What is the attachment theory as far as relationships are concerned? The attachment theory is primary related to the parent-child bonding. Under this theory, it is believed that an ideal parent should have such a bond with his child that the child’s needs – both physical and emotional – are met. Basically, a child should feel safe and secure whenever he is with his parent. He should not ever feel like an alien in his own home; rather, he should feel that his home is a secure place for him. The child needs to feel that whenever he is in need his parents would be there for him. The attachment between a parent and child is dependent both on the parents’ parenting skill as well as the way the child responds to it.
Does attachment exist in adult relationships too? Of course they do, only in case of adult relationships it is more subtle. For instance, an adult looks both for reciprocity as well safety and security from his partner; in contrast, a parent doesn’t expect any kind of reciprocity from their child, while the child mainly looks for safety and security. Another difference between adult and child relationships is that in adult relationships there is a sexual element involved, something which is absent from the child-parent relationship. But once again, one partner must feel safe and secure in order to respond positively to sex and have a healthy sexual relationship with his partner. Only in a safe and secure relationship can one partner have a coherent, clear and articulated sense of not only oneself but also the other partner.
In almost all marriages one partner tends to wonder if the person he is married to would be beside him in time of need, whether she would be there whenever he needs her physically, whether she would be there when he would need her emotionally, whether she would be able to offer him a safe and secure base in the relationship so that he feels confident to show her his true self, whether the relationship would help him find his true place in the world, etc. People who have experienced traumatizing relationships with their parents tend to be overcome with anxiety, fear and insecurities. Any action by the other partner is deemed as ‘dangerous’ by our brain and due to the way we are wired for survival we either tend to flee, fight or become emotionally cold.
Each time a partner fails to respond to the other partner in times of need, the other partner’s mind is filled with a heightened sense of insecurity, anger and panic. Eventually both partners clash and each try to defend himself and attack the other; such clashes are generally fueled by anger, sadness, guilt and fear. This in turn creates a negative feedback loop; couples caught in such a loop do not have any long lasting bonds as their relationship begins to decay slowly. On the other hand, couples who are in a secure and safe relationship and totally attached with each other emotionally find it easier to articulate what was it that upset or angered them, thus making it easier for them to repair their relationship as soon as the minor cracks start to appear. Secure couples also tend to have great faith and trust in each other; even when they feel unsafe they can communicate with each other to let the other partner know what is lacking in the relationship. Securely attached couples don’t usually indulge in self-defense or attacks.
Securely attached couples can easily disclose more of oneself to the other partner without any sense of shame, fear or guilt. Such couples feel emotionally connected to each other on one hand as well as totally independent at the same time.
As you can see, there can simply be no true relationship at all if there is a lack of attachment in it.