Now we're ready to start reprogramming our existing behaviours in dating & relationships.

Goal: Secure Attachment

The goal of this work is to return to our inherent secure attachment as adults, even though we may have had attachment disruptions as a child. We can learn secure attachment through experiencing and creating healthy relationships. So during your journey, keep in mind the behavioural habits of safe, securely attached adults, who:

  • Have basic trust in self and others

  • Have strong self-esteem and are respectful of and interested in others, valuing them and treating them well

  • Can be present in life and in relationships in an embodied way

  • Are clear about their own feelings and needs, express these needs directly, and accept those of others

  • Most of the time think, feel, and express feedback to and about their partner in the positive

  • Are well-attuned to others and can be aware when something feels “off”

  • Practise initiating and receiving repair attempts when needed

  • ​Address difficulties in the relationship together when conflict needs to be worked out

  • Recognise and value the maintenance work relationships require to be successful, and prioritise the need to create security

  • Are happy to compromise, put the relationship first, and do not need to control the situation

  • Feel compassion for themselves and others when there is suffering, and respond with comfort and action

  • Do not endure bad situations, and know they deserve to be well-treated

  • Are able to ask for help

  • Are mature in their responses in relationships, and orient most often to the adult ego state as their identity

Stan Tatkin’s description of a “secure functioning relationship” is:

“We have each other’s backs. We soothe each other’s distress and amplify each other’s joy. We protect each other in public and in private. We have each other’s ‘owner’s manual’ and thus are experts on one another. We are as good at our partner as we are at our job! Our relationship is based on true mutuality. We work on our own recovery and support each other’s recovery.”

Acknowledge & process, don't suppress


Many avoidant strategies are deeply unconscious, and bringing them into our conscious control can be a painful process throughout which we must always remember to show compassion for ourselves - reminding ourselves that these impulses are not our fault. Changes don't happen overnight, and changing our instinctive learned behaviours can feel very uncomfortable at first. So while behaviours can be adapted, on this journey is also very important not to just try to suppress avoidant instincts in the way you may have been used to suppressing in general, or ever to shame ourselves for feeling them. But instead to first actively recognise and acknowledge them - openly if possible - where they came from, to hear and give space to what that inner child needs to be heard, and to engage in compassionate internal dialogue to assuage the fears behind the impulse.


And sometimes we'll need to just give voice to the fact that it's something we need to do to feel safe, through no fault of our own, accepting ourselves for who we are non-judgmentally and trusting that if we explain it to our partner they can do the same. It's ok if there are things we still need to do. If we try to simply suppress all avoidant behaviours they will inevitably rear their head at some point in an explosion of avoidance! For stable relationships, this is what we want to avoid.


 5. Learn to spot your deactivating strategies


 6. In particular, counter negative thinking


 7. Counter emotional shut-down


 8. Stop looking for an escape route


 9. Nix the phantom ex and perfect partner