10 Tips for the Holiday Season: Practice Secure Couples Principles

Communication, Relationships
Practice Secure Couples Principles – Couple with Net (Anonymous, about 1470)

Couple with Net (Anonymous, about 1470)

Tips from an Attachment Point of View

As we approach the summer holiday season (in Australia at least) it’s worth remembering that even in the best of times, with few exceptions, we as couples need to practice the principles of couple security. And this for some even more so when on holiday, with the potentially added complexities of increased time together and extended family.

With that in mind, here are some great examples of secure principles from the book Attached (Amir Levine and Rachel Heller), one we recommend to couples looking to find out more about Adult Attachment. In this post we’d like to comment on some of these principles, as tips for the holiday season.

And we wish you a happy holiday!

1. Be Available

This tip’s aimed more towards Avoidant types, who might think that, with potentially more family interactions, they need more “alone time” as a balance. And perhaps in some ways they are right, feeling that things (maybe including their partner) are too demanding, too busy, too noisy.

The key for an Avoidant type at this time is to communicate openly and honestly to their partner what’s happening for them. An Avoidant needs to be open and emotionally available even if only for some moments.

2. Don’t Interfere

With the stress of organising social events, an overtly Anxious partner may decide it’s time to “check in” repeatedly on their possibly Avoidant partner. (Is all this stuff going to get done?) This action is likely to be counter-productive, and will reduce the trust the Avoidant person feels for the situation and for the couple’s security, because they’ll be overwhelmed.

The key is to make an agreement about how and when check-ins will occur, an agreement that suits both styles.

3. Act Encouragingly

Especially in times of high family expectations, it’s easy to fall into defensive strategies such as belittling, acting hostile or disdainful, and minimising emotional sharing. Yet at this time there are huge bonuses to be had in acting encouragingly and in a supportive way.

A common Avoidant response is to find a partner’s advances needy and pathetic. The Avoidant tries to gain distance by discouraging and by trying to keep the partner “in their place”. The effect can be devastating on the other partner and on the relationship.

Alternatively, the Avoidant can practice finding the positive in the other. This ironically helps them too!

4. Communicate Effectively

Knowing what your attachment style is a useful pointer to where you’ll be vulnerable to ineffective communication. What are the situations that trigger you, especially at this time of the year? How does your attachment style then play out? How do you lose out by following the game plan of your style?

Effective communication comes out of challenging the assumptions you’ve made.

5. Don’t Play Games

This is another way of saying: Don’t act out. Don’t fall into the trap of engaging in secondary arguments that are about point scoring and winning or losing. These secondary arguments often leave the underlying issues completely unaddressed.

6. Have Each Others’ Back

It comes as a surprise to some people that they can take responsibility for the well-being of their partner, and often (without a huge amount of effort) powerfully increase the sense of well-being in that other person.

This in turn increases their own sense of well-being, when they see they can evoke such positive effects. Another way of saying this is “Have each others’ back”.

7. Wear Your Heart on Your Sleeve

Be courageous and honest in your interactions. Dig into feelings and be available to share them. The Three Simple Sentences are a great way of doing this.

8. Maintain Focus on the Problem at Hand

Having a sense of partnership in solving a problem – be it who’s going to be invited to a social event or how the household chores are going to be done – not only solves the problem but builds couple security.

9. Don’t Make Generalisations During Conflict

Stick to the issue – which is usually about one or both partners feeling under-resourced and not attended to.

10. Douse the Flame Before it Becomes a Forest Fire

Attend to your partner’s upsets before they escalate. Learn to attend to the moments in the other when their attachment style is triggered – and get in first to prevent the spread of fire.