Continuing Anyhow: The Glue of Emotional Attachment
Why do people go through all this unhappiness and strife?
One answer is that there has been a silent process going on since the very beginning of the relationship that tends to strengthen over time; we call this “emotional attachment.”
Emotional attachment differs from sexual excitement and love fantasies. We are made to be in relationships, from the start of our life to its end. We could not have survived as a baby without experiencing a strong emotional attachment with our parents. Emotional attachment got us through the tough times, fostering family cohesion in the face of hardship and conflict. As we grow up, we can develop more grown-up forms of emotional attachment; these take the form of loyalty, patience, and devotion.
Our capacity for emotional attachment, our ability to stick with someone through disappointment and misunderstandings, is put to the test as the sufferings from our past threaten to overtake our new relationship. This testing period can transform the relationship and establish it on a new basis, a love grounded in “will and determination” rather than attraction, fantasies, or fears. Deciding whether to continue a relationship is dramatically different from feeling captive to or repulsed by a potential partner.
Helping Each Other Become Stronger
Once the influence of the past becomes clearer, we can help each other overcome it. No longer will I demand that you be the fantasy figure who will make me happy by making up for my past disappointments. Instead, you can be the one who understands and appreciates what I have been through, and the one who cheers me on. Instead of leaning on you, I can stand on my own two feet and enjoy how this pleases you. As I grow psychologically, I can now contribute my growth as a person to our relationship.
The Return of Happiness
When we release the grip of our childhood fantasy and the inflexible demands that such fantasies inspire, we can enjoy the present and entertain future possibilities. New fantasies can be expansive and creative rather than limiting and demanding. We can learn to co-create the future with our partner on the basis of communication, responsibility, and commitment.
The happiness of our initial attraction, the ensuing confusion of our fantasies, the inevitability of disappointment, the resulting transformation of the relationship and ourselves, our release from the past and our fostering of the present and future can become a pathway to a real relationship with a real future.
Stone, R. (2006). Adult Dating: From Attraction to Commitment (Part 3). Psych Central. Retrieved on May 26, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/2006/adult-dating-from-attraction-to-commitment-part-3/
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2013
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.