Lion Goodman explores one of the most important but ignored keys to intimacy
I finally figured out something about my relationship with women that my Dad never taught me because he didn’t know it. It’s something my Mom didn’t know either because she likely didn’t understand it about herself.
You can create a deep and passionate relationship by learning and practicing this simple and important secret. In the process, you’ll discover that a lot of your confusion about women will get cleared up. Without it, your relationships may continue to be frustrating and confusing.
Here’s the secret: Your woman needs the exact kind of care and attention you need, the same care and attention both of you needed as children.
Here’s the reality: All newborns need and want one thing from their mother (or primary caregiver). We call it love but to an infant, love is a very particular experience.
Here’s what it should look and feel like: You cry. Your mother picks you up, and holds you close to her body. She looks down into your eyes with love and care, saying in a sweet, soft voice, “It’s okay, honey. I’ve got you. I’ll keep you safe. You can relax now. Someday, you’ll learn how to take care for yourself. For now, you can count on me to make you a priority whenever you need me.”
When a mother consistently gives her child this gentle touch, soft voice, and reassuring eye contact, the baby feels safe and secure. It allows the baby to relax. For the baby, this is love. It’s what love feels like. This feeling of security is a primal bond that the baby can trust.
So what does good sex have to do with the nurturing of early childhood? Everything. The new neuroscience of love shows that none of us ever outgrow this need to depend on someone to hold and care for us. The same feeling of deep trust and secure attachment is needed in your current relationship. If it’s missing, the anxiety of insecurity is in the way—for one or both of you.
For adults, insecurity acts as a passion thief. Many women can’t open their body or their hearts when they feel unsafe.
Most men can be sexual without opening their hearts because we’ve been culturally programmed to be strong, independent agents that “don’t need nobody.” Many men are unaware of the sublime bliss that comes from secure, deeply committed partnerships.
My mother wasn’t very good at providing me with this feeling of security. The reasons were numerous: Her parents didn’t nurture her because they weren’t nurtured much by their parents. As struggling immigrants, they couldn’t afford the luxury of coddling their children. The American dream they bought into was based on fierce independence, which devalued needs and feelings of dependence on other people.
Like many stay-at-home wives of her time, my mother was busy taking care of my siblings and my dad, not to mention her domestic responsibilities. Taking care of my needs was just one more thing on her To-Do list. She was never taught how to love nor how to mother. Mom did the best she could, but she didn’t know what I really needed as a kid with a budding psyche.
In the Victorian era, children were supposed to be seen, not heard. In the 1930s and 1940s, baby care called for strict schedules and carefully doled out affection. In his 1928 book, Psychological Care of Infant and Child, Dr. John Watson advised against kissing your baby, rocking its baby carriage or even holding your baby on your lap.
This destructive advice doomed multiple generations to insecure attachment, the psychological term for infant insecurity—the state of anxiety that comes from being disconnected from a primary caregiver and the inability to trust that they will be cared for.
Every baby tries out different behaviors to see what works and what doesn’t in order to get what they need. Through experimentation, babies create a set of strategies to optimize their survival. We call these strategic patterns your LoveStyle™.
During the past two decades, thousands of research studies have identified two major patterns that children adapt:
1. Avoid the pain and discomfort by focusing internally. Give up wanting to be cared for. Turn away from the uncomfortable feelings by turning inward toward the self. Learn to take care of yourself. (The Insecure-Avoidant LoveStyle™)
2. Avoid the pain and discomfort by focusing externally. Become preoccupied with whether, when, and how much you are cared for. Watch the behavior of others, and reach out for connection whenever possible. Escalate when necessary. (The Insecure-Anxious LoveStyle™)
When I was young, I went with Option #1. By not depending on Mother (or anyone) to care for me, I didn’t have to feel the constant anxiety and pain that comes from rejection and neglect. By staying inside my head, I could avoid the discomfort that came from having unmet needs.
Fast-forward five decades. I had learned a lot about myself, about women and about relationships, but still found myself repeating a familiar pattern in my romantic relationships: whenever something triggered me, I withdrew. My withdrawal triggered her into an unending series of escalated reactions. I kept asking the same question: When she’s upset, why is it that no matter what I do, she’s not satisfied?
Then, I met my beloved Carista. A specialist in early childhood bonding, she urged me to study the neuroscience of attachment to clear my confusion about love. I was amazed to see how closely my intimacy dynamics reflected my insecure bonding style with Mom.
It finally dawned on me what my partner wants: safety and security. She wants to feel held when she’s upset. She wants to be nurtured and cared for—not like an infant, but as a grown woman. It’s remarkably similar to my own needs and to those of a child’s—needs we never outgrow.
I began to practice reaching out for her when she got upset (instead of pulling away). I practiced caring more deeply (rather than giving up in frustration). I practiced holding her body and heart with care (instead of running in the other direction). And a miracle occurred . . .
As she felt safe and secure in our relationship, she opened up to deeper level of love, which opened up her desire for me. Her desire opened my heart, and our energy and connection grew exponentially. Love and passion grew together.
Did either of your parents tell you that security is the foundation of amazing sex? Did they mention that no one feels safe opening themselves up when insecurity is at the core of the relationship?
Trustworthy love opens the space for the ultimate turn-on: an open heart.
Treat your partner the way you want to be cared for now, the way all of us needed to be cared for when we were infants. Reassure her when she needs comfort. Hold her with tenderness when she feels insecure. Love her through her anxieties, and delight in her glory. When both of you feel deeply accepted and cherished by each other, it will rock your world.
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image credit: Flickr/marras roberto