Understanding relationships – why some work and others don’t.
Unhealthy relationships mess up lives – ours, our partner’s and perhaps worst, often our children. Often we wished we had been able to see the future as to how things could turn out and perhaps we would made different choices when it came to our partner.
Fortunately things are now different. Thanks to neuroscience and psychotherapy we can have a much better idea of how one’s partner and even oneself are likely to behave under the stress of a relationship in the future – and that might save a whole lot of tears.
We all know relationships can be messy but the information I am about to give you might be helpful in your choice of partner or in recognising your own negative behaviours and choose to do something about it. Everyone I have consulted with has said ‘if only they had this information years ago’.
Most of you listening to this are probably aware that you are the way you are because of how you were parented and this in turn is likely to reflect how you behave in relationships.
Have a look at SLIDE 2
Said another way:
We bring our inheritance with us – we bring our relational inheritance with us and nowhere do we bring it more forcibly than into our parenting. A lot of people don’t realise this – when they think parenting comes naturally – they’re correct, it does come naturally, but it comes naturally the way you learned it. It doesn’t necessarily come naturally to do it differently. Roy Muir – Psychologist
Daughter is reprimanded by her mother, and she grows up and ITS LIKELY SHE treats her daughter the way she was treated and that daughter then treats her daughter the way she was treated and so on. Education and awareness changes this.
If we think about it how we relate to people is probably the most important factor in determining our happiness. This is especially true when it comes to our partner and our children. So this presentation is to help you understand the characteristics that we and others unconsciously use which disrupt our relationships.
We start to learn to relate from the moment we are born and obviously the better we are related to, the better we will respond to people when we grow up.
What we are talking about here is Attachment theory which was first publicised by Sir John Bowlby who, around 1950 theorised that a parent’s own childhood upbringing might influence the way they parent their children. Research validated this theory and further research by others found that as a result of this upbringing, we, loosely, fitted into one of 4 types of attachment styles which determined how we relate to those closest to us as adults.
LOOK AT SLIDE 3
Are you aware that
Psychologists can now predict up to 80% of the time, how an infant will relate towards their mother, even before she or he was born?
so we are able to get a good idea of what the child will turn out to be like when they grow up. Interestingly as far back as 2009 tony Blair, the then prime minister did an interview for the BBC, where he told the reporter of his conviction that one of the answers to the problem of anti-social behaviour in children was to target vulnerable pregnant women. He believed that with the right education and support, welfare departments could spot children at risk of becoming socially problematic before they were born, and that if we provided the right support, the benefits for those families and wider society would be huge.
Taking this further we could make education available which will help ALL parents secure a better relationship with their children thereby helping them towards a more stable relational life when they grow up.
We have all been subject to parental behaviour which has impacted on us.
The consequences of these behaviours are that:
Look at SLIDE 4
We might be …
- Dependent – we need others to assume responsibility for most major areas of our life
- Enmeshed – where we give up our own individuality to become someone our partner wants us to be
- Anxiety ridden e.g. where we have a desperate fear that the other will leave
- Avoidant e.g. where we fear another becoming too close in relationships
- Independent e.g. where we prefer our own company and believe we can only depend on ourselves.
- Interdependent e.g. where we are in mutual harmony with our partner – we give the other the space and time to do what they want to do and the other responds reciprocally to us.
Which boxes did you tick?
THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THESE RELATIONSHIP TYPES FIT INTO THE FOUR TYPES OF ATTACHMENT.
NATURALLY this is theory and no one fits exactly into the following patterns but hopefully you will get an overall idea of where you MIGHT BE.
LOOK AT slide 5
- Ambivalent / Anxious
We’ll start with…
LOOK AT SLIDE 6
– about 10% of western world’s population fall into this category and it most likely brought about by;
Parent has provided a terrifying way for the child in seeing the world.
Parent is terrifying or is terrified
This means that part of the child’s brain says ‘I need to go towards my attachment figure for survival’ and another part says ‘I need to get away from them’.
Such people are very likely to have a psychiatric label. Obviously genetic disorders wouldn’t be falling into this category but there is a active debate in psychiatric circles as to whether mal-treatment MIGHT activate a genetic disorder.
AMBIVALENT/ANXIOUS ATTACHMENT –
LOOK AT SLIDE 7
ABOUT 20% of western world- Their hallmark is they are anxious – characteristics likely to be that:
- Want to rearrange your life around the relationship.
- They spend a great deal of time and energy on your relationship.
- They need to be reassured of your love and their place in the relationship
Anxious people are often worried about where they stand in relation to their partner — how important they are in their partner’s life, if their partner (still) feels the same way about them. They need physical or verbal reassurance of your feelings.
This anxiety is likely to breed control
I’m reminded of a client who was terribly anxious as to what her partner was up to and she somehow managed to get hold of the password of his phone, and because she couldn’t sleep at night because of her anxiety, she would wait until her partner had fallen asleep, would get hold of his phone and scroll through the days message to make sure he wasn’t sneaking off and having an affair.
LETS LOOK AT THE AVOIDENTLY ATTACHED INDIVIDUAL – ABOUT 20% of WESTERN
LOOK AT SLIDE 8
As a child
- They got the message ‘to get on with it’ from their parents
- Seeks little or no comfort from parents
I’m reminded of an ad on British television from the children’s charity NSPCC where you see this little toddler standing in his cot, holding onto the bars, and the captions says: ‘He doesn’t cry because he knows no one will come.’
LOOK AT SLIDE 9
The avoidantly attached person will have some of the following characteristics.
To make sure that their space is not being invaded, avoidants create strict boundaries between themselves and their partners. These boundaries may be physical or emotional — sleeping in a separate room or home or keeping insignificant (or important) information from their partner.
LOOK AT SLIDE 10
Uncomfortable sharing deep feelings
Avoidants don’t like to share their deepest feelings with their partners; withholding feelings allows them to keep their emotional distance and remain self-reliant. Sharing would bring them closer to their partner — exactly what they want to avoid
LOOK AT SLIDE 11
Prefers casual sex
Some avoidants use casual sex as a way to avoid intimacy. They prefer casual sex to sex with an intimate partner because their physical needs are fulfilled but they don’t have to worry about caring for their partner’s feelings afterward or during. They can also avoid the greater intimacy that results from physical contact.
This is the womaniser or the maniser – I’m reminded of a client I had some years ago, who was very much a maniser and really into her romantic stuff …….This is the person who dreamed of someone whipping her off to the South of France to wine and dine her, or to take her on moonlit walks on the beach at night, or to lie in front of a log fire on a rug with a glass of wine. And once she had those from the individual it was…bye, and she would be out to look for somebody else.
LOOK AT SLIDE 12
Disregards your feelings
Avoidants believe people are solely responsible for their own well-being and happiness. In relationships they tend to treat their romantic partner like a business partner — they ignore their feelings and respond only to the facts. When confronted they make their partner out to be “sensitive”, “overreacting”, or “needy”.
LOOK AT SLIDE 13
Misses you when apart, but when together wants to escape
Avoidants still have the basic need for love and attachment. So avoidants will miss their partner when they are not around. But if their partner returns, so does the avoidant’s feelings of being “trapped”, and they feel like they need more space once again.
LOOK AT SLIDE 14
Pulls away when intimacy nears
At the beginning of dating an avoidant, you may think everything is going well. They are attentive, loving, and supportive. But as time goes on they find reasons to pull away. They may say things like “the timing is not right” or comment that things aren’t what they thought they would be.
I’m reminded of a client who I spoke to recently who was totally distraught. She was around the age of 35 and had numerous boyfriends, had become engaged to 3 of them and then dumped them because her loving feelings for them had disappeared. She had then met THE one and was due to walk down the aisle with them in a week’s time and had woken up that morning with all the loving feelings she had for this person gone. It had then dawned on her that she had a problem. She didn’t know it was a problem with attachment – she just knew there was something wrong with her. On top of all that she was feeling terrible at how she would devastate her partner if she chose to tell him.
LOOK AT SLIDE 15
Idealizes a past relationship or partner, or dreams of “the one”
They convince themselves that their current partner is not right for them and fantasize about a perfect person who will fulfil them. This way true love and intimacy are always just out of reach.
SLIDE LOOK AT 16
Sends mixed signals
Avoidants tend to be on and off about their relationship. One day they are planning to move in with their partner and the next day they act as if they just met them. They will appear sensitive yet distant at the same time. Partners are not sure what to think of them. And when their partner finally decides, the avoidant changes again.
LOOK AT SLIDE 17
Values independence and looks down on “neediness”
If your partner cherishes independence above all, it is a clear sign that they are avoidant. Avoidants believe they are strong and independent, and that they can ultimately only count on themselves. They look down on those that recognize their need for others.
LOOK AT SLIDE 18
Fear of commitment/Fear of being “trapped”
The number one sign that your partner is avoidant is if they fear being trapped into a long-term commitment or marriage. Avoidants are constantly on the look-out for any impingement on their space and anyone wanting to create more intimacy. Remember, this is a constant mode of thinking with the avoidant, not a one-time concern.
I’m reminded of a couple who I knew who had lived together for about 6 yrs. They had a sort of open relationship which neither capitalised on but was available to both of them should they have chosen to have a fling.
The problem started when she became aware that her body clock was ticking and decided she wanted children, only she wanted to get married for the sake of security, which would have meant the end of their open relationship. He wasn’t exactly over the moon with the idea but he agreed to it.
So they got married.
I then heard he was really depressed
And the next thing he had almost run out the door screaming with his bags and that was the end of the relationship.
When I met him again he said to me ‘You know when I left that day the sun shone again – I was free from that sense of entrapment – you have no idea how bad it was’.
Not all avoidant’s run out of the door screaming – some just spend more and more time in their ‘man shed’ at the bottom of the garden!
The thing to remember about avoidant’s is that despite their drive to have space they ……like all human beings, are driven towards connection – they are content when they know when there is someone there for them, but closeness and intimacy terrifies them.
SECURE ATTACHMENT 50% western worlds population
LOOK AT SLIDE 19
As a child
- Able to separate from parents –not the type to be clinging to moms skirt on first day at school
- Seeks comfort from a parent when frightened
- Greets return of parents with positive emotions
LOOK AT SLIDE 20
As an adult
- They have trusting long lasting relationships
- Tend to have high self esteem
- Are OK with sharing their feelings with others
So lets look at some of the behaviours of the securely attached
LOOK AT SLIDE 21
- Discusses plans and makes decisions with you
The partner with a secure attachment style will rarely make important decisions about the relationship by themselves. Instead they wait and ask for your input, and make decisions that take your views into account.
- Doesn’t believe relationships are hard work
Secure partners tend to be satisfied with their relationships, even during rough times. They don’t dwell on small problems or talk about how difficult relationships are.
- Trustworthy and reliable
When a person with a secure relationship style says they will do something for you, the chances are that they will. If they can’t follow through on a promise or plan they made, they will explain why, usually in advance.
- Compromise –they’re less concerned with proving themselves right (and you wrong).
they are likely to understand your point of view and come to a mutually satisfying agreement.
- Comfortable with commitment and intimacy
they don’t mind the closeness created by a long-term relationship. They don’t worry that you’re cutting down on their freedom or trying to trap them (as an avoidant partner might) or that you might find them inadequate or reject them (as an anxious partner might).
- Effectively communicates
Partners with a secure relationship style share their feelings and opinions in a clear and straightforward way. They don’t expect you to guess what they are feeling or create a scene to get your attention. They are also clear about where the relationship is headed.
Secure people also value independence but not to the same degree. Secure partners realize the importance of both independence and interdependence . Avoidants only acknowledge the need for independence.
LOOK AT SLIDE 22
The Belief of the securely attached adult – “It is relatively easy for me to become emotionally close to others. I am comfortable depending on others and having others depend on me. I don’t worry about being alone or having others not accept me.”
Just to refresh your memory
LOOK AT SLIDE 23
Secure about 50%
20% is avoidant
20% is ambivalent/anxious
And about 10% is disorganised
WHAT IS THE BEST COMBINATION?
If we look at relationships and how they fare in relation to attachment theory we can see what combinations may work better than others.
Two secure people coming together would likely fare the best
An ambivalent/anxious type and an avoidant type is very common and probably the most destructive. For some reason they attract each other but once together the anxious needs to keep the avoidant under their watchful eye as they think they will leave. At the same time the avoidants need for freedom starts to feel trapped and suffocated/ and pulls away. (which terrifies the ambivalent)
For the avoidant and the anxious its probable best that they find someone of a similar attachment style i.e.
Avoidant + avoidant = happy not interfering with the others space
Anxious +anxious – happily enmeshed with each other
A secure may put up with a ambivalent – similarly they may put up with an avoidant – and the avoidant or ambivalent will be happy with them because of the secure’s stable presence.
Having listened to this, are you aware of people you know with an attachment style I have mentioned?
What about yourself? Have you seen your attachment style in what I have been talking about?
Can you change your attachment style??
Well, you can, the first step is about knowing you and what you can expect from yourself in the form of behaviour. The more we know about our style, our obsessions, compulsions and our unconscious feelings the more we can change for the better. This is especially important if we have children as, because they love us, we are like to inspire them to behaviour like us – and that can be negative or positive.
Hopefully this presentation has been helpful to you. Thanks for listening
 Hazen and Shaver (1987), 56 percent of respondent identified themselves as secure, while 25 percent identified as avoidant and 19 percent as ambivalent/anxious.
 About 55 percent to 65 percent of children tend to fall into the “secure” attachment category, while about 10 percent to 15 percent tend to show an “insecure-resistant/ambivalent” pattern, 20 percent to 25 percent show an “insecure-avoidant” pattern and 15 percent to 20 percent show an “insecure disorganized” pattern. OCTOBER 2005 http://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CCUQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ag.ndsu.edu%2Fpubs%2Fyf%2Ffamsci%2Ffs617.pdf&ei=bLrXU8DoL9SM7AbwoIGACw&usg=AFQjCNEoFUNlPc7fBhtz9H2QZSj3-QHD-Q&sig2=K6tZ8bWQVzpo1nRQfR07Cg&bvm=bv.71778758,d.ZGU
 About 20 percent of people are anxious, roughly 25 percent fall into the avoidant camp, and the remainder are considered secure, according to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
 At the same time, Main and Weston (1981) found that even in a large middleclass
Bay Area sample, thirteen percent of infants failed to fit Ainsworth’s guidelines for placement in the
organized (that is, secure, avoidant, and resistant/ambivalent) categories.