by Cynthia Hazen
This is a good read and useful tool for individuals in a significant relationship who are challenged with patterns of conflict whether questioning the merits of the relationship or wanting to better understand. The authors have collected and distilled years of attachment theory through relatively resent research to clarify dependency styles we all have and play out in our relationships. They offer good tools for getting an understanding of our primary style of engagement in intimate relationships. In addition, they offer tools for modifying the patterns we employ that interfere with being connected the way we want to be. It is a useful for assessing our partner’s style as well. The approach these authors take does not judge or attribute pathology to people in discussing dependency styles, challenges or obstacles.
Essentially the authors differentiate a “secure” attachment approach to intimate relationships from “anxious” or “avoidant” styles. As you might imagine, with a secure approach to intimacy and dependency needs a person is relatively non-defensive in reaching for his or her partner with dependency requests and in responding to these request or the disappointment and frustration expressed by a partner’s unmet desires. When we navigate our dependency needs and responses to those of our partner with an anxious approach we engage our own challenges with insecurity and self-worth into these requests often obscuring the communication. When we approach dependency with an avoidant style we distance to protect ourselves from injury or discomfort or engage our partner to give us ‘space.’ People can experience degrees of security of course and engage in defensive patterns with avoidant or anxious styles more or less of the time but the thesis of these authors is that we gravitate to particular patterns primarily.
The authors offer both inventories for making assessments of style and concrete exercises and suggestions for modifying unwanted patterns. While they advocate healing breaches in the relationship when possible as exiting intimate relationships is often so painful, they do give clear suggestions and examples of when and how to exit when styles and needs clash and the relationship itself is damaging. Since attachment is so important to our wellbeing and integral to our experience of loving and being loved, if we are experiencing obstacles or frustrations this is a great resource for coming to a better understanding of what the issues are and what to do about it.