What if other people find it easier than you to be married “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health,” just because the first couple years of their lives were different from yours?
“I’ve got your back” sounds reassuring to the majority of people. And not too much to ask in return. They have what we call a Secure Attachment Style. They find marriage easier, and they are easier to be married to.
Others of us are thinking, “No need, I’ve got this, I’ll take care of myself, and I’m really not sure I want any extra responsibility for someone else’s wellbeing.” A third group of us is thinking, “That’s a huge, huge relief, but please, please don’t change your mind—or die on me—you won’t abandon me, right?” And a fourth group is mixing both of these into a toxic stew that has screwed up every adult relationship they’ve had.
Our Attachment Style is a set of strategies our very young brains selected through trial and error while trying to figure out how to deal with our caretakers using only the options available to us as infants and toddlers. It’s not fixed. Most psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, and marriage therapists have learned how to help us develop a Secure style that makes marriage easier. And marrying someone with a Secure style can shift ours in that direction.
We’re not broken. We’re not damaged. Even though we’ve been using our Attachment Style to get what we need since before we could walk, it’s not who we are. It’s just what got us through our childhood challenges, which were probably different from those of the folks with a Secure Attachment Style, the only style that keeps working for adults who want a partner in life. And until we pay attention, we don’t even notice why we leave or get left or never really connect.