Ever since our baby was born my husband and I have been arguing. If I didn’t know better I would think that he is jealous of the baby! But that’s not possible, right?
Believe it or not, it is! And you’re not the only one who finds herself confused. Your husband is also conflicted, as he loves and cares for the baby very much. Yet he finds himself, subconsciously, responding to a deficit he experienced in the attachment stage while growing up. Let me explain.
In childhood we adapt to four different styles of attachment:
Secure Attachment: This is developed when a child has caregivers who provide love, consistency, and reliability. The child feels safe enough that his/her emotional and physical needs will be met. As an adult he or she will tend to have greater ability to balancing giving and receiving love.
Avoidant Attachment: This is what develops when a child has grown up in a home where caregivers are emotionally unavailable or seem somewhat annoyed by the child’s need for connection. They really do not have patience for all this parenting and nurturance stuff. The message to the child is “Why can’t you just grow up already?” Children in this environment evolve into adults who find it difficult to connect with people they love, since reaching for love equals pain.
Ambivalent Attachment: This develops when a child has grown up in a home where the caregivers were not always available to him. It may be that he was loved very much, but the caregivers were preoccupied with other things. The attention, affection, and appreciation that he needed and yearned for were just too unpredictable, which can make the child feel as if he is a burden. As the child grows up he carries these wounds and deficits into all intimate relationships. On the surface it seems as if everything is okay – until, for example, his marital support system is challenged by someone else…..like a baby!
Disorganized Attachment: This attachment style is formed when parents create a paradoxical situation – sort of a “come here; go away message”. For example, a child will be asked to vacuum the carpet. When he completes the task, the parent will criticize how it was done or the length of time it took. It seems that no matter how hard the child tries to please the parent, it’s just never enough. When exposed continuously to this type of no-win environment, the child learns to stop problem-solving and give up. The paradox becomes more complicated as the child tries to get close to the parent, only to be rejected. The child grows up within his/her own emotional paradox, and as an adult will struggle with a desire to be close, as well as the fear of it, of intimacy.
Your husband seems to have experienced what we have described as the Ambivalent Attachment. To combat this, let him know that you love him very much, and that the attention, affection, and appreciation will always be available to him. Ask him if there is anything you can do to make him feel more loved and cared for. And make sure he reads this article – it might help him understand what he is experiencing and why.