Do you ever fear that you (or your partner) may be too dependent in your relationship? Having been encouraged by countless self-help authors to be independent in our pursuit of happiness, we believe we are supposed “to do it all by ourselves”. If, however, life’s challenges have started to stack up, and you find yourself leaning more and more on your partner for support, does this mean you are co-dependent?
Far from being a sign of dysfunction, a desire for support and connection is the sign of a mature, healthy relationship in which each partner has developed a secure sense of “attachment” to the other. Research has shown that, while we all need to care for ourselves, we also need to feel that we are not alone and that someone will stand by us when the going gets tough.
Researchers have noted that, in healthy attachment, adults feel safe when their partners are close by and are responsive to their needs; they feel insecure when the partner is inaccessible; and they engage in greater intimate bodily contact when they feel connected and understood by their partner.
10 Signs of Healthy Attachment in a Romantic Partner
- Are willing to be vulnerable with one another.
- Keep their vulnerability alive by maintaining an awareness of the importance of the partnership.
- Are attentive to one another.
- See each other as allies, not enemies.
- Know how to soothe fears.
- Make themselves available through the difficult bumps of life.
- Are curious and inquisitive about their partner’s troubles.
- Maintain the ability to have discussions when the going gets rough instead of retreating to a place of supposed safety.
- Are responsive to each other even when it feels uncomfortable.
- Feel comfortable both with intimacy and with independence, seeking to balance the two.
Securely attached people report a great deal of satisfaction in their relationships. During difficult situations they seek support, comfort, and assistance and they reduce their anxiety by seeking physical and/or psychological closeness to their partner.
A secure partner responds positively to his or her partner’s difficulty, reaffirming a sense of normality, which further helps to reduce anxiety. This expression of love puts into practice the key elements of a secure partnership: consistency, attunement to the other, and availability when needed.
The hallmarks of a healthy relationship can be attained by all couples when each partner is willing to learn about themselves and the other. With practice it is possible to develop the kind of relationship that allows for much happiness and fulfillment.