Often, when someone is a poor spouse, it’s because they didn’t have the right opportunities growing up to develop secure relationships. But you can help your spouse fix that by giving them the security they didn’t get before.
When a baby is born it doesn’t take long for him to often exclusively want his mother. He looks at her, smiles at her, longs for her embrace, and cries for her. Usually as the baby grows, he begins to develop a special relationship with his father as well. He looks forward to getting tickled and played with on his fathers big knee, reveling in his attention. This is the earliest exposure the child has to relationships. The child’s experience with relationships will create the way he attaches or connects to people for the rest of his life. When most of his experiences with relationships feel enjoyable, it’s very likely that he will develop a secure attachment style, which means that he will have the necessary skills to connect deeply with someone else and enjoy relationships.
What happens if, chas veshalom, something goes very wrong? What happens if a child grows up in an atmosphere where love is very conditional, or where there’s extreme dependence on the child and the child is parentified, or perhaps neglected or abused and the child has negative traumatic relationship experience?
Those people who were traumatized by relationships often don’t have the necessary skills to be in a healthy relationship. They tend to be overly anxious and needy in their relationships or extremely withdrawn and neglectful of relationships. They often make very poor spouses.
Even if you have a spouse that had these experiences, you can still help him attain a secure attachment style, even later in life.
Here’s how: The better YOU are at a relationship, the more likely it will positively affect your spouse and through osmosis, will improve his or her relationship skills. We can have a big hashpah (influence) on the people around us.
The Sefas Emes said when he was young, he thought he would change the world. As he grew older those expectations changed to maybe he can change his country, then he realized that he can’t. He thought maybe he can change his city, he realized he can’t change his city but thought maybe his family. He finally came to the conclusion that he can only change himself. And then he realized if he would change himself perhaps it would change his family which would change the neighbourhood which would then change the city which would then change the country and change the world.
In my experience, I have seen that what science says is true: the more you develop a secure attachment style the more your husband can become more secure in his attachment style as well. It’s important to understand that working on developing a secure attachment style doesn’t fix your spouse’s addiction or mental health issues, however it’s the best hishtadlus to bringing out the best in your marriage and in all your relationships.
What are the qualities that are necessary in you for a successful happy marriage and that represent a secure attachment style?
1. Someone with a secure attachment style has an easy time being warm and loving. By working on being positive, seeing the good, feeling good about yourself and taking good care of yourself, you have more energy to be warm and loving.
2. Someone with a secure attachment style is difficult to insult. They take relationships in stride.They don’t personalize and become defensive easily. They attribute positive intention and are dan lekaf zechus. When your husband hurts you it doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you, it doesn’t mean that what he said or did is a reflection of your self worth. It usually means that he is in pain or struggling or wasn’t aware of your needs and feelings. By replacing judgement with compassion, understanding we are all not perfect and have our work cut out for us in this world, it makes it easier to be more objective and not personalize.
3. Someone with a secure attachment style speaks in a way that makes the other person feel safe and not threatened. They know how to relay a message without making the other person feel defensive and therefore they are more heard. I call this heart talk, using language that penetrates someone’s heart. Using heart talk will make it easier for your husband to hear you and understand you. It means speaking using a soft tone of voice, and a pleasant face, telling him what you want from him, instead of criticizing him.
4. Someone with a secure attachment style is good at reading cues, or heart messages. They understand the emotional needs or motivations of the other person and respond to them. Listen out for why your husband is speaking to you. Every time your husband talks he wants something emotional from you. He is not your chavrusah or business partner so he usually does not want your opinion or advice. When he talks to you he wants to know that you appreciate him, and approve of him. He wants to know that you want his company, and enjoy his presence. He wants to be able to make you happy. When you offer reassurance you are addressing his emotional needs and are being a good example to him of how he can be more emotionally supportive to you.
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