The moments that define your relationship
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- Published on Saturday, 28 November 2020 11:10
- Last Updated on 24 November 2020
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We have been made to believe that with enough chemistry, relationships should just work out by themselves.
We learn zero relationship skills growing up, and yet we know relationships are likely the most critical and complex arena we have to navigate.
So, let’s dive in a cultivate the relationship skills you need for a successful relationship.
One of these skills is knowing how to make your partner feel loved, but that’s not the focus of today’s post. I created the free love language quiz, and you can check that out on Zensensa.
Relationships have what I call key attachment moments.
These are the moments where we need our partner to be there for us, and if they are not, it will cause severe damage to the bond, and trust and closeness will suffer.
These are the moments that answer the attachment question, ‘Will you be there when I need you the most?’
These key moments could be anything from childbirth, severe sickness, losing a loved one, getting fired, or any significant event where we need support from our key attachment figure.
How you respond to your partner’s needs in these circumstances is critical.
There is no grey area here; even valid reasons will not help restore the emotional damage not being there could cause.
To trust the attachment bond, we must be there in these key moments when your partner has expressed; they need you.
Failure to show up at these moments can create resentment, distance, and long-term damage that requires a lot of repair work later.
Often conflicts that seem entirely unrelated are motivated by an old attachment wound created by a partner that was not there in a key attachment moment.
Being there for your partner in these key moments do not have to be hard.
It can be small gestures like sending flowers on a bad day, ordering takeaway food when they are sick (if you don’t live together).
These small gestures show you are there when it matters and creates secure attachment and closeness.
This will impact everything else in your relationship.
Common attachment wounds happen without us realising we caused them.
Do we make our partner the top priority in times of great need and choose to be there for them?
These are key moments of particular importance as we learn if we can count on our partners and trust them.
If the emotional and physical needs are not met, we get guarded, trust decreases, and feel less connected and secure.
We can also call these attachment traumas.
When we experience a crisis or are in critical need of physical or emotional safety and comfort, our partner does not respond.
Despite a hugely functional relationship, if the trust towards the attachment is broken, these few events will colour the entire relationship as the fundamental trust is broken.
In my couples therapy, I came up with the most useful skills for your relationship and wrote this article.
The question “are you there for me when I am most in need?” was a no so that the relationship will be clouded by fear and distrust; even when the day to day seems ok, this will inhibit intimacy and connection until it’s healed.
These attachment traumas could be a partner was diagnosed with cancer, and we were so busy working that we were not there for them.
Or perhaps we could not manage our fears around losing our partner, so we retrieved instead of reaching out to support our partner.
It could be a woman that was left alone scared during childbirth.
When we feel vulnerable and perhaps scared, these moments are when we need our partner to be most responsive, and if they are not, it will cause attachment trauma that requires healing before trust and intimacy can flourish again.
Don’t get me wrong; they may have logical or genuine reasons for not being there in these key moments.
Perhaps they had a work crisis or might be so overwhelmed that they could not provide the support you needed.
All are logically valid reasons, but they will not change the wound created and the damage to trust and intimacy, so a healing process must occur.
I recently compiled a list of the most useful skills everyone should learn in premarital counselling before getting married. You can read the article here.
Healing attachment hurt
Attachment hurt is a significant breach of trust, and here are the steps to heal it:
- The hurt partner describes the feelings they are experiencing without blaming it on their partner. Focus on how it made you feel and how it has impacted your trust and safety with your partner. Did you feel alone, abandoned, rejected?
Express what you needed to feel safe and comforted.
It could sound something like this:
“The day I came home to tell you I had cancer, I needed you to hold me and comfort me. I felt so scared, but when you did not even lift your head from the TV to look at me, I felt so alone and went to my room and cried for hours.
After that day, I never trusted you to be there for me again, and I learned to depend on my friends instead. I needed you so badly to hold me and tell me it was going to be ok.”
- The partner acknowledges and accepts the hurt partner’s feelings and accepts their part in it.
The acknowledgements of responsibility will make the hurt partner feel seen and understood and trust you could act differently in the future.
This is the first step in restoring trust.
We all make mistakes, but it doesn’t make us bad people.
Repeat back what you heard to your hurt partner. If they feel understood, they will trust you more, and healing can begin.
This could sound something like this:
“I can hear how much you needed me to be there for you, to hold you and comfort you.
You wanted not to feel alone and know that we were in this together.
You felt so scared, and I broke your trust because I could not be there for you at that moment the way you needed me to.”
Try to use their words and expression.
- The partner expresses regret and how they will act differently in the future.
This must be genuine, so don’t fake it as that will break trust even further.
Use your empathy to sense your partner’s experience, and once you do that, it’s easy to express regret.
This could sound something like this:
“I am so sorry I hurt you in this way and made you feel alone when you needed me the most.
I can see now how I created a profound wound and perhaps even sadness for you and how it made us move apart as you could no longer trust me.”
- What was needed is clearly expressed by the hurt partner and their partner.
You also need to show and express the emotional impact on you to realise the harm this caused your partner.
This is what will help them trust you.
It could sound something like this:
“I want to be there for you when you need me the most.
Looking back, I realise that when I heard the word cancer, I froze, and all I could think about was losing you, which made me so scared.
It was like I could not move.
I was paralysed.
But you needed me, and I failed at that moment, and that makes me so sad to know I left you alone.
I don’t want ever to leave you alone when you need me again.
Perhaps you can try to reach to me with things you are comfortable sharing, and I can show you I will be there for you.”
We all get triggered, but knowing how to deal with it will make all the difference, so click here now to get the tips to stay calm and resolve conflicts.
See how this partner takes responsible.
Make it clear the hurt partner is understood.
Then show the emotional impact it has on them finding out they hurt their partner.
They explain why they failed at that moment and, in the end, clarify how they will act differently in the future.
Don’t make promises you can’t keep that will only damage trust further.
If you want to watch the video on key moments, then you can do so here.
I talk about attachment needs before individual needs because once attachment needs are taken care of in a relationship, the fear of loss, not being enough, or other standard attachment triggers that make us inhibit our partner’s needs for self-expression decrease or fade altogether.
This means it will be much easier to get your partner on board for your individual needs as it will not trigger them in the same way.
You should now know how to navigate these crucial moments, but sustaining intimacy also matters, and it’s one of the key issues I see in marriage counselling, so I write up some tips in this article.
Thomas is the Founder of Zensensa.com, the leading institute in authentic relating.
He provides counselling for couples and singles and is an author and workshop facilitator.