The relationship attachment model by Dr. John Van Epp show you how you can follow your heart without losing your head.
Getting to know someone is a process of bonding. It starts at the first meeting, and sometimes we feel open and connected right away. When this happens we use phrases like, “We just clicked.” Or, “It was love at first sight.” Other times, this connection takes time to develop.
Some people are able to connect quickly. Others are more cautious, needing time to feel safe enough to be open.
Knowing someone is not a one-way process that gradually builds up. You may feel you know someone very well, and then he or she does something that catches you off guard. Statements like “I thought I knew who you were, but now I’m not sure” reflect the straining of that bond.
Knowing is a dynamic and changing process where you sometimes feel very close and at other times, perhaps very far apart. In the beginning of a relationship, it takes time to get to know someone. Even if you feel very connected and close quickly, your real data about the other person is very limited. The first principle of RAM is that no category on the chart should develop faster than the category before it. So trusting someone a lot when you don’t really know who they are is not a good idea.
Stage 2: Trust
As you get to know someone, you begin to form a mental picture of who they are. As you see them in different roles and situations, you put the pieces together into a dynamically changing trust picture. The more you know about a person, the more accurate your trust picture will be.
Trust is influenced by infatuation. It takes about nine months for excitement to die down enough that the picture begins to be clear.
Of course it’s possible for Trust to stay low when Know is high, because a person is not trustworthy. It’s also possible for someone to have emotional baggage that prevents Trust from developing even when the other person is trustworthy.
Stage 3: Rely
As your trust picture grows, you begin to know what things you can count on, and what things you can not count on from each other.
We all have needs that we look to fulfilll through relationships. Things like companionship, emotional support, and fun. Over time you learn what needs the other person will and will not meet.
For example, maybe the other person can’t be counted on to call you back even when they say they will. Or perhaps you might learn that you can count on the other person being on time, every time.
Reliance is taking that trust picture and putting it into action. But it’s different from being needy. When you’re needy, you ask the other person to take care of things that you should take care of yourself. On the other end of the spectrum is an independent person who likes to pretend they have no needs at all. A healthy reliance is characterized by give and take from both people.
Stage 4: Commit
It seems like this one trips a lot of people up these days. The generations following the baby boomers are scared to death of marriage and although they love relationships, they are often reluctant to define them.
Commitment is all about the sense of belonging in a relationship. “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine” is a statement of ultimate commitment, and reflects a sense of ownership. Unhealthy commitment is when one partner dominates the other. In this case, ownership is one way. In healthy commitment, both partners have a sense of security and mutual respect.
Loyalty to your partner flows from a sense of commitment. Of course, the ultimate commitment is marriage. But there are stages of lower commitment that build naturally. The first stage might be to agree that you won’t see other people while you’re exploring the potential of this relationship.
Stage 5: Touch
Many relationships today seem to start here. What happens then is that people move backward through the model.
1. We’re attracted to each other. Let’s have sex.2. We’re sleeping together so we must be committed.3. I’m going to rely on you, because, hey, we’re committed.4. I’m going to trust you, because I’m relying on you.5. I just got to know you, and found out that you’re bad news. Now what?
This is a recipe for a string of relationships that end badly and leave you with a broken heart. Touch should proceed in stages too, and not leap ahead of any of the categories to the left. Save the most intimate touch for a time when you’re sure of your mutual love, respect, and commitment.
Then you won’t find yourself bonded deeply in love with a jerk(ette)!