Sunday, December 9, 2012

Learning How To Respond When Your Partner Needs Attachment Reassurance

There are moments in relationships that are important than other moments.

John Gottman (The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work) talks about happy couples having a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions.  The trouble with the ratio idea is not all interactions are equal in importance to the well-being of the relationship. Some moments are just more important than other moments. Some moments really impact the security of your bond.

Obvious times of importance are upon waking and sleeping, coming and leaving, when there's a celebration event or accomplishment and times of stress. There's also those moments when your partner just needs your attention and reassurance. 

When your partner is stressed and needs reassurance it can get tricky. The tricky part is most of the time your partner won't just turn to you and say "Sweet-heart, I'm so sorry, I'm just really feeling insecure inside myself.  Would you hold me and tell me something nice?" 

Rather, most of the time partners will say something like this: "What, we came to a barbeque place and you're ordering mac & cheese? I thought we were here to have bbq together." Then going on further to say, "It really hurts my feelings, I thought we both wanted bbq." Another example might be, "Why didn't you call? It's like you don't think about me at all."

If your partner gets alarmed and unexpectedly irritable it's a cue there's something more tender going on underneath the reactivity. Rather then defend yourself it's probably a time your emotional presence and understanding could make a lot of difference.  

Here's a step by step way to handle these situations.

1. Let your partner know you give them the benefit of the doubt. For example, "Honey, I'm sure you don't mean to sound grumpy..."

2. Let them know the impact it's having on you. For example, "I'm feeling anxious as you question me." or "the sharp tone hurts my feelings."

3. Remind them you're their partner and you want to keep the good feelings between you. For example, "I really want to be supportive, you matter so much to me."

4. Take responsibility if you did let your partner down, or weren't being attentive. For example, "I'm sorry, I know we're out for bbq. It was more important to me to be out with you than what we ate. I wasn't actually thinking about what I felt like eating so I didn't know til we got here I didn't feel like bbq."

All together it sounds something like this: "Honey, I'm sure you don't mean to sound grumpy. I'm feeling anxious as you question me right now. I really want to be supportive, you matter so much to me.   And I'm sorry I didn't let you know I didn't feel like eating bbq - I wasn't actually thinking about what I felt like eating, I just wanted to be out with you."

Try these steps and let me know how it works. You can learn to clear the tension between you in no time.

Subscribe to Lifetime Of Love Newsletter