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.
OVERVIEW OF BONDING
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.
HOW TO GET AND STAY BONDED
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.
3 STEPS TO BONDING
- Lead with vulnerability
- Share what you are most afraid of
- 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?
PRINCIPLES IN ACTION
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.