How Attachment Styles Affect Relationships & Other Advice from Two Relationship Therapists
In this podcast (episode #434) and blog, I talk to licensed therapist and life coach John Kim about his amazing new book It’s Not Me, It’s You, simple tips to improve your relationships, how to manage feelings of resentment, the importance of love languages and attachment styles, how to break the blame cycle, and so much more.
In It’s Not Me, It’s You, John and his co-author Vanessa dissect their own relationship to help readers figure out theirs: what their relationships were like in the past, what traumas they carried into the new relationship, and how they work on growing together to foster a healthy and long-term bond.
As they note in the book, “the surprising truth is falling in love is more about you than your partner. It’s more about challenge and growth than comfort and ease, and roots don’t grow from wishful thinking—they grow in the soil of communication, curiosity, patience, and understanding.”
The truth is that even therapists find relationships difficult! It’s easy to get into the blame game, which is why John and Vanessa’s new book is so helpful. They share their expertise as therapists and their own personal experiences as a couple in ways that are vulnerable, funny and insightful.
One important thing they highlight in the book is the “lightning-in-a-bottle” myth. As a society, we tend to put intense passion and chemistry on a pedestal, as if these qualities are what make relationships the “real deal”. But this is simply not the case-relationships are far more complicated than that. “Happily ever after”, looking for “the one”, waiting for a prince or princess to save us…these are all blueprints that can end up putting a strain on our relationships when our expectations are not met.
Real life is more messy and not as straightforward as pop culture would have us believe. No relationship is perfect, and when we just look for “the one”, we can end up using this as an excuse not to do the work to make the relationships we do have work.
In fact, there is nothing wrong with a “slow burn” relationship—where passion grows over time through attraction and hard work. Just because the beginning may be rocky, or things seem challenging at times and your relationship doesn’t feel like a Hollywood movie, this doesn’t mean the person isn’t for you.
Hard work, not just amazing sex or a chemical connection, is the foundation of a healthy relationship. Real relationships take a lot of compromise, communication and looking inward. One of the best things you can practice in a relationship is to try to understand before trying to be understood.
This is especially true when there is conflict—it is better to try understand how the other person sees the situation than try get your partner to understand your point of view. In fact, when both people in a relationship do this, then it creates a neutral space that promotes growth that can strengthen the relationship over time. It is “relationship glue”!
It is also important to be aware how our childhood habits and attachment styles can affect our relationships as adults. If you know your attachment style, you can regulate and challenge your own behaviors and thoughts in a relationship. The same can be said for “love languages”—it is important to know what you want and need, what your partner wants and needs, and to learn how to communicate this. This will allow you to try different things that mean a lot to your partner—it shows that you are not trying to change your partner but understand them better and meet them half way. This can help all our relationships, not just intimate ones.
The key thing to understand is that our partners do not have to be like us. There is beauty in the contrast—we should be leaning into our differences, not pushing them away. When we do this, we create a bridge to connect with our partner on a deeper level, rather than just blaming the other person, getting frustrated and saying something like “why can’t they be like me!”. We make space to hold and give love to our partner, rather than just taking love for ourselves.
Working at our relationships will be hard and take time, but the effort is worth it. Taking the time to invest in our relationship through training and learning together creates trust, which reduces fear and feelings of scarcity in a relationship that can trigger our fight or flight response.
The key thing to remember is communication, communication, communication! Never wait too long if something is bothering you—don’t let any kind of resentment build up. This is the best way to manage fights or arguments, which are a part of every relationship. The less pressure you feel when you disagree with your partner, the easier it will be to manage tension in a relationship.
For more on relationships and mental health, listen to my podcast episode with John (episode #433), and check out his amazing new book It’s Not Me, It’s You.
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6:08 Working on your relationship while raising kids
10:50 Careers, relationships & children
12:05 Why John & his partner Vanessa wrote It’s Not Me, It’s You
14:16 The “lightning in a bottle” myth
20:25 Rocky times do not mean that a relationship is a failure
21:30 The importance of compromise & communication
21:43 Try to understand before trying to be understood
25:11 How childhood protective habits & attachment styles can affect relationships
29:58 How to find beauty in the contrast & improve understanding
35:28 Relationships are not easy but they are worth it!
41:18 How to manage arguments: don’t wait too long
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