December 11, 2023

Attachment Styles (Part 2): Will Love Always Feel This Hard?

Understand attachment through this case study.

An Inside Look into Attachment

You may be asking yourself, “What’s the point of knowing my attachment style? Why would I want to spend time studying my insecurities?” These are important questions we have to ask ourselves. And the answer will vary for each of us. Something we can all likely agree on is that our relationships matter and, if you’re reading this, you’re likely interested in learning more about how to create more meaning and harmony in your closest relationships. To demonstrate how attachment research can help, we’re going to go through a fictional case study together exploring how understanding attachment styles can help a family navigate the inevitable tensions and conflicts that arise as they do their best to do life together. 

Case Study: Emily and Alex’s Journey to Deeper Connection

The Starting Point:

Emily and Alex, a committed couple in their late twenties, often found themselves at odds despite their deep affection for each other. Emily, seeking closeness and affirmation, sometimes felt adrift, hoping for more consistent reassurance from Alex. Conversely, Alex, valuing his independence, and occasionally felt overwhelmed, desiring moments of solitude.

Their Shared Goal:

Both yearned for a deeper connection, where they felt consistently understood, valued, and emotionally safe.

The Challenges They Faced:

Each time Emily sought more reassurance and Alex sought space, a pattern began to emerge. This cycle wasn’t merely about their immediate disagreements, but rather the emotional undercurrents driving them.

Steps Towards Understanding and Connection:

  • Understanding their emotions: Through reading, Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love, by Dr. Sue Johnson, they explored their emotional patterns. This wasn’t just intellectual; it was about truly feeling and understanding their relational dynamics.
  • Reflecting on their feelings: Journaling became a way for them to better communicate their emotions, helping them both understand their emotional needs better.
  • Deep conversations: Inspired by their reading, they engaged in meaningful discussions. These weren’t about fixing issues, but genuinely understanding each other’s feelings.
  • Quality time together: They established regular “us time,” a dedicated period to connect, ensuring Emily felt close and Alex felt heard and respected.
  • Shared activities: Taking up pottery, they found joy in a shared endeavor. It reminded them of their mutual interests and the joy they found in each other’s company.

Their Progress:

With insights and shared experiences, Emily began to understand that Alex’s need for occasional solitude wasn’t a rejection, but a personal need. Alex, in turn, realized the depth of Emily’s need for reassurance and actively worked to provide it.

Guided by Dr. Sue Johnson’s wisdom, they learned to navigate their differences, leading to deeper understanding, compassion, and a strengthened bond. Their relationship evolved, not by changing who they were, but by understanding and valuing each other’s emotional needs.

Shaya Aguilar Writer


Continue Exploring


Attachment Styles: Why Does Love Sometimes Feel so Difficult? (Part 1)


Created for Community (Part 1): How We Moved Away From our Village

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