Attachment issue? Don't let it ruin your relationship
Hank is 'taken' to couples therapy by Sue. Sue is unhappy in their relationship and there has been no intimacy, emotional or physical, for a couple of years. Hank and Sue have been together for 14 years. They want to work on aligning their emotional needs.
When partners have different emotional needs and expectations, there is the risk of dissatisfaction and of the couple drifting apart. I wrote an article on this topic a while ago. Since that time, I have seen many couples like Sue and Hank.
Hank identifies himself as a 'low input' partner, and Sue recognizes traits of being 'high maintenance'. By making a genogram of their families of origin and talking about their attachment styles, we noticed that Hank was 'avoidant attached' and Sue was 'anxious attached'. Hank learned to withdraw early on in his childhood in order to escape his violent father. This helped him to not be seen, thereby escaping harm. Sue on the other hand, felt left alone a lot when she was growing up and remembered being afraid and wanting attention. She taught herself to please others in order to get attention. She also put other people's (emotional) needs before hers. It's not surprising that Hank and Sue found each other, securely attached people already fulfil their own basic emotional needs. In relationships, with avoidant or anxious attached adults, there is a higher appeal for more emotional response and input from partners. The longer you are together, the more patterns recur and a feeling of isolation inside your relationship grows.
By practicing expressing to each other exactly what they need, they both experienced a shift in aligning. Sue learned to recognize how expectations develop in herself and how to hold her desires more lightly. She is less disappointed when Hank does not understand her right away. Hank is now able to go deeper into his emotional space. During therapy old childhood wounds came up and were able to be addressed.
Over a period of 6 months, Sue and Hank had a total of 13 sessions which resulted in profound and honest conversations.
"Aligning emotional needs"
Hank: "We started out by going back to our childhood. Not my hobby. However, I learned about my attachment style and I could connect some dots that led to my current relationship problems. I felt different after that and Sue noticed". Sue: "Hank has put in the effort and this really made me feel seen and heard. Our relationship is better than it was before and I am grateful for the challenging yet rewarding process we went through. ”
— Hank and Sue
bi-weekly sessions EFT couples therapy