The Marlboro Man is a symbol of American independence—the rugged guy who doesn’t need anyone but himself. But the fact is, he needs his cigarettes, a really unhealthy habit. Smoking might even be a crutch for a guy who has to handle life alone. Very likely he’d be better off ditching the cigarettes along with his maverick self-reliance. Because a true connection in a love relationship helps you face the ups and downs of life.
Studies show there are three patterns of attachment between children and parents and these patterns are predictive of how people react in a later love relationship. If you understand how you relate to your partner, you can understand how to repair problems and keep your relationship strong.
The studies involved mothers leaving their children in a room for three minutes and then returning. All the children were upset when their mothers left the room, but they reacted in different ways. Here are the three categories of responses.
- Emotionally balanced. When mom left the room, the child was upset. When mom returned, the child reached for mom and she comforted him. He calmed down into an emotional balance and all was well.
- Anxiety response. For other kids, the departure of mom made them freak out and become clingy, even after her return. Theirs was a more anxious response, sometimes even angry at being left alone. These children had a hard time calming down.
- Quietly agitated. Some kids were quieter in their response but showed signs of agitation and anxiety. These children didn’t reach out for their mothers—they seemed to distance themselves from the incident. They didn’t show signs of distress as much as signs of being distracted.
The studies showed that whichever pattern a child exhibited, that was the pattern that was repeated in his relationships in later life. If you can identify your pattern, you can understand how you approach attachment, a key element in your love relationship. When you feel safe and confident in your relationship, your partner is your ally. You have a safe haven and a solid foundation from which to face the world. A good reliable love relationship is a great source of strength.
Some argue that being alone in the world, like the Marlboro Man, protects you from being hurt by love. This may be so, but being alone is not a source of strength. Two heads are better than one, and when you are attached in a healthy relationship, you have a strong base from which to operate.
A healthy attachment means you invest emotionally in a deep relationship with one partner. Some would say they can enjoy multiple relationships at once, but it takes time and energy to nurture a relationship in which you are solidly attached to another. A true love is a resource that allows us to face the world with loving support—to try new things, to attempt the difficult, to weather problems, to achieve beyond our own singular powers. That is the power of love.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: https://nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact