The Importance of Secure Attachments in Relationships
Dr. Edward Tronick is an American developmental psychologist best known for his studies of infants and emotional development. His studies show that when the connection between an infant and caregiver is broken, the infant tries to engage with the caregiver, and if there is no response, the infant becomes stressed. This can be noted in the infant’s behavior, emotional responses and communication.
Watch the ‘Still Face Experiment’ by Dr. Tronick
What can we learn from this experiment about attachment? If a connection between two people is broken and attempts to reengage are not reciprocated, it’s human nature to pull back physically, emotionally, and socially.
Handing Conflict in Relationships
The Still Face Experiment and its findings are not exclusive to infants and their caregivers. As adults, most everyone can relate to a temporary or permanent pull back in a relationship with a significant other, friend, family member or colleague, due to poor communication, disagreement, argument, or a traumatic event. In times of conflict, it’s natural to pull back. Some may even become anxious or want to disconnect and avoid.
Research on attachment styles suggests doing something different can be more helpful. Instead of pulling back, try and understand what is going on internally for you. Become aware of your tendencies. Ask the question: How do I usually respond when I am in the midst of a disagreement or conflict? Instead of pulling back or disconnecting, try leaning into the conversation, communicate your feelings and needs. If in a relationship our connections are positively reinforced, our bond strengthens. We feel safe and secure. This is healthy attachment.
The Benefits of Secure Attachments
The benefits of a secure attachment are numerous including confidence, happiness, trust, love, safety, and faith in the security of one’s relationships. Let’s explore just a few of the benefits in the context of couples and marriage therapy.
Securely attached adults tend to be more trusting in their relationships. Children with a secure attachment see their parents as a safe and secure base from which they can venture out and independently explore the world. When a secure adult has a similar relationship with their romantic partner, it allows for feelings of safety, security and connectedness, even when either partner is pursuing independent endeavors.
Securely attached adults feel they can go to their partner for comfort in times of stress or anxiety. They feel their partner will offer support when needed most. They understand that their partner also has their best interests in mind. Their relationship tends to be honest, open and respectful. In life, conflict can be expected. How you handle conflict often determines the outcome. Having a secure attachment with your partner can dramatically improve how you manage conflict both within and outside of the relationship.
A secure attachment between two people in a relationship leads to happier couples. Investing time, intentionality, and understanding can help nurture a secure attachment. Some children are raised in homes where they experienced a secure attachment with their parents, others may not have. Attachment research informs us that those who do have more secure attachments have healthier relationships. This in turn leads to happier and more positive relationships. A partner in whom you can confide, laugh with, and share life with is fulfilling. When you are also able to disagree or argue with your partner knowing that they won’t leave or abandon you also makes for a healthy relationship. This is secure attachment.
Couples Therapy with Dr. Angela Bisignano
Dr. Bisignano’s aim in her practice is to promote wholeness and wellbeing in her clients. She does this by helping people strengthen the bonds in their relationships. Dr. Bisignano provides tools and resources to do exactly that. If you would like to find out more about your attachment style or desire to strengthen your relationship contact Dr. Bisignano to schedule a therapy session.
Dr. Bisignano is a licensed clinical psychologist, coach and consultant practicing in the South Bay of Los Angeles County, serving the Palos Verdes Peninsula and the beach cities: Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach and beyond.