What Type of Partner are you?
The degree to which we feel a close emotional connection with another person is the result of a series of experiences with that person. The capacity for such intimacy may also be impacted by the relationship with our primary caregivers as children, our relationships with friends in childhood and again with our intimate partner as adults. Confidence in another to be attentive, responsive and kind is a necessary part of the development of marriage and, despite being such an important aspect of marriage, emotional intimacy at times feels elusive.
Psychologist, Harry Stack Sullivan defines intimacy as “…a collaboration in which both partners reveal themselves and seek and express validation of each other’s attributes and world views” (Reis and Shaver). This mutual contribution to the creation of intimacy is key and the type of partner we are contributes to our level of intimacy.
What type of partner are you?
Hazan and Shaver identify three types of partners/ lovers. These types have varied experience with how they were responded to by caregivers as children and differ in their beliefs about other people’s intentions and behaviours. The three types of lovers are: avoidant, anxious and secure.
The avoidant lover may be a person who has experienced rejection by their primary caregivers. They may be worried about intimacy and vulnerability and sees relationships as unsafe. They may believe that “Love Rarely Lasts” and doesn’t believe in the good intentions of intimate partners.
The anxious lover may be a person who was inconsistently responded to from their caregivers. They may fall for partners quickly, and often, and can be seen as jealous and clingy. These lovers may believe others are reluctant to commit.
“Spending time with a therapist can be helpful to ensure the past isn’t getting in the way of your current relationship.”
The secure lover is a person who has experienced consistent loving relationships with their caregivers. They have been able to find reliable intimate partners in adulthood. They believe they can have intimate positive relationships and they do. They have learned to be vulnerable and disclose private thoughts, feelings and wishes and are responded to favourably by their partner.
As relationships with our partner shifts and changes we can be triggered by old experiences and unproductive beliefs. Spending time with a therapist can be helpful to ensure the past isn’t getting in the way of your current relationship. Recognizing what triggers anxious and avoidant feelings can help shift a destructive pattern. Even more importantly, knowing that we need to feel secure in our relationships and how to ask for what we need for ourselves is a great place to begin.
H. Reis & P. Shaver. (1988) Handbook of Personal Relationships. Ch. 20 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
C. Hazan & P. Shaver. (1987). Romantic Love Conceptualized as an Attachment Process. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Vol. 52, No.3, 511-524.
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