At relationship counselling Medway we understand that, in an ideal world, we would all be born with perfectly attuned parents. They would love us, be there for our every need, but also give us just the right amount of space to become independent and flourish. All our parents would provide a solid base from which we could venture out as separate individuals because we would feel safe and secure.
However, the reality is very different for many people. Because the relationships with our early caregivers are complex and likely include some frustration and pain. Whether we grew up with a secure or insecure attachment pattern, one thing is certain, our present relationships are heavily influenced by our earliest attachments.
Our early relationships
In our early lives, an “internal working model” is created for how we view relationships throughout our lives. In other words, our past relationships affect everything from who we choose as a partner. How we are likely to interact with them and what behaviour we will illicit from them. Our early relationships provide a template for how relationships go; can I depend on others? Will they sooth me when I need it? Will they see me for who I really am?
How we adapted to our early relationships, the defences we formed, shape how we will behave toward romantic partners. For example, do you believe you are better off not depending on others and taking care of yourself? Or do you believe the opposite, that you “need” to get your significant other to take care of you so you are therefore preoccupied by getting their attention? Are you trapped on the one hand and afraid to get close to anyone? Whilst on the other, terrified of being alone?
Relationship attachment styles
In many ways the attachment style we formed early on impacts how we behave in relationships and how we expect others to behave. If we’re wondering why certain dynamics keep playing out in our relationships. Or certain patterns keep developing then it’s important to consider the working models we’re bringing to the table.
The early attachment styles we experienced shape these internal working models. For example, many people grow up with an ‘avoidant attachment’ to a parent. They may not have felt they could get their needs easily met by a parent so therefore adapted to become more self-contained and self-sufficient. As adults, they carry this model with them. They may not think people will be there for them, so they rely on themselves and resist trusting or getting too close.
On the other hand, many people grow up with an ‘ambivalent’ attachment style. This means they may have felt they had to cling to their parent or caretaker in order to have their needs met. Their parent may have been available and in tune some of the time. Then all of a sudden become neglectful or rejecting. These parents may also have been emotionally hungry at times, attempting to get their own needs met by their child. As a result, these people may grow up feeling desperate, insecure and clingy toward a romantic partner.
Attachment styles and romantic relationships
Relationship counselling Medway can help you understand how our working models affect the way we see the world. We often perceive people as reflections of our past, assuming they will think and behave in certain patterns. We may also unconsciously choose partners who fit these patterns – whose own attachment styles mesh with ours. If we grew up feeling ignored for example, we may find ourselves in relationships with people who are unavailable, cold or rejecting. If we felt controlled by our parents as a child, we may choose people who are controlling, jealous or demanding.
When two people come together, they both have their own working models that affect each other. Both partners may engage in behaviours that push or provoke each other to play the other half of these old, familiar dynamics. As couples play out their side of the model, their relationships start to look more and more like those of their past. This reinforces each partner’s working model, confirming what they already believe about love and relationships.
Are we able to change our internal models?
The good news is, we are not doomed to repeat the patterns of our past. Relationship counselling Medway can help you understand how we can change our model. Firstly, we have to identify it, so we can challenge it. Our expectations and ideas about relationships are formed from our early experiences. Thefore, it’s necessary to make sense of those experiences in order to create healthier relationships in the present.
Allowing our past to consume us emotionally doesn’t work. Although neither does burying the past and pretending it doesn’t affect us. What does work is creating a ‘coherent narrative’. This means we make sense of our lives by integrating new information with what we already know, so we can heal and move on.
Difficult experiences early in life become less important when we find a way to make sense of how they have affected us. Making sense is a source of strength and resilience. Making sense of your childhood experiences, especially your relationship with your parents, can transform your attachment models towards inner security.
Further relationship help
If you would like some help from relationship counselling Medway or any of our other relationship counselling practices. Please contact us at Relationship Counselling Kent today. Request an appointment