Emotional Security

bigstock-Key-and-heart-with-focus-on-th-75250144-2 In my post Understanding Attachment Styles,  I highlighted the four main approaches individuals employ in building and maintaining their relationships. I suggest reading that article as a complement to this. More secure individuals form more secure attachments to others, leading to more fulfilling relationships. I’m often asked what the implications are for those who aren’t accustomed to having secure attachments. The purpose of this article is to explain the nature of attachment and to explore some implications of emotional security for dating.

The Cycle of Emotional Attachment

There is a cycle of emotional attachment with others which is essential for the fulfillment of your innate need for belonging. The cycle begins at birth with your need to be cared for and valued by people with whom you have significant relationships. Your emotional attachment to significant caregivers meets your primary need for safety by establishing a secure base. When you have a secure base, you experience and believe that you have a reliable system of emotional support in your life. This belief is reinforced when a significant person tunes into your emotional expressions and responds to your need for emotional connection and support. The secure base established in these key relationships supports the constructive growth of your emotional stability. As a child, you rely on the emotional stability of your parents or guardians to calm your negative emotions while you develop your own ability to soothe yourself. In that way you learn how it feels to be loved. The cycle of emotional attachment continues as you learn to love others. You first do this with conditions; you love them if they treat you in certain ways. An example of conditional love is when a boy loves his dad only when his dad gives him what he wants. Your love for some people may still be about they meet your needs or what they do for you.

Insecure Attachments

Individuals whose experience of love is based solely on what they receive, fear rejection and are lonely. Their insecure attachment leads them to seek continual affirmation of their value from others or to avoid emotional connections with others to protect themselves from rejection. This interferes with both the giving and receiving parts of the cycle of attachment, and the need for belonging goes unfulfilled. I’m often asked by clients and friends what they should do if they’ve developed an insecure attachment style and they want better relationships. Many have noticed that their attachment style tends to land them in relationships with others who demonstrate insecure attachment to them. Highly secure individuals seldom land themselves in romantic relationships with insecure individuals because they only desire the good feelings of the successful full cycle of emotional attachment. They are secure enough to walk away from relationships that don’t offer that. If your experience with secure relationships is very limited, you may find it challenging to identify to what extent security and fulfillment are available to you in a given relationship. This was my challenge, too.

How to Overcome the Impact of Past Insecure Relationships

My late wife suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder. The impact of BPD on a relationship can be summed up by a book on the subject titled, “I Hate You—Don’t Leave Me.” Individuals with BPD manifest the Fearful-Avoidant style of attachment to the extreme. I developed a Dismissive-Avoidant attachment style to shield myself from the shrapnel of her self-destruction. I absolutely loved my wife and did my best to care for her, but the reality was that secure attachment eluded us. (Refer to my previous article for definitions.)

After her passing, I learned through extensive research, intensive introspection, and curious dating how to identify to what extent secure attachment was available in a relationship. I learned to be secure enough to walk away from relationships that weren’t right for me, even when it wasn’t easy. By doing so, I became more secure. I recently married the love of my life. During our courtship, we demonstrated inner security to each other, and we built secure attachments. We accomplished this by being vulnerable in sharing ourselves. We helped each other feel safe to do so by being accepting and non-judgmental—nothing kills security more than trying to change someone. The good news is that the right relationship with a loving caregiver at any point in life can begin to build a secure base, regardless of the past. This secure base is where the cycle of attachment begins.

Improving your Cycle of Attachment

The cycle of attachment is a process of continuous psychological and spiritual growth. You still love some people conditionally as you learn to love others unconditionally. Your love becomes more desirable to others, and they love you back in their own way. As you cycle back to receiving love, you become more secure. As a Life After Loss Coach, I work with many clients who yearn to love and be loved. Some worry they can’t have this cycle of attachment through a secure base in romantic love again. Some feel too broken and insecure from trauma or fear that nobody could love them like their departed spouse once did. Many have resisted dating because it’s too upsetting to consider the uncertainty—yet they crave what all humans do: the secure cycle of attachment. I found it difficult to know how “ready” I was to date again after a rough marriage that culminated in widowhood. Then I found that I would have no indication of readiness without taking action. I discovered that emotional insecurity isn’t like a sprained ankle that gets better as you rest it. Instead I learned that I had to begin establishing relationships to begin learning and relearning how to develop secure attachment. As I created friendships with women and dated, it became evident that objective input from others who understood and experienced emotional security and secure attachment was very beneficial. One of my most resilient clients shares her dating joys and concerns with multiple women in her family and with her coach. As she identifies insecure attachment in the men, she explores it for repair opportunities, and then walks away when it’s not right. She couldn’t do this if she wasn’t secure, and she couldn’t be secure if she didn’t do this.

Secure attachment isn’t just one variable to consider in dating and remarriage. Secure attachment is the very foundation of every fulfilling relationship. Continually develop security in yourself through healthy engagement with others. Seek to determine to what extent secure attachment is available in your relationships. Drop the mask to see and be seen, to know and be known. Elicit objective insight about your relationships from qualified others. Become more secure by walking away from relationships that aren’t right for you. Doing this work will save you tremendous heartache on your path to finding Mr. or Mrs. Right.
Corey Stanford was widowed June 3rd 2012 when his late wife committed suicide. He married Tiffanie Kimball Stanford in 2014, and together they raise their three boys in Fayetteville, AR. Corey lives by the adage, “If it’s to be, it’s up to me.” As a Certified Professional Coach, Corey helps younger widows and widowers expand their vision for the future and achieve balanced and fulfilling lives. You can contact Corey at [email protected] and visit www.stanford-coaching.com

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