, asking for what we need, clear in signalling our concerns, have an expectation of helpful responses & are able to accept help, be comforted
- We are able to contain our reactive, negative emotions & access our marginalised emotions
Response To Conflict We are able to allow for & negotiate conflict.
Intimacy & Sexuality We are freer to integrate sex and sensuality into the whole of our mutual relationship, feel involved.
Ambivalent Or Resistant Style Of Attachment/Relating
(Becomes Preoccupied Style Of Relating Or Anxious Attachment Style As An Adult)
The Parenting Style We May Have Received & Behaviour Affecting Our Early History We may have experienced unreliable, inconsistent "caregiving", which may have been unresponsive, maybe rejecting or neglecting, at times harsh, controlling or intrusive. We are likely to have experienced a "caregiver" who was unpredictable and may have been preoccupied, yet also at other times responsive and available. Our "caregiver" may have prioritised their own needs above ours, who wasn't always sensitive to our separate needs especially around physical soothing. Our "caregiver" may have been preoccupied, had their own separation anxiety concerns, so dependence may have been encouraged. Some may have felt used as if we became a "caregiver". The counselling and psychotherapy may explore ways we can bring our anxiety levels down, find our own way through our fears, feel secure enough in ourself.
Effects & Early Behaviour We may have feared fear losing the relationship we have with our primary "caregiver", even though it may not have been satisfying. We may have struggled to explore around us or engage with the world with much confidence, become demanding of attention, clingy. We may have sought proximity with our caregivers, yet didn't always find comfort. At school we may have felt anxious, been bullied. We may have become either tense, impulsive, fearful or helpless. If we were in touch with any shame we may blame ourselves.
Messages We Picked Up - Our Core Belief, Internal Working Model Of Ourself & "Caregiver" Others leave, we are likely to be abandoned and have to cling on.
Subsequent beliefs, attitudes, sense & experience of self
- We may have lots of past painful stories and be stuck in our pain, hurt, chronic grief
- Fearing abandonment, rejection, we may believe that as long as we cling on tightly, we can be close
- We may struggle to concentrate on tasks
- It may be as if some of us search for a love that can never be quite found
Style Of Discourse - How We May Relate, Come Across To Others
- We may have blurred boundaries
- We may crave closeness, intimacy (yet when offered, turn away)
- We may have become easily anxious when attached to a partner may tend to passionately love full on, as if we are addicted to love, fall in & out of love quickly
- Fearing abandonment now we may try to cling to others
- We may become overly dependent upon others for self-esteem & support, constantly needing others to help to contain, regulate our feelings, as we struggle to control expressing our feelings
- Our relationships may be stormy (off one minute, on the next), where we are more likely to show our anger, which at times may be out of context
- We may come across as passive, fearful or angry
- We may blame our partner, become jealous
- We may not only be ambivalent, but also demanding
- When we are being or need to be caring, we may try to reverse the roles or become coercive
- We may be preoccupied with or by past attachment relationships, enlarging them
- We may tend to tell long or painful unfinished stories, maybe with recrimination, with lots of detail, using entangled sentences, responding in long, winded ways, tend to use jargon, be vague, passive, may be incoherent at times
- We may use indirect methods to find out ways we are loved
- Holding onto ambivalent feelings about our partner, relationships
Response To Conflict In our early life, conflict may have escalated, and conflict may easily continue to escalate now.
Avoidant Style Of Attachment/Relating
(Becomes Dismissing Style Of relating As An Adult)
The Parenting Style We May Have Received & Behaviour Affecting Our Early History Our "caregiver" may have been a little distant, and when "caregiving" could be aloof, unresponsive, functional, withdrawing or distant. They may have denied our own anxieties, struggling to tolerate our negative feelings or need for closeness. We may have prematurely learnt to become a "caregiver" ourself promoting our early independence. The counselling and psychotherapy may include looking at how we may continue to isolate ourselves from, avoid, alongside exploring our own emotions, what we want to say, ask for and do that we are not and how we can feel more secure in ourself.
Effects & Early Behaviour We may avoid contact, especially when distressed, have learnt to explore alone. If anxious as a child, we may have learnt to manage our own feelings by trying to stay in control of our circumstances. As a child our energy may have been low and we may have shut down, losing our ability to explore for comfort. We may have performed well at school, yet have few warm relationships. We may have believed that we needed to give ourselves up in order not to lose our parent's validation, approval, affirmation, reassurance, confirmation, permission, recognition, appreciation, praise, attention, adoration, admiration, acceptance, and this may at some level continue in our adult relationships. Inside we may have a sense of being unwanted, unlovable, projecting out our anger towards our primary caregiver onto others now. If we are in touch with any shame we may only see this in others, become blaming, critical.
Messages We Picked Up - Our Core Belief, Internal Working Model Of Ourself & "Caregiver" It's not OK to feel distressed, that we have to hide our real self.
Subsequent beliefs, attitudes, sense & experience of self
- We may believe that others are not like us, projecting unwanted qualities in us onto others
- We may do things to stop us having a full loving relationship, resisting things
- We may avoid attachment figures, become distancing, easily bored
- Our relationship with others may have been restrained, cold
- It may be hard for us to warm up, feeling things
- We may ignore or avoid the impact of attachments in our life (e.g. talking about things without valuing our important bonds with others), downplaying the importance of close relationships, minimising our attachment experiences, having a compulsive self reliance, maybe becoming very cynical
- We may minimise any strong feelings we have, over-controlling them, especially our own sadness, grief
- We may believe that as long as we keep our distressed feelings hidden, that we can be close with others
- We may believe there is no one there for us, that we don't really need anyone
- We may believe we have to put things right only on our own
- We may have made it important to not depend on others or have others depend on us
- We may be fearful, tending to withdraw because we are afraid of rejection, abandonment
- A part of us may be longing, yearning for love, to share intimacy & emotional connection and if we connect with a person who stays, something inside of us may want to run off
- We may say & believe we want to be in a relationship, yet be afraid of being in one, fearing losing ourself, often fearing engulfment, commitment
- We may believe that a relationship means we have to forsake our freedom
- We may consistently tell ourselves that the problem is we just haven't found the right person
- We may tell ourself that being in a relationship means that we are responsible for our partner's feelings, becoming anxious about this
- We may either withdraw, become fearful (fearing rejection, holding a negative view of ourself and a negative model of others) or become dismissing, distant, have a more angry or disdainful style, holding a positive view of us yet negative view of others.
Style Of Discourse - How We May Relate, Come Across To Others
- We may want a relationship, struggling to find the "right one"
- There may be a mismatch between what we say and what we experience, struggling to say much about our relationships or make sense of them
- We may be incoherent, tending to give generalised, vague, brief or intellectualised statements, providing contradictory information about our previous attachment experiences, minimising them, not saying much
- We may connect with others, often strangers, yet struggle to connect with attachment figures
- We are able to deal with things, yet struggle to sense & feel all our feelings
- Our boundaries between our self and others may be very clear as if we don't have any bonds
- We may deny our own needs or struggle with or asking for them to be met
- We may not fight for what we want
- We may choose inappropriate or unavailable people
- We may not find it easy to verbalise much information about our relationships, make sense of them
- We may try to keep our relationships casual, and if they are long term, keep them distant & restrained
- We may be over-controlled in the way we express our feelings, avoid intimacy & conflict
- We may be overly critical, picky, when the relationship could become more serious
- We may blame our partner for doing the very things we are doing
- We may feel pulled when our partner wants our time & attention, going into resistance and not making time for our relationship, having one foot out the door. It may be as if we are in a dance with our partner between one of us being emotionally dependent & the other emotionally avoidant, pushing & pulling - when one of us pursues - the other distances
- We may tend to idealise our parents
- We may pine for an old relationship, building it up better than our current one & better than it actually was
- Even after we've broken up, we may reach out to the other person, in the hope that they are there, available
- When it comes to us being caring, we may be restrained, rejecting, cold, neglecting or go the other way by giving ourself up to please the other person & then feeling trapped in the relationship
- We may resent our partner's needs or indeed encourage them to have needs, so we can become a compulsive caregiver
- We may struggle to be our own loving adult
Response To Conflict We may avoid conflict, especially if distressed.
Intimacy & Sexuality We may tend to segregate sex and sensuality from the rest of our relationship.
Disorganised, Disorientated Style Of Attachment/Relating (Continues To Be Disorganised With Unresolved Issues As An Adult)
The Parenting Style We May Have Received & Behaviour Affecting Our Early History We may have experienced a "caregiver" who felt helpless, frightened, frightening or was abusive. They themselves may have been disturbed, overwhelmed, struggling to notice our own distress distress. We may have experienced a "caregiver", who may have been scared of our feelings as we became frightened of our caregiver who didn't offer us a secure base. In some situations neglect, abandonment and abuse may have been experienced and multiple carers may have been involved. Some may live in a cluttered, disorganised, chaotic, or messy lifestyle affecting our procrastination. We may experience ourself or others as more overwhelming than the other relationship styles. The counselling and psychotherapy can slowly work with integrating all of who we are, exploring ways of managing, regulating and soothing our feelings, ways in which we can feel more secure now.
Effects & Early Behaviour We may have experienced unregulated distress, become disorientated, dazed, startled or frozen, or disturbed when we need to explore things. We may at times struggle with continuity of our thoughts and feelings, resulting in us becoming hyper-vigilant, and when under perceived threat maybe cutting off at times, as our flight, fight, freeze response is easily triggered. Viewing the world as threatening, hostile and disregarding, under almost constant fear (see also Impending Doom, Sense Of Dread) we may have found it hard to concentrate, maybe feeling anxious, helpless, unworthy of care, and later on turning to unhelpful habits or addictions including overworking, as our own behaviour may too become unpredictable, erratic. We may procrastinate. Some of us may be attached to abusive relationships. If we are in touch with our shame, we may oscillate between being provocative, rageful and submissive, apologetic. Frightened inside, it can be as if we have no solution.
Messages We Picked Up - Our Core Belief, Internal Working Model Of Ourself & "Caregiver" That our sense of ourself and others can be disorganised or chaotic at times.
Subsequent beliefs, attitudes, sense & experience of self We may struggle to find meaning, switching between positive and negative points of view, be irrational, maybe silent.
Style Of Discourse - How We May Relate, Come Across To Others
- We may be incoherent, disjointed, unfocused, confused & confusing, struggle with staying on topic & reasoning
- We may cut off our feelings or become coercive
- We may frequently be unpredictable, feel overwhelmed, switching from being very emotional to feeling numb, withdraw, become controlling or rageful.
- When it comes to caring, attachment, intimacy, we may become helpless, frightened or controlling
Response To Conflict We may avoid conflict at all cost or fuming inside become explosive.
Intimacy & Sexuality We may be fearful, clingy or both, struggle to connect with our emotions and partner.
Choosing Our Partner Right from the beginning, some of us may want to change our partner, which may point to our earlier need for our "caregiving" to be different. Two people with a secure attachment style tend to have a level of reciprocity between each other and this may be less true if one person has a secure attachment style with someone who doesn't. When two people with a dismissing relationship style get together, there may be a denial of need. And when two preoccupied people as a couple get together, there may be competing needs, much of which can seem impossible to put into words, yet get evoked in one another. When one person has a dismissing style and the other preoccupied, there can be both a complimentary way of relating and polarisation. If we have insufficiently separated from our parents, unresolved attachment, bonding issues with our parents or caregivers may continue to affect our choice of partner and capacity for interdependence. It can be challenging, yet rewarding, for a couple to find helpful, supportive ways forward together, talk about what works, what doesn't, owning our own unresolved parts (see also Unconscious Communication In Relationship Or Marriage), find ways to no longer traumatise each other, be empathic and to heal each other through love. The counselling and psychotherapy can explore the nature of our relationship style, ways of developing other styles (see also Potential To Heal Our Relationship Or Marriage - Considerations), which help us now. (See also Searching For A Soulmate)
Addictive Element To Certain Attachment Styles Through our addictive behaviour some of us may have an attachment to abusive relationships (be enmeshed, codependent), to food, alcohol, pornography, gaming, money, religion, perfectionism, etc. as if our addiction becomes our primary soother. Using addiction as an attachment behaviour, we may seek bonding, soothing, regulation and perceive security where we find it, (or to be energised) taking comfort from the experience of our habit or addiction, enjoying the rituals we have associated with our addiction. It can be as if we have more of a sense of our self in relationship to the connections we make with our addiction yet have less sense of our self and being anchored in our self, reliable, accessible without our addiction.
Our Internal Working Model Sometimes it can be as if we are living our life from an often unconscious script, with roles we take up in relationships. Our internal working model may include our theories about the world, how we interpret and evaluate situations affecting our feelings, self-beliefs and believing in ourself. Updating our working model may be important so we can get our own dependency needs met, increase our flexibility about meeting others' dependency needs, be empathic. Utilising our abilities to mentalise may help us be in touch with and move from what was initially embedded in us, changing our stance towards previous experiences, which can also influence the nature of these experiences and future ones. Exploring mechanisms for which change and transformation best happens, so we can have some measure of freedom from our past, be in contact with our emerging self with up to date perceptions of us and others may support us. The therapy may therefore explore our internal working model - our template of attachment style (see also Templates We May Have Created), forming the way we relate with other attachment figures in our adult life, how we think, feel, react (see also Early Unconscious Agreements, Beliefs). The counselling and psychotherapy may include exploring how we may feel more secure inside ourselves, are able to soothe ourselves and regulate our feelings, how we might find healthy security in others. The therapy may also look at ways that de-construct our patterns of attachment in the past, so we can build new ones in the present. This may include integrating aspects of our previous experiences, which we may have cut off from, so we are able to self-reflect and check the weighting we put on things. The therapy helps facilitate ways we can gain new insight, liberating ourself from restricted attachment patterns (see also Potential To Heal Our Relationship Or Marriage - Considerations), exploring how we have become who we are, but also how we can change who we have become, integrating what we may have previously not remembered, disowned, cut off from - often picked up through our physical feelings carrying deeper emotions. (See also How We See The World)
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