Are We Connected? How Our Attachment Shapes Our Intimate Relationship

Written By Whitney Dickey, MA, LMFTA

People have an innate need for a safe emotional connection to one another. As children, we sought nurturing, soothing, and protective bonds from our primary caregivers. As adults, we are still embarking on that same journey but within our adult intimate relationships. It is through the act of exploration and curiosity that love comes to life, making itself known within relationships. Connection, and more specifically, love, plays a role in how secure, comfortable, and confident we become as individuals operating in a partnership.

So, how do we build out that connection?

I’m so glad you asked!  We must start with the exploration of safety.

Safety. The word itself can be used to describe so many different situations. And yet, it is always linked to protection against harm. The alarms that go off in our minds that warn us of potential damage and destruction resonate within when we are concerned for our safety. Engagement with love is no different. However, it is the emotional bonds created through those loving relationships that allow us to acknowledge the potential harm and defuse it. Depending on our attachment history and style, one may have a very specific definition of what we deem safe in a relationship.

Sue Johnson, a clinical psychologist who is best known for her development of Emotionally Focused Therapy (ETF), said it best in her book Hold Me Tight;
“When we feel safely linked to our partners, we more easily roll with the hurts they inevitably inflict, and we are less likely to be aggressively hostile when we get mad at them…secure connection to a loved one is empowering.” Healthy connection and a felt sense of safety are interwoven into our nervous system. It awakens the parts of our physical body that lay dormant at times and calms the parts that are highly charged. It breathes life into one another’s soul and encourages the awakening of a new life together. Love doesn’t exist in isolation. It exists in connection to others.

Questions to ask yourself when you notice the desire for connection can start with your exploration of safety.

  • How do you define safety?

  • How is safety felt in your body?

  • What does emotional, spiritual, communal, and relational safety look like in my life?

As you reflect on these questions, you will begin your journey into understanding how you can best support yourself and be supported by others in intimate relationships. As you explore, you will find yourself becoming more open to the experience of love and connection within yourself and for others.


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