Friday, November 18, 2016


In my last post we explored what bonding is, what gets in the way of us feeling bonded and how we respond when we do not feel connected with the people we love most (HOW WE CONNECT WITH THE PEOPLE WE LOVE ). Now that we understand these things, we need to dive in a little deeper to discover what causes us to be disconnected with the people we love the most and what we can do to reconnect when this happens.


A quick review of bonding is that we need to feel bonded to those closest to us, especially our partner. Research has shown that this bonding is critical to our emotional and physical health. Dr. Sue Johnson is a leading expert in attachment and she indicates that when we do not feel bonded to our partner, our brain physically responds with a flight or flight response and we experience a feeling of panic and fear that our partner will leave us or that they don’t have our back. This break in bonding happens when we have a bonding injury. A bonding injury is basically when an incident occurs in the relationship that causes us to feel disconnected or abandoned in the relationship and causes a feeling of panic. Bonding injuries can be caused by the intentional or unintentional actions of our partner. When a bonding injury happens, we respond in one of three ways:

Anxious - looks for reassurance from their partner that the relationship is okay
Avoidant - retreats from the danger by distancing themselves from the relationships
Securely attached - feeling safe and secure in the relationship and knowing the other person has your back

These ways of responding are patterns that we have developed in childhood and carry with us into our adult relationships. These patterns are not fixed though and we can change them if we have a partner that is attentive, responsive and engaged.

Okay so now that we have refreshed our mind about the principles about bonding, lets dive in a deeper about how attachment injuries occur, how we can create them unintentionally, and how we recover from them.


Our bonding style comes out when there is a bonding injury. A bonding injury happens when we say or do something that creates emotional distress with our partner. Often bonding injuries happen by accident when we say or do something that hits an emotional sore spot with the other person. An emotional sore spot happens when we have a painful experience caused from our partner or someone else that we are emotionally sensitive about. When our partner accidentally hits that emotional sore spot, we react automatically. It is not a logic response but it is experienced in a very real way.

I remember one time Andy had committed to spending time with me but life got busy and he forgot about his commitment. I was finishing tidying up the kitchen and when I went to him to spend time together, he was asleep. I knew that he did not mean to fall asleep but that did not stop me from feeling frustrated and disappointed. When he woke up hours later I was angry with him and we had a fight. I had a sore spot from years ago when he would sometimes promise to spend time with me and then we would train kung fu instead. After realizing this was a raw spot for me and telling him about it, Andy told me that he didn’t mean to fall asleep and that he wished I would have woke him up because he was disappointed too that we did not get to spend time together. When I realized my raw spot and shared it with him, it helped both him and I to understand what was going on for me and why I was reacting in that way. I helped us to come closer together and become even more connected than before.


The goal is for us to get and stay securely bonded with the person we love the most. This is critical because when we are securely bonded, we feel emotionally secure in our relationship, we feel less stress physically and we experience greater overall physical health. Securing bonding has even been associated with having fewer heart attacks and relapses of heart conditions.

Dr. Sue Johnson shared in her book Hold Me Tight that “In Cleveland, researchers at Case Western Reserve University asked men with a history of angina and high blood pressure, “Does your wife show her love?” Those who answered “No” suffered almost twice as many angina episodes during the next five years as did those who replied “Yes.” Women’s hearts are affected, too. Women who view their marriages as strained and have regular hostile interactions with their partners are more likely to have significantly elevated blood pressure and higher levels of stress hormones compared with women in happy marriages. Yet another study found that women who had had a heart attack stood a threefold higher risk of having another if there was discord in their marriage. In men and women with congestive heart failure, the state of the patient’s marriage is as good a predictor of survival after four years as the severity of the symptoms and degree of impairment, concludes Jim Coyne, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania.”

So being securely attached is good for our heart…literally! So if it is so important for this secure bonding to happen, how do we achieve it in our relationships? There are 3 steps to bonding that will not only help us get securely bonded but will help us to stay there even after a bonding injury.

  1. Lead with vulnerability
  2. Share what you are most afraid of
  3. Ask for what you need from your partner to feel safe & loved (be specific)

Lead with vulnerability means that you share how you are feeling with your partner in an open and loving way. Share what you are most afraid of means to share how you are afraid of being left alone or your partner does not have your back. Ask for what you need from your partner to feel safe and loved means to ask for what you want your partner to do.

So often we want our partner to change but we do not ask them specifically for what we want. How can they possibly know what to do when we are not specific about what we want them to do? I remember talking to this woman once who had been married for a long time. She was frustrated at her partner because he didn’t spend time with her and spent all his time on an activity that he enjoyed. When I asked her what she would like him to do she responded with “I don’t know”. How can he do what she wants him to do if she doesn’t know what she wants him to do and is not able to ask for it? 


Here is an example of how the 3 steps of bonding works in real life. One time I was talking to Andy and his mom about the research surrounding a health risk I was concerned about. As I sited the research, Andy chimed in that the research was unreliable and that it wasn’t my fault that I didn’t know that, after all he had a masters degree and was not trained how to understand research. Now I know that my loving husband was not implying that I am stupid but he rubbed a sore spot of mine. I am sensitive about not having my masters degree and sometimes feel that he is more intelligent than I am because he remembers information that I don't remember. So when he made the comment, even though he didn’t mean it like this, what I heard is “it’s not your fault you’re stupid” and that created a bonding injury. I went off my to room feeling hurt. Andy came in after me and although he knew I was upset, he didn’t understand why. This caused him to be afraid of the disconnection between us so he began to reconnect with me using the 3 steps of bonding. He said that he could feel the disconnection and was worried that he had done something wrong to hurt me.

Lead with vulnerability - He shared that he didn’t know what he did wrong but he was sorry for whatever it was.

Share what you are most afraid of - He shared that the disconnection caused him to feel panic about our relationship and a fear of being not good enough.

Ask for what he need - He asked for what he needed by saying that he needed me to tell him what he had done and how I was feeling.

This reaching out by him caused my heart to soften and I reached back with the 3 steps to bonding.

Lead with vulnerability - I told him that I was feeling hurt by his comment about me not understanding the research and that I was sensitive about it because I don’t have a masters degree.

Share what you are most afraid of - I shared that I was afraid that he thought I was stupid because of that.

Ask for what you need - I asked him for what I need by reassuring me that he respects me. He responded with my feelings in a loving way and held me.

It doesn’t always happen that both partners use the 3 steps to bonding but in our case at that moment it worked for us both to use it. My heart was softened by Andy being vulnerable and that created space for me to use the 3 steps to bonding as well. After doing this, we were connected again and closer than we were before.


Now that you understand the basics of bonding, know what can get in the way of us staying bonded with our partners, have an awareness of bonding injuries and sore spots and know the 3 steps of bonding, you are prepared to be even more connected with the people you love. This is a preparation that will require action on your part though. In this busy world of a million things to do and competing pulls for our attention at every turn, we as women need to commit to creating a connected and bonded relationship. I believe that women often lead the way in relationships and as they make changes and move forward, their partners see that change and are inspired to change in their own time. I see this so often as a Master Coach. So often women will come to a life changing Master Your Power Within event for the first time on their own. They express that they are concerned about coming to the event without their partner because they need things to improve in their relationship. So the women, out of a desire to do all it takes to change and filled with pure grit and courage, come to the event.

Then they change.

They create real results in their lives of feeling happier, more calm, more supportive of their partner and family and more able to create financial results and their partner sees it. Soon after, their partner notices the changes they are making and a desire to change within themselves grows.

The question is will you be a leader in your own life?

Will you be willing to search for and become aware when a bonding injury happen or will you just let it pass you by because it’s easier than rocking the boat of your relationship equilibrium?

Will you settle for the status quo of dissatisfaction and frustration with your partner or will you create real bonding with sometimes tough and vulnerable conversations?

You are reading this so I know you are determined to create real results in your life. I know that you are not willing to settle for the status quo of dissatisfaction and regret. I know that you are willing to fight for who you love.

The time begins now.

The step you will take is to implement what you have learned. To look for patterns of disconnection in your relationship, to gain an awareness of when there is a bonding break and your reaction to it and to use the 3 steps to get close again with the person you love the most. If you need some support in getting started click here for a free session with a Master Coach. We will do whatever it takes to support you in achieving greatness in your relationship.

I promise you that as you do this you will feel more supported and loved by your partner. You will see them in a new light, a light of potential and hope. You will gain a deeper understanding of yourself and them and you will begin to fall in love with them all over again. I know that as you take these courageous steps you will be supported by your Creator and that you will receive inspiration about how to be even closer with your partner. You will receive an added measure of grace.

I know these things are true and I am excited for you to embark on this journey of discovery and connection. The safest place to be in this world is in the loving open arms of the person we love most when we are truly connected.

Thursday, November 10, 2016


For years I could not understand why sometimes I felt so close and loved by my husband, while other times he could hurt me so deeply and send me into a frenzy of frustration and bitterness. What was the difference between those times? I have come to understand that the only difference between the times of feeling close with the people we love most or feeling distant is our level of bonding. I came to this conclusion through the incredible work of Dr. Sue Johnson in her books “Love Sense” and “Hold Me Tight” and I came to these truths through the exploration and discovery of my own life and relationships. 

Why is it important to be bonded to the people we love the most? A great deal of research has been done about the link between the level of bonding in relationships and our mental and physical health. In one study, University of California "analyzed data on 1500 middle class folks who were born around 1910 in California. the voluminous records traced their lives over eight decades until their deaths, detailing their experiences and habits through prosperity, the Great Depression, and two world wars. The notations included everything from the happiness of their parents' marriage to their career choice to the "number or books they had in their home. Physiologist Howard Friedman concluded that medical advances play a minor role in extending life span. Most people who live to old age do not do so because they have beaten cancer, heart disease, depression, or diabetes," he says. "Instead, the long-lived avoid serious ailments altogether through a series of steps that rely on long-lasting, meaningful connections with others. In other words, you can "eat special organic and gluten free foods, gulp down multivitamins, get yourself to the gym, and meditate into a stress-free zone, but the best tonic for staying healthy and happy into old age is probably toning up your relationship." Sue Johnson

Now that we understand that it is critical for us to have a bonded connection with the people we love the most, we need to understand how we get disconnected so we know how to get connected again. You see, there is one common thing that happens in all relationships at some point. We mess up. We say the wrong thing, or look at the person in the wrong way and as a result the other person reacts and distance comes between us. So what happens in those moments? As Dr. Johnson describes, a bonding (attachment) injury occurs. A bonding injury is basically when we intentionally or unintentionally do something that causes one partner to feel betrayed or abandoned and creates a feeling of panic in that person and feeling of emotional disconnection in the relationship.  It is part of the human condition that this will happen with the people we love the most and the good news is that it is not permanent.

When a bonding injury happens, we have to understand that it creates a physical feeling that we are unsafe. Research has shown that when we a bonding injury happens in our relationships, it affects our brain in the same way as if we were being chased by a tiger. When there is a bonding injury in the relationship we emotionally feel unsafe and our brains responds as if we are in mortal danger. It is critical that we understand this because it is not a logical thing. When we are disconnected from those we love, we feel fear and panic that we will be left alone or that they do not have our back.

If we are to know what do to to heal a bonding injury and regain the closeness we once had or create the connection we desire, we first must understand how we respond when a bonding injury happens. There are three main ways that we deal with bonding injuries. We tend to gravitate towards one of these bonding styles.

We all have a bonding style that we naturally gravitate towards. Our style of bonding is created in childhood with the people we were closest to, such as our parents. If we had a parent that was unpredictable or uncertain we could have responded with an anxious bonding style by checking to know if they will be there & if they love us. Or we could have responded to the same situation by retreating by going to our bedroom when there was fighting to avoid conflict. The bonding style we developed as children are not good or bad. They simply were the ways that we coped with the people we most loved and how we maintained emotional safety. In fact, these styles are a form of resilience.

Styles of Bonding

Anxious - looks for reassurance from their partner that the relationship is okay
Avoidant - retreats from the danger by withdrawing or distancing themselves from the relationships
Securely attached - feels safe and secure in the relationship and knows the other person has their back

The challenge happens when we continue to use our same default bonding style in our adult relationships with our partner. Let me give you an example. As a child I felt that I was sometimes unseen and unheard. I was an emotional child with parents who (although I love and respect very much) did not always know what to do with my emotions and would withdraw from me when I was “too emotional.” So I learned to deal with the situation using an anxious bonding style. I would protest their withdrawals with angry outbursts that were really asking “will you be there for me?” The challenge came in my marriage with Andy when I continued the same pattern of bonding with him. When he would withdraw from me, I would respond by reaching out in a protest or criticism and blame seeking a reaction by saying something like “what are you doing?” in a critical tone. What I really wanted to know was “are you there for me?” As you can imagine, reaching out to him in a critical way did not bring us closer together and did not get my needs met.

The good news is that although we gravitate towards one bonding style, we can change this pattern by creating new ways of interacting within our current relationships. We can start out as being anxiously attached or avoidant but with a loving, connected partner we can change to become securely attached. We might slip back to some of our old habits of bonding occasionally when crisis hits but that’s normal. The goal here is not to be perfect but it is rather to know there will be bonding injuries and to gain the skills and knowledge needed to build a securely attached relationship.

Principles in Action

So how does this play out in real relationships? Let me tell you a story. I recall a time when I was upset about the loss of my grandmother. I was sitting on the floor crying and Andy walked into the room. He had his earphones in and he was on a mission to find something so he did not see my on the floor crying. He walked right past me. Even though I knew that he likely did not see me upset and I knew that he loves me very much and that if he did see me upset he would’ve stopped to comfort me, all this logic did not sink into how I felt. I was hurt. I started having thoughts about “why could he be so thoughtless and he doesn’t care about me”. Rather than tell him how I was feeling and ask him for what I needed, I criticized him. I walked into the kitchen and noticing he had not cleaned it like he said he would, I began an argument about the untidy kitchen. I was reaching out in an ineffective and confrontational way. In terms of bonding, I was anxiously attached and saying “if you loved me you would have cleaned the kitchen” even though what I really was feeling was “If you loved me you would hold me right now because I’m feeling sad.” As my protest was critical in nature, Andy reacted by becoming defensive and shutting down. A cool feeling came into our kitchen as he began to clean the kitchen angrily and became inaccessible by putting his ear phones in to listen to a book. He was dealing with the our disconnection by being avoidant and distancing himself from the conflict. I felt shut out.

A few minutes of anger and frustration passed until we both realized what we were doing. He stopped what he was doing, turned to me and with a softness in his voice said “I love you and I just want to be close to you.” I could feel the anger that was around my heart start to dissipate and I broke down crying saying “I’m just hurt. I was sad about my grandma and was in the other room crying when you walked right by me and didn’t notice me.” He looked at me concerned and responded “I didn’t see you there. I’m so sorry. What do you need? Do you want a hug?” With that invitation, I leaned towards him and melted in his arms. All the hurt and frustration melted away and we were bonded again.

Digging Deep

Now that you understand bonding and what gets in the way of us feeling close with the people you love, how are these patterns affecting your life. One of the best ways you can take this information and apply it into your life is through exploration. If you desire more connection in your life, I encourage you to ask the following questions.

Which bonding style do you gravitate towards?
How is the way you are reacting in your relationships impacting you?
Do you want more out of the relationships in your life and to feel more connection and love?

Of all the things we can devote our time to learning about and improving, we need to make our relationship happiness our highest priority. After all, societies succeed and fail based on relationships. Families are healed and broken by relationships. Our hearts soar and shatter because of relationships. Our connections with the people we love the most are the foundation of our happiness, our sense of security and love in this world.

So you are at a turning point right here and right now. Your destiny is in front of you. Will you fight for your relationships? Will you be willing to learn about your patterns in relationships and seek to change them to more loving patterns? Will you improve your relationships, heal past patterns that hurt the people you love, and create a future of love with the ones you hold most dear?

I promise you that as you do this, you will be lifted and guided. I know that relationships are not only important to you but important to our Creator. As you seek His guidance and take steps forward to improve your relationships, he will life and strengthen you and give you inspiration about what to do. As we work on and strengthen our relationships with the people closest to us, we not only strengthen our family but we strengthen future generations, our community, and the world.

I look forward to continuing this journey with you as next time we will dive into the specific steps we can take to become bonded even after feeling disconnected. I know that as we understand bonding and know what to do to be connected with the people we love the most, we can experience a joy that is beyond anything else in this life. There is no safer place in the world that in the arms of the one who loves you most when you are securely bonded. My goal is to help you get there.