One of our most profound needs as human beings is to cultivate secure, loving relationships. Deep within our biology, we’re fundamentally wired to form safe and loving attachments with others. Attachment science teaches us that we are our most independent, creative, purposeful, motivated, joyful, creative selves when we are securely and safely bonded with another, whether that be a partner or a friend.
What does secure attachment look like?
When you’re safely, securely attached to another human, you:
– Don’t feel afraid to bring up hard topics, even if it might lead to conflict
– Have a deep knowing and trust that you’re loved and supported, even during conflict
– Feel more internal confidence and security
– Trust your partner (and therefore don’t feel the urge to check their phone, check to see if they are where they say they are, etc.)
– Feel excited to tell them the good news
– Don’t obsess about what they’re doing or what they’re thinking
How do we achieve this in relationships? And is it even possible?
The great news is that achieving this level of security, trust, and love in relationships is entirely possible and attainable. The also-good-yet-hard news is that it does require some hard work on your part. You must create internal shifts around how you relate to yourself and other people. This includes exploring and challenging your thought patterns, emotions, and subconscious messaging about yourself and others that you learned in childhood.
The following tips are designed to help you start the process of creating the loving relationships you desire. You can use these within existing relationships (as long as it feels safe to do so), or you can try them as you cultivate new ones! These tips are what I’ve used to cultivate a beyond-my-wildest-dreams successful, decade-long relationship with my husband (after YEARS of failed relationships), and what I teach to my clients who long to create loving relationships.
Get to know (and LOVE) yourself.
It’s true… any healthy, loving relationship requires that you not only get to know yourself (we need to understand our needs and emotions so we can communicate them effectively), but that you develop a deeply loving relationship with yourself. Our outer world reflects our inner world. If we have internalized patterns of self-sabotage, self-betrayal, and negligence of self and our needs, we attract partners that operate on similar subconscious “software,” resulting in a relationship comprised of two people who don’t show up well for themselves, and who therefore are limited in their capacity to truly show up well and lovingly for the other.
Take full responsibility for your thoughts, emotions, and actions.
Taking healthy accountability for ourselves is essential in creating healthy bonds. Owning your thoughts, emotions, and actions creates safety within the relationship and avoids blaming. It’s important to note here that there is a healthy balance between 1) taking ownership and 2) naming your partner’s actions that were hurtful to you (without blaming or being hurtful). For instance: “I felt hurt when you (blank)”. In this example, you’re taking full responsibility for your feelings and you’ve named and communicated what was hurtful to you.
Ask for what you need
This requires vulnerability, which even in the safest relationships can still feel scary. It’s often difficult to let your guard down, but when we courageously travel underneath our defensiveness and anger, we can connect with our more attachment-based needs (Do you need to spend more time with your partner? Do you need to ask for them to hear you more clearly? Do you need them to be present and listen to you?). Connecting with our attachment needs helps us reach a deeper level of vulnerability and authenticity; when we communicate with our partner from this more authentic place, we actively create safety within the relationship. This not only helps our partner hear and respond to our needs more precisely, but it also helps them feel safer to communicate their vulnerabilities and attachment needs.
Don’t avoid conflict
First and foremost, let me validate how gut-wrenching conflict is. It’s normal to desperately want to avoid it. The truth is, however, that conflict is 1) inevitable, and 2) essential for relationship growth. Conflict is only detrimental when one or both partners are engaging in unsafe behaviors (blaming, verbal/emotional/physical abuse, etc.). When partners are taking accountability, honoring the others’ space and boundaries, and otherwise actively creating safety, conflict is a beautiful way to explore and understand each other’s triggers, sore spots, emotions, and attachment needs. Working safely through conflict creates deeper intimacy, whereas avoiding conflict breeds disconnection and underlying feelings of non-safety.
Making the shift from attracting and subconsciously creating toxic relationships to learning how to cultivate safe, healthy relationships takes work, but these tips are sure to get you started. We here at Woman Emerging support you all the way!
Liz DeVaughn, LPC-MHSP if the founder and licensed counselor at Woman Emerging in Nashville. Liz will be leading a workshop on ‘How to have healthier relationships in 2020’ at the Nashville Winter Wellness Fest on January 18 2020. Buy your ticket today for just $5. Click here.
For more resources, visit www.womanemerging.org