The following article is from Steve Walker, a Frisco-based financial planner and board member of the Collaborative Law Institute of Texas.
I had the pleasure of attending a Collaborative Law Institute of Texas-sponsored training in Houston last week, which featured presentations by therapist Yuval Berger and attorney Lisa Alexander — both of them experienced collaborative professionals from Vancouver, British Columbia. They presented on attachment theory, and how knowing different attachment types can help collaborative professionals better help their clients come to settlements.
The “attachment behavioral system” puts forth a modern theory on emotion regulation and personality. It was originally developed to understand and explain the intense distress experienced by infants who had been separated from their parents. The current thinking is that the emotional bond that develops between adult romantic partners is partly a function of the same attachment system that gives rise to the emotional bond between infants and caregivers.
An adult with a “secure” attachment style views relationships as essentially safe, believes that they have the capacity to love and be loved in return, is not unduly challenged by people having alternative view points, and is open to feedback about behaviors that are not relationship supporting. On the other hand, an adult with an “insecure” attachment style views relationships as unreliable and to be either avoided or hyper-alert threats. There are six combinations of spousal attachment styles:
- Secure/anxious insecure
- Secure/avoidant insecure
- Anxious insecure/avoidant insecure
- Anxious insecure/anxious insecure
- Avoidant insecure/avoidant insecure
Adult attachment theory teaches that each attachment style has a predictable behavior in a relationship breakdown. The biggest takeaway from the presentation is that our knowing how these behavior styles manifest in crisis is crucial for collaborative professionals wanting to support clients in a collaborative divorce process. Knowing doesn’t make divorces easier, but it does make reactions and behaviors more predictable, and allows us to anticipate and deal with what might happen as couples go through the collaborative divorce process.