By: Sabrina Fruci M.S.W., R.S.W.

Published On: December 15, 2014

Where are you? Will you respond to me? Are you there?

One of the loneliest and isolating places to be in a relationship is when you feel your partner is not there for you. Every individual has instinctive needs to feel loved and secure. Sometimes we feel ourselves looking for our partner, wondering where they are. We need our loved one to soothe our fears, comfort our worries, and ease our pain. However, our partner is not responsive.

When our loved one is inaccessible, it creates a lot of inner turmoil and distress. This is what John Bowlby calls Attachment. Attachment Theory is based on the idea that we are all born with an instinctive need to have someone who will consistently be there for us. Someone who will respond to us when we are hurt, sick, or scared. In childhood we develop this bond with our caregivers. In adulthood, this connection shifts from our caregivers to our partners. Our partners become our attachment figures; thus, our adult love relationships are just as significant as a child’s bond to a parent. This attachment bond is a means of survival.

Therefore, when this connection is threatened we may begin to act out in any way possible. We can pursue our loved one by becoming anxious, clingy, desperate, coercive, and/or aggressive. On the other hand, we may push our loved one away. This might include being critical, blaming, or demanding toward our partner. These responses allow us to cope with the pain and hurt from the threat of disconnection.

While it may seem counter productive to push a loved one away, research tells us that any response is a positive response. If our loved one responds to us, even if it is negative, it helps us know that our partner still cares, that we matter to them, that they love us. Regardless of pursuing or withdrawing, these behaviours are our desperate attempts to maintain that connection to our attachment figure.