Attachment and Adult Relationships

The first bond we ever form is that with our mother – and although we may not like to believe it, this relationship will shape all of our subsequent relationships for the remainder of our lives. Seems a little extreme, no? Well look at it this way – if an infant incessantly tries to non-verbally communicate with a caregiver who repeatedly fails to meet his or her needs, this infant will grow up with insufficient knowledge of how to get his or her needs met. Communications skills will intrinsically lack, and emotional development will be harshly stunted.

Adult relationships largely depend on effective non-verbal communication. As infants, we lack the verbal ability to communicate our needs – yet, we innately know what it is we need, thus we express these requirements in a physical way. We feel our needs, and we communicate them accordingly by crying or reaching or making faces. When our caretaker is available to understand and meet these needs, we are able to develop an attuned relationship. Attuned relationships occur when both parties are adequately tuned-in to one another’s emotions. Such relationships show us the following things:

  • Nonverbal communications and cues deeply impact our love relationships.
  • When we experience conflict within our love relationships, playing will help us to smooth out disagreements.
  • Conflicts can be beneficial to love relationships, if we resolve then effectively, without fear, excessive anger, or the need to punish.

Attuned attachment is a crucial component of every healthy relationship. If we grow up in an environment that is non-supportive, neglectful, or harshly dysfunctional, we will grow up without the crucial knowledge of how to remain attuned to others and how to successfully express ourselves. Take a look at the ways in which negative (or insecure) attachments can adversely affect adult relationships:

  1. Individuals may remain insecure.

If we grow up with guardians who are inconsistent or exceedingly intrusive, we may become inconsistent ourselves – making ourselves emotionally available one moment, and completely shutting off the next. The insecurity we feel during early adolescence will follow us into adulthood.

  1. Individuals may develop exceedingly slowly.

Insecure attachments have been known to cause deficits in social functioning and healthy emotional expression, and have also been linked to mental and physical health problems. If we do not receive the emotional support that we crave and require early on, our entire development will likely be stunted.

  1. Individuals may seem to ‘turn off’.

If, as small children, our guardians are unavailable or self-concerned, we are more likely to develop our own safe, internal world, avoiding close interpersonal connections and relationships. As adults, we are liable to become emotionally distant in relationships, and may seem to turn off our emotional availability abruptly.

  1. Individuals may grow up to be disorganized.

If the way our guardians behave leaves us feeling insecure and disoriented, we are more likely to grow up with issues relating to disorganization. Our emotional disarray may be reflected in the way we keep our personal space and our belongings.

  1. Individuals may grow up with anger or aggression issues.

If we grow up in an environment riddled with insecure attachment, we may be less likely to effectively read into the needs of others. As adults, we may find that we are harshly insensitive to the emotional needs of our partner.

Fortunately, these detrimental patterns of detachment can be reversed – but can typically only be successfully altered with intensive therapeutic care. We at Next Chapter offer the therapeutic guidance necessary to overcoming insecure attachment and learning to develop and maintain healthy interpersonal relationships. For more information on our program of recovery, please contact us today.