Shaver points out the following parallels between our early life relationship with our primary carer and our adult relationships with our romantic partners :
- Just as, in early life, our primary carer was our main attachment figure, so too, in adulthood, our romantic partner becomes our main attachment figure.
- Just as, in early life, we relied on our primary carer as our secure base, so too, in adulthood, we rely on our romantic partner as our secure base.
- Just as, in early life, we relied on our primary carer as our safe haven, so too, in adulthood, we rely on our romantic partner as our safe haven.
- In adulthood, our responses to separation from, or loss of, our romantic partners resemble our responses to separation from, or loss of, our primary carer in early life. And, in relation to separation and loss, Shaver suggests that it is sometimes only when our relationship with our romantic partner breaks down that we become fully aware of the emotional bond that exists between us and our him/her (reflecting the adage that you only understand the true value of something when you lose it).
Adult Romantic Relationships Tend To Mirror Early Life Attachment To Primary Carer
Shaver also states that there exist fundamental similarities between our adult romantic relationships and our early life attachment to our primary carer. For example, both types of relationship involve: ‘eye contact, holding, touching, caressing, smiling, crying, clinging, a desire to be comforted by one’s primary carer/partner when distressed, the experience of anger, anxiety and sorrow following separation or loss and the experience of happiness upon reunion.’
Shaver’s research also suggests that individuals who have had a secure and emotionally healthy bond (or, in Bowlby’s phrase, ‘attachment’ ) to their primary carer in early life tend to have long-lasting relationships as adults, whereas those who have had a problematic, less emotionally healthy and more insecure bond with their primary carer in early life tend to have more relationship difficulties as adults, are more likely to divorce and have a generally more cynical attitude towards the concept of love than those who had enjoyed a secure bond (attachment) to their primary carer in early life.
David Hosier Bsc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).
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