Finding Love: Attachment Matters

There’s a common belief that finding love first requires fully loving yourself. But here’s the truth: humans don’t love in isolation; they love in relation to others. Our early experiences with caregivers shape how we perceive and receive love. As infants, we see ourselves through the eyes of our primary attachment figure – our mothers. If she gazes at you with love and delight, you experience yourself as loving and delightful. If she looked at you with disgust or fear, you experience yourself as disgusting and something to be feared. Through this basic mechanism, we begin to develop our sense of self, which is first developed through our attachment with our mothers and begins in infancy. This attachment experience and our attachment stance is further entrenched throughout our lives based on the ongoing relational experiences we have with others.

If your early experiences were cold or indifferent, knowing how to love yourself or others warmly and compassionately can be challenging. Conversely, it can be hard to give space with patience and understanding if you feel suffocated or controlled. While books, videos, and self-help resources can provide insights, they can’t fully heal relational wounds. Our attachment system requires relationships to heal; it can’t be bypassed.

finding love and attachment within ones self first

You might wonder, “How can I heal if I keep ending up in terrible relationships?” That’s a valid question. You’re not meant to heal in a harmful relationship. Instead, these relationships can highlight your attachment wounds. In fact, for those who suffer from attachment wounds where they missed out on effective maternal nurture and protection and guidance, they will often time themselves in one bad relationship after another. Infidelity and trauma bonding might be a familiar process in your relationships. This is the nature of attachment wounding – we re-live our early experience of loss within our primary relationship.

How to heal attachment wounds

The good news is we can heal our attachment wounds. Awareness of our attachment style can be helpful, and easily investigated. But awareness alone isn’t enough. Healing from this wound often requires finding a safe and secure person to explore your insights. This person (a therapist, mentor, healthy relationship) can meet your need to be understood, and lovingly and patiently help you experience what healthy attachment feels like.

For many, an attachment-based therapist is the first safe person to explore these wounds with. Over time, as the therapist proves trustworthy, you can begin experimenting outside the therapeutic relationship. People will often need their therapist less as they become aware of their own needs and empowered to seek to meet those needs in other relationships. This might lead to some relationships transforming and others fading away. Most importantly, this process can make space for relationships where you are loved for who you are and you appreciate and love the other for who they are. Through genuinely loving relationships, you will learn to love yourself truly.