By Delappe Russell

Relationships don’t exist in a vacuum. They exist between two emotional human beings who bring their own past experiences, history, and expectations into it. Two different people also have different levels of skill when it comes to communication. But better communication, because it is a skill, can also be learned.

Negative Interaction Patterns develop over time between one another and erode intimacy between one another. These patterns develop over time and become common place within our relationship and are based on reacting to an interaction determined by what attachment needs are NOT being met. MOST ARGUMENTS ARE USUALLY ABOUT NOT BEING ABLE TO CONNECT TO ONE ANOTHER. Most fights are really protests over emotional disconnection. Underneath the distress, partners are desperate to know: Are you there for me? Most arguments, if not resolved, leave the other vulnerable, emotionally unsupported and alone thus creating a divide between each other. Sometimes we unconsciously try to avoid our partner by pulling away, afraid to create intimate connections in FEAR of being let down. This is when we start sabotaging our relationships, become emotionally closed, fearing our partner will leave us anyway, because that is what has happened in the past.

Finding and developing a more secure and responsive kind of connection is what can be defined as LOVE and it is what we are forever searching for. It’s intuitive and yet not necessarily obvious: It’s the continual search for a basic, secure connection with someone else. Through this bond, partners in love become emotionally dependent on each other for nurturing, soothing, and protection.

We have a wired-in need for emotional contact and responsiveness from significant others. It’s a survival response, the driving force of the bond of security a baby seeks with its mother. This observation is at the heart of attachment theory. A great deal of evidence indicates that the need for secure attachment never disappears; it evolves into the adult need for a secure emotional bond with a partner.

Although our culture has framed dependency as a bad thing, a weakness, it is not. Being attached to someone in a healthy way provides our greatest sense of security and safety. It means depending on a partner to respond when you call, to know that you matter to him or her, that you are cherished, and that he/she will respond to your emotional needs.

The most basic tenet of attachment theory is that isolation—not just physical isolation but emotional isolation—is traumatising for human beings. The brain actually codes it as danger.

Understanding each other’s attachment needs is central to allowing effective communication between one another so that the other is heard, respected and responded to lovingly, so that the other is not left feeling isolated. This is called being emotionally responsive; being emotionally responsive can be learned through identifying each other’s attachment needs and then honouring them so that you turn towards each other, rather than away. This type of communication and bonding develops intimacy, trust and security.

Once this is established, couples are able to express themselves openly within their sexual relationship. This can be a difficult process to learn as an adult, as some of us may never have experienced a secure responsive style of attachment as a child. However, through therapy, responsive ways of communicating with one another can be developed and role modelled and requires a trial and error approach of practicing new habits and skills.

How to develop a responsive style of communication with your partner

  • Find out what you each value as an individual. 5 are enough for now. (Our values are those elements in life that make us who we are. They are boundaries that we set for ourselves that reflect our authenticity, strengths and essence. They are those elements about ourselves that when honoured make us feel valued, loved, appreciated, fulfilled and happy). They are also called attachment needs because when honoured and felt they make us feel LOVED and connected.
  • List these values under each other’s name. Circle any common values. Identify each other’s individual values. These are to be honoured (regarded, considered, respected, valued) at all times.
  • When entering a conflict situation; STOP identify the underlying attachment need/value that is NOT being responded to from your partner. Express this need with an ‘I ‘statement.

Trish “When you are late I feel disrespected. (attachment need of respect not being met). I feel that you do not put our relationship first. I feel let down and abandoned. (emotional response…feeling sad, alone.) I end up feeling sad and alone.” (express the feeling to your partner).
Sam “ I am so sorry, I got weigh layed at the gym. (apologising showing respect) Thank you for letting me know how you feel. Just this time I can see I have let you down. What can I do to let you know that I am here for you? (Honouring Trish’s attachment need of respect/security by soothing her). What if tomorrow I cancel the gym and we do something that we love to do together? ” (Making a love bid to make it better.)
Trish “Thanks babe! I accept your apology! I can see that you are trying to make this work. You know how much I need to feel respected and secure. I would love to spend tomorrow with you. What shall we do? “(Honouring Sam’s apology because mutual value of your relationship is to show respect and spend quality time together). Then LET THE ISSUE GO!!

RESULT = Both parties are validated, respected, loved, meeting the attachment needs of respect, safety, spending quality time together, thus showing ‘attunement’ to the other. A ‘love bid’ is given in order to bring the other closer and to make amends.

Values (Attachment Needs)

When honoured creates connection/attunement   = intimacy (LOVE)

Security   Safety   Affection   Connection   Support Independence Empowerment Passion

Inner Peace Trust   Freedom   Physical Touch  Appreciation   Mutual Respect Value

Time Together/ Time Alone   Creativity   Adventure   Personal Growth Honesty

Love Bids (examples of ‘turning towards’ – honouring each other)

When there is an equal distribution of ‘love’ invested in the relationship; we call this the ‘love bank.’ The extent and success of a commitment made (such as a marriage or living together) within a relationship is based on the mutual understanding that the relationship is an ‘exchange’ of loving energy, trust, respect and understanding for the other, above everything else. Although we all give and receive love differently (I recommend you read The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman, who illustrates this beautifully), a mature and healthy relationship commitment involves being conciliatory and pursuing the relationship, no matter how you feel at times. That is why we have social contracts such as engagement and marriage. Sure, these can be broken, but it will make you think twice before breaking them, especially when you have a lot of ‘equity’ invested into the ‘love bank’.

Love bids are those actions (deposits into the love bank) that you can do to help this process along. Knowing what your partner’s attachment needs are or what he/she values, you show/give your love to the other based on these needs. They are ways that you bid for your lover to become closer to you and add to making a passionate and intimate relationship. A love bid might be organising a special date with your partner (knowing she/he enjoys spending quality time with you), or doing the housework on the weekend knowing that your partner is studying for an exam (based on her need of personal growth), or organising an adventure for your partner (knowing that you partner values adventure/ independence). These actions support the partnership and allows for trust to develop. Of course they have to be reciprocal and appreciated as a healthy love relationship is based on an exchange of loving energy. Otherwise the relationship will start to resemble a parent/ child situation where the partner is ‘looking after’ the other.

List some Love Bids that you can do to show your love for your partner.

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