Research suggests that our early attachment to caregivers can have a lasting impact on how we develop and behave in relationships.157 In chapter 6, lesson 2, we learned about our attachment style—whether we had developed a secure or insecure attachment style.
Most of us who struggle with love, sex, and relationship addictions developed an insecure attachment style. We tend to exhibit some or all of the following behaviors in
! fear commitment and intimacy.
! pull away when things become difficult.
! are suspicious and untrusting of others.
! view others as unreliable.
! do not let others get emotionally close.
! have mixed emotions about relationships, which creates conflict.
! feel misunderstood and unappreciated.
! constantly doubt the level of another’s love and affection.
! feel that others lack commitment to the relationship.
The cultural reality of our world today lends itself to an insecure attachment style. This is often observed in divorce and blended families. The attachment bond between parent and child is disrupted during divorce, creating for the child a lack of trust and attachment to new relationships.158 This becomes especially challenging when remarriage and the blending or restructuring of the family takes place. For everyone involved—the biological parents, the stepparents, and the children—it requires the development of realistic expectations for relationship.
I was so excited to be married! I could not believe I found the perfect man, Jermaine, who was so willing to father my two children from a previous marriage. Although I was successful and independent during my years as a single mom, I found it difficult to bring up concerns in my marriage. I was afraid to talk with Jermaine about anything that was bothering me, thinking that it would make him feel stressed and question his decision to marry me.
This fear caused me to lose my voice, sacrificing my need to express my feelings and hypervigilant to keep the peace. When I felt hurt by Jermaine, I would remind myself how lucky I was to have a man willing to support me and my kids. I was even able to quit work and stay at home with the kids, which was a lifelong dream for me.
Jermaine also struggled and felt alone in his new role as a stepparent. When we got married, we had two more kids and he felt a stronger bond with his biological kids. Jermaine wrestled with guilt and shame because he didn’t love all four kids the same. When my boys would come home from a weekend with their dad, they would talk about all the things he bought them and how much fun they had. Jermaine began to feel resentful toward the boys. He was working overtime to support all of us. Jermaine sacrificed things he wanted to do for himself, putting our needs first. When he heard the boys idolize their dad, who popped in and out of their life as he pleased, Jermaine felt very unappreciated.
I recognized that something needed to change. My family, all of us, need to learn how to be a blended family. Through an eight-week blended family class, we learned how to navigate many of the common problems found in blended families: bio parenting vs. stepparenting; loving the kids differently; loving the parents differently; blended siblings; minimizing guilt and shame; and there’s no such thing as a perfect family.
This was liberating for the entire family. We learned how to navigate our blended family relationships. Jermaine, who often felt like an outsider, discovered how to effectively parent and stepparent his kids. I regained my voice, not just with
Jermaine, but with the kids, too, discovering the positive effects of healthy communication. The kids learned how to be in relationship with all their parents, creating a safe place where it was okay to love their bio parents and stepparents differently. Together, our family was learning how to cultivate a secure attachment, positively affecting our relationship and family dynamic.
As we pursue lifelong healing, we begin to recognize that change is possible. Our identity no longer reflects our trauma, pain, and shame. We don’t have to remain in isolation. We can come out of the shadows. We can learn how to create healthy relationships with God and others. Once we grab hold of the fact that our identity is in Christ alone, anything is possible!
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 CORINTHIANS 5:17
Despite our past and the way we learned to attach to others, we can learn a healthy
attachment style. We can learn to be securely attached.159 What does that look like?
People who are securely attached exhibit some or all of the following behaviors in
• have a stable and positive emotional bond with others.
• cultivate relationships through caring, support, and understanding.
• see themselves as friendly, easy-going, and likeable.
• think others are reliable, trustworthy, and well-intentioned.
• have a mutually healthy give and take relationship versus a one-way relationship.
• do not fear emotional closeness or abandonment.
We want to feel securely attached. We want to learn a better way to maintain relationship without experiencing fear, shame, and isolation. If we didn’t learn to be securely attached in childhood, or if it was dismantled by unhealthy relationships, it will take time and intention to gain ground in this area. We need to be patient and give ourselves grace as we learn to apply this in our lives.
As we continue to develop health in our relationship with God and others, it becomes insatiable. As we gain health in certain areas of our life, the more we want to experience health in all areas of our life.
Self-esteem—having confidence in one’s own worth or abilities—is a curious thing. To some extent, self-esteem is a term used to describe a person’s sense of self-worth or value.160 However, as we have learned, many of us who struggle with managing love, sex, and relationships are afflicted with low self-esteem. We lack confidence in ourselves and our abilities. We focus on our weaknesses, believing everyone else is better than us. We carry deep feelings of fear, shame, and worthlessness. To make matters worse, we don’t believe others when they compliment or praise us in any way.
We become our own worst enemy. We create a vicious cycle of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that perpetuate our worthlessness. We use relationships to determine our value. If our relationships last, we are worthwhile—we are loved. If our relationships fail, our core beliefs are confirmed—we are not worth having.
Somewhere in between, we create a cycle that reinforces this process. We are in a relationship. We put everything into the relationship, so we will feel loved and appreciated. When met with disapproval—real or perceived—we become fearful that someone has discovered our worthlessness. We try harder to please the other, often compromising or sacrificing our personal values. When this fails, we become desperate and needy, as if the core of who we are hangs on the acceptance or rejection from another person. When the relationship fails—and it usually does—we are left alone with ourselves.
Here’s the truth: our self-esteem cannot come from us. As we have learned, our identity is found in Christ. Our core beliefs must align with our identity. When these two aspects of our life are out of balance, or based on self-perception, we remain stuck in our unhealthy and addictive behaviors, looking for external definitions of our worth. We will continue to struggle with our self-esteem until we realize that what we need is God-esteem.161 We were created with inherent worth, but a lack of nurture changed our self-perception. We need the Holy Spirit to speak truth into our lives and define us through God’s grace. We need to replace our view of ourselves—our poor self-esteem—with God’s view of us. God knows us at our core. He created each of us with unique gifts and abilities so that we could serve Him and others in relationship.
Raising awareness of our God-given gifts and abilities is a great place to start when building God-esteem.
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. JAMES 1:17
Use the following table to identify the different character qualities, abilities, and. talents God has given you. If you can’t think of any on your own, ask your spouse, friends, and family members. You can simply say, “What unique gifts or abilities do you think God has given me?”
For each God-given gift and ability you list, take a few minutes and visualize what you see God saying about you. Who does God say you are? How has your identity in Christ been shaped by your gifts and abilities?
Then, for each entry listed, find a scripture that reinforces this gifting from God. You may discover that some of your favorite scriptures align with your area of gifting. If nothing comes to mind, be patient. As you spend time with Him, meditating on His Word, pray and ask God to give you insight into what He wants you to hear. You may also want to look back at previous lessons for scriptures that provoked an emotional response or had special meaning.
God loves us and wants relationship with us. He wants us to see ourselves the way He sees us: as His beloved daughters. Our unique strengths and abilities are gifts from God—His continued blessing and a reminder of His grace in our lives. May we become ever mindful and aware of God’s blessings in our life.
Complete the FASTER Scale, Group Check-in, Self-Care lesson, Thoughts/Feelings
Awareness Log, and Change & Growth Analysis in your Unraveled: Weekly Tools before
the next group meeting.