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Healthy Relationships across the Lifespan

When we think about attachment, we often think of parents and babies, but that’s just where it begins! For sure, in the early years, as the child’s brain is developing, a secure attachment gives that child an optimal foundation for all future development and relationships. But as we get older, we don’t stop needing to be ‘in relationship’. Parents of teens often feel that this is a time to start letting go of their kids – we may even believe that they don’t really need us anymore. In truth, although we may need to loosen the reins and renegotiate our relationship with our teens, they need us as much as ever. Our very first attachment relationship, usually with our parents, provides us with a blueprint for how people behave in relationships We never outgrow the need for attachment, the need to have connection with people who will nurture and protect us. Depending on how that early attachment experience went, we each reach adulthood with a set of strategies for dealing with stress and navigating close relationships. Sometimes these strategies bring us closer to one another, but sometimes they can hinder our ability to experience true intimacy. Many couples’ counsellors, inspired in large part by the ground-breaking work of Dr. Sue Johnson, now view attachment as the way to help couples understand their struggles. She encourages couples to see that many of our behaviours are driven by unmet emotional needs, particularly the need for connection. Even in our declining years, we stay healthier if we stay socially and emotionally connected to others. Simply put, across the lifespan, we never stop longing for connection.