Why Don't I Feel Attached to You? Why Am I Not Glad to Be with You?
In Jim Wilder’s book Renovated (p. 83), he states, “Joy is the energy that builds strong attachment love. Joy means ‘I am glad to be with you!’ In fact, most marriages come apart because partners lose the energy of attachment (joy) and form new attachments with someone (my addition, some thing) who gives them joy.” He also says,” It even appears that the pain of lost attachment turns those who were previously lovers into enemies.”
This past weekend was our 27th wedding anniversary and our kids had a candid conversation with me about marriage. Candid conversation in our home is a norm. They have observed our marriage and asked me the question, is marriage really suppose to be this hard? My response was it is not often the marriage that is the problem, it is what you come into the marriage with that causes the problems. I said, this might be hard to hear or understand but whoever I married because of my childhood trauma/pain, it would have been this hard for me. They looked at me puzzled. I explained that when you come into marriage with disorganized attachment (it’s safe, it’s not safe to attach), feeling overwhelmed all the time, no ability to return to peace, rest or joy and my go to was protect or hide- enemy mode, I had no relational skills to help a marriage flourish. With a wink I said, that is why I tirelessly want to teach you what I am learning as no one taught me, aren’t you all so lucky? At that, their eyes rolled but it lightened what was a hard topic.
Why was being married so hard but being a mom came much easier? One word that Jim mentions in his quote above, attachment. I attached to our kids before they even came into this world. They were my kiddos. It was easy to attach to them especially because I spent every day with them, feeding them, holding them, looking in their eyes letting them know how much I loved and was glad to be with them, lots of oxytocin, the connection chemical in the brain. I attached to them. Jim also says, “Yet the very parents who could not stay married by choice fight like tigers to keep their children due to attachment love.” Attachment love is what I shared with our kids, I had done enough study and received enough counseling/mentoring to know attaching to our kids was vital and what I wanted to do.
So why didn’t I have the same success attaching in marriage? Well in marriage we both come in with our attachment style either secure or insecure. It is often said that you marry someone at the same emotional level. I think it is, you marry someone at the attachment level you are at and then you try to change each other, fix each other, try every counseling modality until hopeless despair sets in, you quit or you decide to go another way. What is that other way? Is it learning how to practice joy- I am glad to be with you, learning how to return to peace on your own not making the other be your peace, recognizing when you are overwhelmed and taking a break. In the midst it can help to look at your own childhood and how you attached as a child and as a family. My family did not securely attach to people, we attached to BEEPS- Behaviors, Experiences, Events, People (codependent) or Substances. This attachment does not bring real joy, it numbs you so you don’t have to feel pain but actually robs you of true joy or peace.
In the midst of COVID why am I writing this blog? In COVID, low joy, “no I am not glad to be with you, you annoy me”, the closeness in the midst of a pandemic is causing escalation of pain as well as seeing we are not attached- glad to be with each other. I have felt it in our home, no doubt you have felt it in yours. We don’t know when it will end, many of our distractions (BEEPS) have been taken from us and it is apparent, I don’t know how to share joy or peace with you. I share it with the kids, I can share it with girlfriends but the one person I really want to share it with is the hardest. I can list several flaws I have in relating and I can share my husbands but what it comes down to ultimately is that attachment is hard, it was ingrained in me as a child that it might be good/safe to attach and then when the anger, alcohol, dismissal, neglect or abandonment happened, it was not safe to attach. Disorganized attachment makes relationship harder. In attachment pain you feel all alone which magnifies all feelings, like hitting a broken arm causing excruciating pain.
I bet you are now asking, “Gosh Lori, is there hope?” I can finally say yes. Yes there is. Once I could put a name to what was happening, now I can understand my internal “operating system”. I see when I want to get away, get mad, get scared, get anxious, not because of my husband but because of my attachment wound. I want to get away from the distressing emotions and the way to do that is to get away from my husband. But now I feel alone and if I feel alone this isn’t a marriage and so why are we staying married? Again, this feeling is not a new feeling, I have felt it for 50 years. This is not my husband’s fault. Our current neuroscience understanding of attachment wounds is they do not go away (though I never want to limit God as there are times and places God surprises us with healing). After seeking healing of this wound in every place I can find, I have decided to learn to observe my attachment wound, not blame, turn to Immanuel who is always with me, learning to practice gratefulness in the moment (where I feel it in my body) and ask the question, what do You want me to know here? My instinct is to move closer and try to make my husband feel my need/pain or move farther away, avoid and distract myself. But as I said last week, Immanuel always has a third option that brings me back to peace and back into relationship.
So join me, let’s practice gratefulness. As I sit here Immanuel I am grateful for the sun on my chair as I write, a lovely latte, the smell of spring and that You are closer than I will ever know. I feel this gratefulness in my chest and in my face, a warmth, a smile, tender.
Next let’s ask Him, Immanuel in this season where I have lived in low joy and not known what it is, what do You want me to know? Or sometimes it is not do I move closer or move farther away, as they are two opposing desires and our brain can’t handle them, what is the third option You want to share with me? (A dear friend from my hesed growing group has taught me about the third option and I am so grateful for this question too!)
I heard, Lori, just take this one day and sometimes one minute at a time. Slow down so you can hear, if you go to fast, it’s harder for you to hear. I’ve got you, I am here to attach to you, you are not alone. I AM is with you. Rest.
What did you hear? Write it down and share with a friend, it helps us attach and grow joy when we share these stories and look in each other’s eyes as we share it. I have to share because I am low joy with an attachment wound so it is a vital exercise to me, it’s my PT for injury but I call it AWE- Attachment Wound Exercises.
Until next time….when do you feel gratefulness? A sunset, ducklings, deer, bald eagles, walks, as we can’t spend the time doing what we did, does nature bring you joy?
have great you tube videos, books and trainings. Jim Wilder’s latest book Renovated is a great resource as I have quoted from the book today.