Resolving Attachment Injuries in Couples

uitveeAs humans we want to be close in relationships and be attached to someone we love. As so often happens, we get our most hurtful experiences from people who serve as our main attachment figure.

Our attachment patterns get disrupted when attachment injuries occur and the emotional discomfort causes us feelings of insecurity and the erosion of trust. In couples suffering from an attachment injury, trust is violated by their attachment figure and this indicates to the injured partner that the other can no longer be counted on for caring and support when needed (Johnson, Makinen., & Millikin, 2001). In times like these couples experience a breakdown in their ability to communicate their emotions and cope with feelings of insecurity, which leads to negative interactional cycles.

Certain clinical events should happen before an attachment injury is resolved:

  1. Emotions related to the attachment injury need to be engaged in by both the injurer and injured.
  2. The injured has to be emotionally engaged with his or her partner beyond blame and criticism.
  3. The injurer has to acknowledge both the pain of the injured and their own.
  4. Both have to be emotionally engaged and express their needs, vulnerabilities, and desire for connection

When couples enter therapy, partners have often experienced considerable emotional distress. They report feeling absorbed in negativity toward their partner and trapped in limited ways of relating to one another. Some may react to their distress through blame and criticism, others through distance and withdrawal.

Pos & Neg cycleSource: Mendeses and Greenberg – 2011