photo relationships work rejected marriage proposal

We do as we have been done by.
~ John Bowlby

Tia and Damon came to see us for Couple to Couple Coaching®.

Tia: Damon and I have been dating for four years. I’m 29 years old and not getting any younger. I always thought I’d be married by the time I was 30. I try not to bring up the “M” word, but it’s hard after four years. He cringes every time I want to talk about it.

Damon: I don’t know why she is so worried about marriage. I told her when we met I wasn’t really the marrying type.

Bob: Why is that, Damon?

Damon: My parents divorced when I was 8 years old and it was awful. I had to pack my bag every other weekend and was constantly shifted around. When my mother remarried and had my two half-brothers, I felt like the odd one out. They were much younger than me, and closer in age. I only felt like part of that family every other weekend. It was the four of them, and me. My dad never remarried.

Tia: But that’s the past. And we are living in the now. You must not really love me.

Damon doesn’t respond.

Tia: I’ve suggested us moving in several times over the years but he won’t even try that. Even if he asked me today, I wouldn’t trust that he meant it. Maybe he just needs to find someone better than me.

Lori: Tia, what’s kept you around for four years? That’s a long time to be with someone who doesn’t want the same future as you.

Tia: I love him and I don’t like being alone. Damon’s my first long-term relationship. The thought of starting over makes me sick.

Damon: Why does the conversation always go back to you and your pity party? You’re so emotional. I’m not sure I ever want to get married.

Tia: Don’t you love me? If you did you would marry me. What else do you need to know?

Damon: I do love you. It’s marriage I’m questioning.

(To Be Continued…)

For better or worse our parents or earliest caregivers teach us how to emotionally bond with, or “attach,” to others. We may have a positive outlook about relating to others or a negative one. We vary in our sense of:

  • trust or distrust and suspicion,
  • desire for intimacy or space,
  • need for validation, and
  • dependence or independence.

In the case of Tia and Damon, Tia’s attachment style was “Anxious-preoccupied.” She had difficulty trusting Damon, anxiously sought validation from him that she was lovable, and had a poor sense of self-esteem. Tia clearly avoided being alone by staying with Damon for four years and denying that he had strong feelings against getting married.

Damon’s attachment style was “Dismissive-avoidant.” He enjoyed the relationship with Tia and loved her, yet avoided getting too close by resisting the thought of ever getting married.

You can see the conflict that occurs when these two attachment styles meet. It was clear to Bob and me that Tia and Damon loved each other. They just weren’t on the same page about growing deeply intimate and couldn’t connect in a healthy way.

(Continued…)

We worked with this couple for six months and helped them understand more about themselves, each other, and their clash in attachment styles. Exploring how these styles developed in their families of origin helped them both become more secure. Tia became more independent and clear about wanting to have marriage and children in her future. Damon worked on facing his feelings about his history and separating them from the life he wanted with Tia. He grew in trust and was able to become closer and more loving to Tia. We got an email from them six months later that they were planning their wedding.

This couple is an example of how attachment styles can separate couples and how identifying them and working on becoming more secure makes a huge difference.

If you are feeling disconnected from your partner or want to learn how to more deeply connect, Bob and I can help. Call us at 410-363-2825 or email info@relationshipswork.com.

Image Copyright Antonio Guillem