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Wired for love – alternating power plays

Cole, a 36 year-old painter and decorator adored his wife Mona, a 38-year-old city administrator had been through grueling breakups with their previous partners and come together to fill the holes and soothe each other. But as the wounds of loss faded, the reality of day-to-day life created demands on each of them that simmered, boiled over and exploded – threatening the loose ties of connection that held them together.

Cole was wired for love through needing to be in touch with and close to Mona at all times. He was anxious when they were apart – as if the hole his ex-partner left was gaping wide, raw and stinging. Only the presence of Mona could ease the inflammation and hollow emptiness. But Mona was wired for love differently. She was more fearful in her attachment – afraid of getting close in case she lost a loved one again. So she wasn’t always into ministering to his sore spots. She wanted to restore what was lost to her – a man like her ex, who was her rock; who stayed standing even when she pushed him away; a stable source of security she could rely on during her most chaotic moments.

  • Mona was wired for love to evoke solid, consistent care to ease her fears of abandonment; not to provide that for Cole.
  • While Cole was wired for love to be treasured as the shining star that got it’s light from Mona’s beaming smiles of adoration.
  • Cole was wired for love to keep proving his goodness and constant availability to make up for Mona’s losses.
  • Mona was wired for love to get what she needed without having to give, in order to boost her self-reliance and minimize her fear of dependency.
  • Cole was wired for love to use his power as the potential stable rock to elicit Mona’s adulation.
  • Mona was wired for love to be dismissive and vengeful when Cole kept making excuses for not settling into a professional career.

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When Cole didn’t provide the goods, Mona felt deeply betrayed, and helpless because she couldn’t control her partner. In this scenario he had all the power and she had none. But it was too dangerous to stay in that vulnerable position. So Mona lashed him with her rage and bile, feeling strong and powerful, demeaning the man who failed in his duties towards her. The journal Personal Relationships (2015) reported that when a partner with a fearful/dismissive attachment style has been let down, they respond in vengeful ways and then withdraw. Mona was wired for love through her insecure fearful attachment style to kill off the source of her pain.

Cole reacted to Mona’s verbal abuse by begging her to see his good heart, his pure and undying love, and give him a little softness, begging her to stay around so he could romance Mona and prove himself again. Mona’s withdrawal and berating behavior was a betrayal to him of all the sacrifices he had made for her to demonstrate his rock like ability. The journal article above indicates that he responded to this transgression in the way an insecure preoccupied partner does – full of grudges about how she never appreciated him and trashed his efforts to please her.

They both operate from an insecure attachment place. That’s why they needed each other to fill the holes left by previous abandoning partners. But they were wired for love to function by switching power roles with each other.

Wired for love – secure attachments involve a solid sense of personal power

Happy couples enjoy their relationship when both partners have a high degree of personal power. The Journal of Social and Personal Relationships (2021) reports on research that indicates that experiencing a sense of personal power to act freely has a significant impact on the quality of the relationship. If Cole felt free enough to work in the way that made him comfortable, rather than to prove himself to Mona, he would be taking personal power and authority for himself and relieving Mona of the task to fill him up. If Mona exercised her freedom and personal power to have spontaneous fun with her colleagues like she did when she was a kid, then she would be nourished by the reciprocity and not be afraid of depending on Cole. Therapy on an individual basis to deal with their insecure attachments would enable them to be wired for love in a more secure manner, so that they didn’t play Russian roulette power games.

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Wired for Love – Expecting Your Partner to Read Your Mind

Dvora a 40-year-old office building manager got married at 18 after getting pregnant with her long time boyfriend. Troy, her 41 year-old husband worked as tech engineer for the local utility board. Their love for their daughter held them together but was also a cause of tension between them. Dvora was wired for love by connecting with Troy through assuming he could read her mind and should therefore be permanently in tune with her. She didn’t have to openly express her feelings, wishes and needs. That was her experience growing up. Her family were wired for love by making assumptions about each that prevented healthy boundaries from being erected. Everyone was mushed together so that no one ever had to worry about pleasing another person, being outcast or abandoned. When Troy didn’t act the way he was expected to based on her expectation of attentive inside her mind, she was enraged. Troy became a source of making her feel separate and having to think about taking care of herself. But that didn’t mean that some part of Dvora didn’t want to have her own mind, to be her authentic self, separate from but allied with members of her family.

Troy was wired for love by keeping himself separate so that he didn’t feel swallowed up and lose his autonomy. He was wired for love to keep his distance, and wait to see if he was wanted, approached and remembered when he and his partner were away from each other at work. His family were wired for love through fear of not being good enough, unlovable and or a nuisance. Troy’s parents split when he was 5 years old, and he was ping-ponged between them. He soon realized he couldn’t rely on his parents to make him secure. He went about doing what he needed to do to feel strong and capable. He had assumed that his parents would be able to read and respond to his young mind’s distress, but they were too involved in their own issues. However, it didn’t mean that when he married Mona he didn’t unconsciously expect that she would read his mind and know how much he longed for her to take the initiative and show her love, and make him feel wanted and secure in the relationship.

Both Dvora and Troy were wired for love to assume that loved ones should read your mind and that closeness and connection stems from unspoken needs that automatically get acknowledged and taken care of. In Troy’s case it was appropriate at age 5, but because it never happened, he kept it as a background wish. Dvora’s wiring stayed young and undeveloped, fearing that speaking her mind would set up boundaries that would lead to separation and divorce. Her constant refrain regarding not sharing her feelings and needs was that Troy would get mad, or that he wouldn’t be interested.

Troy was wired for love to avoid any interaction that would reinforce his fears that he wasn’t desirable or lovable. So he held back, didn’t say what he felt or needed, hoping Dvora would just know and make him feel wanted. He couldn’t risk his worst fears being realized. A report in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (2015) found that people who have an avoidant attachment style, over estimate the intensity of their partner’s negative emotions. Troy falls into this category. His highly avoidant attachment style primed him to experience Mona as preferring to be with her enmeshed family than be with him. They didn’t talk to each other about raising their daughter but got openly angry and accusatory when one or the other made decisions about the child. They were wired for love to be mad when their assumptions weren’t realized.

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Wired For Love – Can you be Re-wired?

Wired for love through early attachment styles doesn’t have to a sentence of hopelessness and misery. Re-wiring happens in good therapeutic relationships where Dvora is encouraged to be autonomous without fear of loss; and where Troy is given space and time to learn to trust in his loveable qualities.  Mona and Cole can grieve their losses in a holding therapeutic environment where their holes can be filled with a sense of personal power and more self-reliance. Healthy emotional intimacy will then be able to flourish safely. All four of them are insecurely attached that clash. Where there is no secure attachment in any one of them, their lives as couples become untenable. Building up their sense of security, in therapy in individual relationship counseling and couples therapy.

copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D. 2021

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