Relationship advice – How to get intimacy in your relationship – part 4

We are ready for the 4 episode in this relationship advice series.

If you have followed the previous 3 podcast episodes on the main conflict in relationships then you want to listen in to this as I will cover the most important mistakes to avoid and how to repair relationships wounds that cause ongoing conflicts.

If you don’t know what attachment is about and how it impact relationships and can cause conflict then check out my earlier podcasts and videos.

Relationships have what I call key attachment moments. 

These are the moments where we really need our partner to be there for us and if they are not it will cause severe damage to the bond and trust and closeness will suffer.

These are the moments that really answer the attachment question,

Will you be there when I need you the most?’

These key moments could be anything from childbirth, serious sickness, the loss of a loved one, getting fired or any significant event where we really need support from our key attachment figure. 

How you respond to your partners needs in these circumstances are critical. 

There is no grey area here, even valid reasons will not help restore the emotional damage not being there could cause.

For us to trust the attachment bond we must be there in these key moments when your partner really needs you.

Failure to show up at these moments can create resentment, distance and long-term damage that requires a lot of repair work later.

Often conflict that seems completely unrelated are motivated by an old attachment wound created by a partner that was not there in a key attachment moment.

Being there for your partner in these key moments does not have to be hard.

It can be small gestures like sending flowers on a bad day, ordering take away food for them when they are sick (if you don’t live together).

Holding them and reassuring them that you will be there for them when they tell you about their bad medical results. 

These small gestures show you are there when it matters and creates secure attachment and closeness.

This will impact everything else in your relationship.

Common attachment wounds happen without us realising we caused them.

In times of great need, do we make our partner the top priority and choose to be there for them?

These are key moments that are of special importance as we learn if we can count on our partner and trust them.

If the emotional and physical needs are not met, we get guarded and trust less and feel less connected and secure.

We can also call these attachment traumas.

They are when we experience a crisis or are in critical need of physical or emotional safety and comfort but our partner does not respond.

Despite a great functional relationship these few events; if the trust towards the attachment is broken, will colour the entire relationship as the fundamental trust is broken.

The question “are you there for me when I am most in need?” was a no, so the relationship will be clouded by a fear and distrust, even when the day to day seems ok this will inhibit intimacy and connection until it’s healed.

These attachment traumas could be a partner was diagnosed with cancer and we were so busy working that we simply were not there for them.

Or perhaps we could not manage our own fears around losing our partner so we retrieved instead of reaching out to support our partner. 

It could be a woman that was left alone scared during child birth.

These moments when we feel vulnerable and perhaps scared is when we need our partner to be most responsive, and if they are not it will cause attachment trauma that requires healing before trust and intimacy can flourish again.

Don’t get me wrong, they may have logical or genuine reasons for not being there in these key moments.

Perhaps they had a work crisis, or they might be so overwhelmed, that they could not provide the support you needed.

All are logically valid reasons but they will not change the wound created and the damage to trust and intimacy so a healing process must take place.

Healing attachment hurt

Attachment hurt is a major breach of trust and here are the steps to heal it:

  1. The hurt partner describes the feelings they are experiencing without blaming it on their partner.

Focus on how it made you feel and how it has impacted your trust and safety with your partner.

Did you feel alone, abandoned, rejected?

Express what you needed to feel safe and comforted.

It could sound something like this:

“The day I came home to tell you I had cancer, I needed you to hold me and comfort me. I felt so scared, but when you did not even lift your head from the TV to look at me, I felt so alone and went to my room and cried for hours.

After that day I never trusted you to be there for me again and I learned to depend on my friends instead. I needed you so badly to hold me and tell me it was going to be ok”

This will make the hurt partner feel seen and understood and make them trust you could act differently in the future.

First step in restoring trust. We all make mistakes but it doesn’t make us bad people.

However if we can’t acknowledge that we did something wrong or made a mistake then there is zero chance we will act differently in the future and this is why this must happen to restore trust.

Repeat back what you heard to your hurt partner.

Then ask if you understood it correctly.

If they feel understood they will trust you more and healing can begin.

This could sound something like this:

“I can hear how much you needed me to be there for you, to hold you and comfort you. You wanted to not feel alone and that we were in this together.

You felt so scared and I broke your trust because I could not be there for you in that moment the way you needed me”

Try to use their words and expression.

This must be genuine so don’t fake it as that will just break trust even further.

Use your empathy to sense you partner’s experience and once you do that it’s easy to express regret.

This could sound something like this:

“I am so sorry I hurt you in this way and made you feel alone when you needed me the most.

I can see now how I created a very deep wound and perhaps even sadness for you and how it made us move apart as you could no longer trust me.”

Continues below…

You also need to show and express the emotional impact it has on you to realise the harm this caused your partner.

This is what will help them trust you.

This could sound something like this:

“I want to be there for you when you need me the most. Looking back, I realise that when I heard the word cancer I froze and all I could think about was losing you and that made me so scared.

It was like I could not move. I was paralysed.

But you needed me and I failed in that moment, and that makes me so sad to know I left you alone.

I don’t want to ever leave you alone when you need me again.

Perhaps you can try to reach to me with things you are comfortable sharing and I can show you I will be there for you.”

See how this partner takes responsible.

Makes it clear the hurt partners experience is understood and valid.

Then show the emotional impact it has on them finding out they hurt their partner.

They explain why they failed in that moment and at the end clarify how they will act differently in the future.

Don’t make promises you can’t keep that will only damage trust further.

The reason I talk about attachment needs before individual needs is because once attachment needs are taken care of in a relationship, the fear of loss, not being enough or other common attachment triggers that makes us inhibit our partners needs for self-expression decreases or fade altogether.

This means it will be much easier to get your partner on board for your individual needs as it will not trigger them in the same way.