Protesting Emotional Disconnection
When our partners turn toward our bids for connection, we recognize that they are responsive to us and are emotionally connected to us. As a result, our attachment anxiety is soothed, because we feel safe and secure in our bond. According to the dependency paradox, the safe haven of a secure attachment gives us the security to focus our attention outside of the relationship.
When our partners turn away or against our bids for connection, we feel that they are unresponsive to our needs. As a result, our attachment alarm goes off in the shape of insecurity, and we unconsciously utilize protest behavior to try and reconnect with our partners or disconnect more to protect ourselves:
- We become demanding and clingy in hopes of receiving comfort and reassurance from our partners. Anxious partners typically use indirect cries for help or demand something from their partner which feels very negative to their partner. The motivation under this behavior is to see if our partner is there for us and wants to be with us.
- We withdraw from the relationship to create space so we can protect ourselves from being rejected and calm down. We do this to numb our overwhelming emotions and so we can get them under control. This also prevents us from becoming engulfed in the relationship with our partners, which may have been devastating in prior relationships.
Protest behavior is an indicator that your primal attachment needs are not being met.
Examples of Protest Behavior
1. Anxious attachmentExcessive Attempts to Reestablish Contact: Calling or texting multiple times in a row. Waiting for a phone call. Loitering by your partner’s workplace in hopes of running into him or her.
2. Withdrawing: Going emotionally numb. Leaving. Turning your back. Talking on the phone and ignoring your partner.
3. Keeping Score: Paying attention to how long it took them to respond and waiting just as long to respond to them. Waiting for them to make the first move to make up.
4. Acting Hostile: Rolling eyes. Angry outbursts. Looking away. Walking out in the middle of a conversation. Shouting.
5. Manipulations: Acting busy when you’re not. Pretending to be unapproachable. Ignoring phone calls. Saying you have plants when you don’t. Waiting for your partner to rescue you.
Threatening to Leave
1. Ultimatums: “If you don’t stop (or start) doing/being ______, then (bad things will happen).”
2. Making Partner Feel Jealous: Making plans to see an ex or going to a single’s bar. Telling your partner about someone who hit on you in an attempt to make them jealous and insecure.
Recognizing your protest behavior is an easy way to notice when you have an unmet attachment need. With this realization, you can make a bid that helps your partner meet your needs, rather than withdrawing or demanding something from them.
If your protests feel like they don’t affect your partner, you will eventually stop protesting and will emotionally withdraw as well. Instead of being in love, you feel like two ships passing in the night.
You Are Response-Able
You are response-able for getting your attachment needs met as well as meeting your partner’s attachment needs. Being response-able in your relationship means being open and responsive, both emotionally and physically, to your partner’s bids for emotional connection. It is your choice how you are going to respond. You can turn towards, or turn away/against. You are also response-able to ask for what you need in a way that invites your partner to meet that need.
Being Response-Able to Your Partner
There are four obstacles to noticing your partner’s bids for connection.
1) Mindlessness –
Couples often miss bids out of mindlessness, not malice. Just being aware of how subtle these bids are and how vital they are to creating a passionate and healthy relationship can make a big difference in how partners emotionally connect.