Finding the love you long for - an attachment perspective

Whether you are single and wishing for an intimate relationship, or you are in a relationship that is not meeting your core needs, the longing for attachment and connection to a special other can be overwhelming and painful. For many, this type of love may feel unattainable. Often there are many practical reasons for this in the here-and-now - a lack of suitable potential partners to choose from, for example. But in many cases, past experiences of core needs not being met may have affected our capacity to reach out in a way that will be successful in attracting the right person, or we may have developed some beliefs deep down that we don't deserve love or relationship happiness. People who find themselves in this latter situation may have painful experiences, often repeatedly, of choosing the 'wrong' person - someone who treats them poorly, who is not attuned to their needs for belonging and emotional connectedness. The origins of this may lie further back in life. As children, we are reliant on our parents, or other adults who are responsible for caring for us, to tune into us and our needs. There are many reasons a parent or other caregiver may not be able to provide this, often through circumstances outside of their control - for example, a parent who is struggling with depression may not have the capacity to respond to the emotional needs of her children. Children are very resilient! They learn ingenious ways to get their needs met in the most difficult of situations. They may decide that they are strong and self-sufficient, and that it is good to be that way. Or they may learn that when they are more intensely demanding that a preoccupied or emotionally unavailable parent does give them some attention. These strategies are effective for children to get their core needs for connection met. Their survival literally depends on finding some way to get a response from a parent - after all, terrible things can and do happen to children where parents are not providing enough care and support. Unfortunately, these creative solutions can cause those children some serious problems later in life, in adult relationships. Acting self-sufficient is great when you are on your own, but may leave a partner feeling shut out emotionally. Being intensely demanding of a partner may leave them feeling that their needs are not as important. The solution s not a 'quick fix'. It's hard work to allow yourself to go back in time, and connect to some intense feelings you may have pushed away about being left with your needs unattended to. Grieving for what was missing in your life may be painful and seem pointless - after all, we can't change the past, and we don't want to get stuck in blaming our parents when they were doing their very best. However, it is only through this grieving work that we can prevent our unprocessed emotions from affecting our capacity to be connected and close to loved ones in the present. Counselling can be a space where you can be supported to connect to painful feelings from the past, and release them in order to move forward with confidence and hope for future relationships.

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