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Attachment in relationships

by Headspace

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While it’s not always the best idea to analyze a relationship too closely, it’s natural to care about how things are going.

Whether it’s understanding each other better, increasing intimacy, or just tackling day-to-day relationship problems, it takes awareness to make things work. Noticing patterns of behavior can give us a really useful insight. It’s sometimes helpful to understand how your partner is likely to react in a given situation. Not so that you can anticipate that with a prepared strategy, but just in order to be mindful of your own responses and reactions. It’s no exaggeration – short-circuiting these habitual patterns of conflict can be life changing.

Attachment theory and how to increase intimacy

Attachment is hugely relevant to the practice of mindfulness, and right now neuroscientists are working on a whole new ‘Attachment theory’ of relationships. The theory explores the idea that there are three main styles of behavior in which we all respond to intimacy in romantic relationships. These are said to parallel the patterns found in children.

Secure Person: feels comfortable with intimacy and is usually warm and loving towards their partner.

Anxious Person: craves intimacy, is often preoccupied by the relationship and frequently worries whether their love is reciprocated.

Avoidant Person: equates couples intimacy with a loss of independence and therefore constantly tries to minimize closeness.

Although the theory separates the groups, I’d suggest that – as with much personality profiling – there is likely to be some cross-over in most cases. But it requires a real sense of sustained awareness to gain an honest insight into which one best describes you – and what causes you to switch from one mode of behavior to another.

So how attached are you to your partner? Is it something you often think about? Or does it only come up when you feel the relationship is threatened? In identifying where you think your relationship sits on the Attachment theory model, it can really help you to take a step back and focus on how to increase intimacy in your relationships.

How can mindfulness help with relationship problems?

A few useful tips for being more mindful in relationships:

Pay attention
Notice what makes your partner happy. Sound obvious? Try it for a week!

Do one thing at a time
There’s nothing sexy about multitasking. When you’re with your loved ones, don’t be somewhere else.

Nobody can read your mind 
Say what you’re thinking with consideration, and avoid all kinds of misunderstandings.

Be kind – to others and to yourself
Your relationship with yourself impacts those around you – and kindness is contagious…

Mind the reality gap 
Do you relate to people as they are right now or as you think they should be? This difference between reality and our expectations is the cause of most conflict.

Give up control – in a good way!
The desire to call the shots can lead to all kinds of tension.

You’ve probably noticed that a lot of these are recurring themes for mindfulness in general. It’s true; the same simple techniques can lead to greater satisfaction in so many areas of life. It’s not rocket-science, it’s neuroscience! (See what I did there?) Through an increasingly mindful approach to living and the motivation to benefit your partner, the brain can be rewired to enjoy a healthy and loving relationship.


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