In my last blog I talked about the powerful need you and your spouse have to form secure attachment bonds with each other. This blog post will develop that idea even more fully.
During times like these of heightened fear and anxiety, your spouse may go to extremes to be assured that he or she is safe with you. However, the way he or she goes about being reassured the you are there for him or her can lead to heightened conflict in one of three ways. These are called negative attachment styles. The first is an anxious style, characterized by needing to connect with you frequently throughout the day. This is typified by frequent interruptions and your spouse clinging to you in ways you might find irritating. Once you are irritated, you may resort to one of the Four Horsemen, criticism, contempt, defensiveness or stonewalling to gain some separation from your spouse. This, of course, leaves your spouse feeling more anxious which then motivates your spouse to try even harder to be with you.
The second ineffective attachment style is an avoidant style. When avoidant spouses don’t feel safe, they withdraw and keep their distance. This is their way of protecting themselves. The style of cow ourse leaves them feeling even more insecure and can also leave you feeling rejected or unimportant to your spouse.
Third ineffective attachment strategy is called fearful avoidant. In the strategy your spouse is confused about how to handle his or her insecurity. He or she will pull you close and then push you away. They need to feel safe with you but are afraid you will not be there when they really need you. So, he or she will pull you close and then when you come close, he or she will become frightened and push you away. This, in turn, leaves you feeling confused and rejected as well.
If you find your spouse is anxiously, avoidantly or fearfully attempting to connect with you, the answer is not to jump on one of the four horsemen. The solution is to understand that your spouse is coming from a place of fear and needs the safety and security that only you can provide. You can do this in the number of ways. First, and most importantly, is to seek to understand. Ask your spouse questions that show sincere empathy and a real desire to understand what emotions he or she is dealing with. Second is through physical touch. A hug, a kiss on the cheek, a reassuring smile can go a long way to help your spouse feel safe.
Realize, it is easier to be patient with your spouse when you understand where he or she is coming from. Fear and insecurity often drive your spouses to act in ways that irritate you. Understanding this and assuring your spouse that we will always be there for him or her, will go a long way to return his of her behavior to normal.
Final thought: Few people know that Padre Pio contracted, and recovered from, the Spanish Flu in 1917. Shortly after his recovery he wrote “Have no fear at all about any future harm that could happen to you in this world, because perhaps it might not happen to you at all, but in any event if it were to come upon you, God would give you the strength to bear it.” When it is all said and done, our place of ultimate safety is our Father in Heaven.
Remember: We are perfected by our spouse’s imperfections.