The Search for Romantic Attachment
When we fall in love it’s naturally a romantic experience filled with many overlapping, sometimes confusing, emotions. If the first rush of romance matures and the couple grow together then a long and happy relationship can emerge. On the other hand, if one or both people are drawn out of the relationship once it gets past the romantic stage, then this may be an indication that something else is not yet reached, healed or completed.
In some the search for a primarily romantic relationship can repeat throughout their adult lives, becoming an obsession. This can be distracting and destructive but there are ways of looking at and working on the underlying dynamics that can soften their effect and release the individual into different and more deeply satisfying relationship patterns. This article explores the dynamics behind repetitive romantic searching or obsession and offers fresh paths to resolution.
A search for romantic attachment can emerge in people for a number of different reasons. It is often connected to deep bonds and dynamics in the system, dynamics that are a result of a longing for completion of a damaged or missing bond in the history of the wider relationship system. Think for example of someone who partners or marries young, or those who are partnered in a way that is not of their own volition. In these ‘arranged’ marriages where a partnership with a chosen one was not allowed, the force to find ‘true love’ can be very powerful as they have missed out on the natural experience of falling in love, the romantic phase of a relationship. Even in these circumstances however the search is often also a reflection of a just-out-of-conscious need for completion or connection at a much deeper level.
The search can intensify or escalate when it is unaddressed, to the point that the need for fulfillment is so great that the desire for change may feel overwhelming. This can lead the searcher to connect with another, outside of their normal sphere, in an attempt to engineer the desired change, perhaps in a way that may be dangerous for them and others. The strength of this drive for change may be a useful indicator of the hidden dynamics that lie underneath, just out of sight. These dynamics are often connected to the inclusion of an excluded person, or an unconscious request to be seen, by someone who wasn’t able to fully see the one who searches. The yearning is to attach to someone who sees and acknowldeges them more fully.
Connection in this hyper-romantic way may also happen through mutual wounds that can create a blind spot, where all that is important is connecting through romantic attachment and creating change. While the system is asking to change through what feels like love, this may in fact be a deep systemic loyalty to an emotion that feels like love. But is it the love of the partner that is desired? Or might it be the love or attention of a distant or emotionally unavailable parent or other close ancestor, deeply desired but only rarely or never felt?
Romantic attachment can sometimes be described as blind, idealised love. It can be felt as a deep desire – fascination, addiction or quest. Often it feels like a sacred search and yearning. This is the way of addictions with their roots in the system and so the forces are strong as individuals get caught up in the system’s search for coherence and completion.
Some examples of the most common hidden dynamics in romantic attachment and repetitive searching follow:
Romanticism to a level that affects your ability to live as you would like often occurs as the result of an interrupted bond with a parent, most often the mother but also the parent of the opposite sex.
For example if a woman has difficulty connecting to her father in a way that she can feel that he is truly there for her, mentally, emotionally and through his consistent and benign physical presence, she may develop a longing for an idealised version of him, a ‘knight in shining amour’ who really sees her, connects with her.
In this way she is caught up in an incomplete inner movement towards her father, an uncompleted connection with him, that she keeps trying to bring to a conclusion. Her search for love keeps trying to reach the first man she became aware of but with whom she didn’t get to fully connect or complete with. The unconscious fantasy is of finding Daddy and him holding her safe in his arms. This can lead to avoidance or extreme caution around romantic and intimate relationships or a search for connection through romantic attachment.
So, an intense focus on the early stages of a relationship and the romantic idealisation of another may be as a result of an interrupted bond, and ‘interrupted inner reaching out’ as a child. Reaching out to connect.
In romantic attachment the feeling of being connected with the longed for one is apparently achieved, but the point of connection is lost, not quite reached. The object of desire and romantic ideation is unable, just like the original person or parent, to meet the deep need for completion, to meet the need for attachment and belonging.
An interrupted bond can also be the source of ‘love at first sight’ where people believe they have found someone with whom they have made an instant intimate connection. It may be a look in the eyes, a smile or a movement that the other makes. In either case it is common that this is simply acting as a trigger that reminds them of the person with whom they longed to connect, one that their embodied mind has internalised deeply and for which they search and recognise.
These are examples of interrupted bonds and are just as common in men as in women and can arise not only out of a search for the opposite sex parent but also simply as a result of an interrupted bond with mother, because mother is the first, the primary bond we make as human beings.
To soften the pain and limit the power of the pattern the inner journey needs to be completed and because that may not be possible with the actual person it can be simulated to a level that has a deep impact and begins a healing and reconnection process. Constellations offer a practical way to catalyse this movement and settle the inner yearning and can catalyse the journey that releases the romantic to make more conscious choices.
An example of the inner ‘Life Sentence’ that may be being enacted in this dynamic is: “I’ve been looking to complete with you in all the partners I have dated”.
Examples of releasing ‘Sentences for Life’ that may be co-created between the facilitator and the client of a constellation may be something like this:
“Dear mother/father I have looked for you in all those I have dated. I couldn’t connect with you and I couldn’t connect with them.” Another, later in the process may be along these lines: “Dear mother/father I longed for your connection, your arms around me while I grew. I’ve missed you. Please look kindly on me if I build a relationship with a partner who is available in a way that was not possible for you.”
In common with all the other examples of ‘sentences’ in this article and within this website these are only examples of those that have emerged, been offered and willingly spoken by the participating issue holder, the client, within the constellation. Each is unique and serves the particular context and facts of the specific situation.
“I wonder if men who could not complete with Mom keep trying to finish this, make a connection and get the ‘you are so good to Mom’ resolved in order to be able to move on to a more robust love. There is be an element of the hero here – ‘I can save the day.’ ”