I used to tell Mike that it felt as if we were ping-ponging against each other in our relationship.
I would do something that would cause him to react that would, in turn, cause me to react, and so on and so on, until somebody “won.”
It was exhausting. I wanted to end the game, but didn’t know how.
Back then, before we knew about psychological attachments, we figured we could solve our issues by simply thinking about it more, drawing diagrams of how it looked, and mentally going round and round with it. Then, we would come to a little agreement of what I wouldn’t do and he wouldn’t do.
One week was about tops, then it would reset. We just couldn’t figure out why the same problems kept coming back. It felt impossible and we would wonder how long we could continue our relationship this way.
Luckily, we persevered until Mike finally discovered psychological attachments. We found that it was as simple as that. It was a ping-pong game.
A ping-pong game of attachments. I served my rejection attachment and he returned a control attachment. Then, I’d respond with a deprivation attachment and he’d hit back a rejection attachment. Once we knew the code, we could identify what was actually happening within each of us.
Let me illustrate how it worked with this common example:
When Mike and I started dating, I lived in an apartment on the second floor. He would often come over and I would make dinner. Often the trash would be full and he would never offer to take it out. I might even mention how the trash was full, but it would never occur to him to offer to empty it. Instead, he would sit on the couch or watch me cook.
Because of this, I would get resentful that I was doing something for him but he wasn’t doing anything for me. It left me annoyed that he was so unaware of my needs. In turn, I would get cold and distant towards him and he would feel rejected.
Because he was feeling rejected, he would be cold and distant toward me. Then, I would finally tell him how rude it was that he didn’t even offer to take out the trash and how obvious it was that it needed to be done. Then he would tell me it was my fault that I didn’t ask and how could I expect him to notice. That would then trigger me to say I shouldn’t have to ask, that it was obvious. And that would make me angry and go on the attack. Then, he would leave.
This is how silly arguments turn into a bad night and a bad relationship. The first person feels deprived and rejects the second. Then, the second feels rejected and in turn definitely deprives the first and requires being controlled into doing what the first wants. Then, the first gets rejected by controlling the second. And so on and so on!
Do you see how each person’s attachment gets fulfilled by the other person’s reaction?
If we go back and look at this situation, we know there are a few things that could have changed up front.
Look at the first thought I had, “Why is he not offering to take out the trash?” I could have stopped right there by simply asking him to help me by taking out the trash. He would have taken it out.
Done. Then, nothing that followed would have happened at all.
There would be no ping-pong game. However, this is where the twist comes in. Had I simply asked, the need would have been met. However, I would not have been able to feel deprived. I had made a habit of feeling deprived and so it was important (in a sad, twisted way) to keeping feeling that way. Attachments!
I was talking to a friend at the gym today. He is trying to reconcile with his wife after a short separation. I told him about psychological attachments and how, left unrecognized, can hinder reconciliation efforts. He said he didn’t think he had any attachments because he had just spent the last three months in therapy.
So, I asked him what their main problem was. He said he is too focused on his work and isn’t involved enough at home. I asked if he felt he got his needs met by his wife and he said “no.”
Further conversation revealed that he was doing things that that encouraged his wife to resent him and pull back her good intentions towards him, causing him to feel deprived of his needs.
It also came out that he felt alone a lot as a child. He thought his parents were kids themselves and not emotionally available.
Bingo again. This is so common with deprivation. We get so used to feeling empty as a child that we re-create the isolation as adults. He got attached to not having his needs met as a child, so he is subconsciously choosing to do things in his adult relationships that will result in him not getting his needs met there, too.
Suddenly, it clicked.
He realized he was carrying these attachments around and began to feel sad. You could see the child in his 50-year-old face as he thought about his youth.
The good news is, now that he can see what’s behind his behavior, he can make choices that don’t result in him being deprived and alone.
All this while we were climbing Stairmasters!
When you are ready to make a change in your relationship, noticing and addressing your attachments is the next step.