What this means is that throughout life, humans are wired to seek out and preserve physical and emotional closeness with at least one special person. And that person’s place can’t be filled by anyone else. This becomes our primary attachment figure, the person we turn to for help and support.
Research has shown that particularly in times of stress, when we’re in doubt, anxious or sick, we seek out this irreplaceable person. That’s just the way we’re built. How people form an attachment to a romantic partner is one of the most studied topics in the relational sciences (note – this section is adapted from the work of Bowlby, Ainsworth, Shaver, Hazan and Zeifman’s work on attachment theory).
A romantic attachment (also called pair-bonding) is a deep emotional bond to another individual. The tendency to form a deep emotional bond to another individual is an universal feature of human life.
The attachments we form to our romantic partners are designed to keep people together. When we form an attachment to a romantic partner—we want to be near that person. And we tend to feel safe and secure when our partners are around. Overall, forming an attachment was designed to help create stability.
Not only do we form attachments to our romantic partners, but the loss of a partner can be devastating. If you are attached to someone and the relationship comes to an end, the sense of loss can be overwhelming—including feelings of uncertainty, fear, and despair. Here is what you can do about this deep loss.
Deep emotional attachments
Adults form a deep emotional attachment based on intimate physical contact—kissing and cuddling, etc. If you have repeated intimate contact with another person, you will most likely form a deep attachment to that person. Once an attachment is formed—people want to spend more time together, feel safe and secure in each other’s presence, and they will experience loss when the relationship comes to an end.
Watch Helen Fischer talk about your brain on love hormones. Play close attention to how the bonding hormone oxytocin creates attachment.
Again, romantic attachments are designed to keep people together because over the course of human evolution people, who stayed together, had an easier time raising offspring than people who only came together for the purposes of sex.
The downside to attachment bonds
While attachments help create stability, there is a downside. Attachments are less concerned that you are happy with your partner and more concerned that you stay together. In fact, many people form an attachment to someone who they do not like as a person. It is quite possible to form a deep bond to someone who is less than an ideal romantic partner—this happens everyday. Read my blog on How to Pick Your Life Partner for helpful information on making the right choice.
The lesson to be learned?
Be careful about who you have repeated intimate contact with—you are likely to form an attachment to that person. And once an attachment is formed, it can be very difficult to break.
So, going slow at the start of a relationship, especially when it comes to sex, is important. It is good to learn as much as you can about another person before you become heavily involved. Especially, if possible, learn about their attachment style. Listen to how they speak about past partners and family connections. Many relationship problems could be avoided, if people did not rush into forming an attachment with someone.
Take time to see if they are trustworthy. It takes time for someone’s consistent behaviour to prove that they have earned your trust. Do not give someone your trust before you have behavioural proof that they deserve it.
You deserve the best trained relationship coaches if you’re planning to invest time and money in your relationship. If you’re not ready to book an appointment, call us on 0421 961 687 to book a FREE 15 minute phone consultation to discuss how we may be able to assist you.