Securely attached partners are better able to navigate the trials and tribulations that life has a habit of bringing our way. Knowing we have a safe and secure base from which we can draw sustenance and strength, and to which we can always return, allows us to go confidently out into the world.
This sort of secure attachment, teaches Susan Johnson (Emotional Focused Therapy), is shaped by mutual emotional accessibility and responsiveness. What may appear on the surface as fights about kids, money or sex, is really a fundamental challenge to whether the partner is emotional accessible and responsive. The underlying questions being asked in most such arguments are: Are you really there for me? Do I matter to you? Will you turn towards me and respond to me? How important am I to you?
If we cannot find a way to turn towards our partner and shape a sense of safe connection, we may become caught in fear of abandonment and demand responsiveness by resorting to bitterness and blaming. This, of course, is threatening to our partner, pushing him/her further away (particularly if the bitterness and blaming becomes habitual and automatic). Alternatively, we might numb our needs for connection and avoid engagement (and conflict); we shut down and withdraw emotionally, shutting out the other person.
Sharing with our partner our feelings of vulnerability, and being open to our partner’s expressions of vulnerability, are the first step towards breaking this cycle of disengagement.