If you need a quick update on Arian’s and Mark’s ‘history’ you can find it here.
After having opened the topic of connection between the two of them, Arian realises that she needs a lot less of it than Mark. But then she is unclear about her needs. While it has become quite easy for her to go along her day to day activities and not worry about where Mark is and what he does, she is aware that sometimes, when she stops during a busy day, she has a nagging sense of loneliness deep inside her.
We might live together, but aren’t we ultimately all alone anyway?
Arian always thought that this is how life is: we do our best to live together, but ultimately we are all alone. The other night, when Mark sat down beside her on the couch, she experienced a curious mix of happiness and annoyance. She wanted to be close to him but could not let herself drop into that place. Mark had looked tired and a bit disheveled after his day at work and she had a sense that he needed her, which annoyed her.
When she got up after a short moment to go to hang up the last wash of the day and check on the kids, she felt sad. She knew he missed her, she missed something, too, but wasn’t sure he could provide it. She did not like the frustration she felt and could not understand it, either. Arian decided to bring this up in their next session.
How much connection we want depends on how secure we feel within ourselves and whether we know connection as a place or a chore.
In the session, they quickly discover that Arian’s experiences can’t be sorted through making the right requests. The sensations and apprehensions she struggles with may be triggered by Mark, but really don’t have anything to do with him. Luckily, Mark is able to understand that Arian struggles with some ‘unknown forces’, which helps him feel less criticised.
The counsellor focuses on the sensations Arian describes and helps her link them to her previous experiences. A deep sadness arises about the loss of her mother. Arian has no conscious memory of her life as a young child and life with her mother although she was already 12 when her mother took ill and died rather quickly of an aggressive brain tumour.
Attachment rupture can happen any time in life. The consequences depend on the need of the moment.
While Arian has had some opportunity to work through her grief at the time and again in her early 20’ies, she never dealt with the ensuing attachment rupture. She never understood how she had to close down her need to be cared for and become emotionally more self-sufficient than she was before. She also did not realise how much she actually did this in order to support her father, who did not cope well and she did not want to be a burden to him.
When the counsellor points out how much it seems that the roles became reversed at this time in Arian’s life, she begins to understand: close relationships turned from being nurturing and safe to being an obligation to care for, give and be need-less in order for the other person to remain in her life at all. This describes her relationship with her father for the two years post her mother’s death. Then, her father found another woman and got married. Consequently, Arian drew the conclusion that she did not work hard enough in her role and lost her father as a result to that.
What worked in the past finds its way into the present but can be changed.
In her current life, Mark and Arian recognise the pattern: Arian gives a lot to the family, does the chores, supports the kids, helps Mark if necessary at work.. appears competent, strong and self-reliant. Yet, the idea of surrendering to intimacy, of letting Mark take charge or asking for help is quite alien to her. Out of this awareness the following exercises get formulated:
Arian and Mark both write a list of the things that make them feel cared for. Naturally, Mark’s list is longer and more personal-orientated while Arian struggles a bit more and writes a list that is much more task orientated. She can accept when Mark does the shopping or mows the lawn. She doesn’t know much about her personal needs.
They will use the lists to explore how they ask for, initiate, give and receive care. But before this begins to reshape connection, Arian comes back to counselling alone to help heal some of the attachment wounds she experienced. You will find out how she does this next week.
If you need help with building strong and healthy connections, book a free 45-minute check-in-session with Mattie or Michelle now.