Sue Johnson: Well, of course there’s lots of issues there and sexuality comes in there, you know what I mean. We are drawn, especially when we’re young adults, we’re drawn to what we see as sexually attractive. I mean, that primes our approaching people. It primes our desire to get close. But I think we focus on that a lot, but there’s a lot more to it than that. Who you’re attracted to, it won’t just be, as my daughter says, “Who’s the hottest man in the room?” Right? But it seems to me that she can walk into a room and almost every man in the room is hot. That’s kind of the stage she’s in right now.
Well, how does that help you differentiate, then? But we bring our histories with us. I ask couples when they come in—I don’t say, “Have you ever had any secure attachment?” Because that’s a bit abstract. I say things like, “When you grew up in your family, could you, if you got upset, could you turn to someone in your family and do you—would they reliably come and hold you?” Some people say, “Oh yes. My dad would come and help.” Other people say, “Hold me? When I cried?” Just listen to the voice, you know the answer, right? This is foreign territory for this person. So I think people who’ve experienced safe connection with a parent have a big advantage. Research says that they’re more likely to have friends in high school. They’re more likely to have better—be better friends themselves, and they’re more likely to be empathic with any person they’re dating. They’re more likely to find happy dating relationships. Well, of course they are, because they’ve got a model.
They know what a good relationship looks like. They know what it feels like to be vulnerable with somebody, to be vulnerable with someone and to have that person respond. So they have certain—it’s more than expectations. It’s almost like a visceral map for what this is supposed to feel like. Expectations sounds cognitive. It’s a visceral map of what relationships look like and what’s allowed in relationships and what you’re supposed to do. Folks that have had secure attachment in childhood are in an advantage. It’s like love is a gift that keeps on giving. When you know what it looks like, then you’re better at putting your hand on it in the world.
So if you come from a securely attached…for example, I’ll give you an example. I talked about my dad. Well, my dad always treated me with the most amazing respect. I can’t imagine one time when my dad ever implied that because I was a girl, I couldn’t do anything although my views weren’t okay. It’s bigger than expectations. You have a template, you have a—how you expect to be treated and what you’re looking for in relationships. If you are loved in childhood and you know what that feels like, then you can go out and you can tell when that’s a possibility and when it isn’t. Many of us have no idea. We don’t know what we’re looking for. We just don’t want to be lonely anymore and we want somebody to have fun with and we want someone to have sex with.
We’re caught up in the society thing of girls are supposed to look like this and guys are supposed to look like that. We get all caught up in that. But the bottom line is, I think, that people are seeking out people to connect with. What I’ve always tried to tell my children is, you can be attracted to lots of people in a very superficial way and you can…you’re going to experiment with relationships, you are, because you have to get to know this dance, and you’re going to make mistakes. But what you really need to do is listen to yourself and listen to when you feel safe and when dancing with someone is easy and makes you feel good, and when you can be vulnerable for a moment and that person tunes in and cares about your vulnerability.
That’s the person to go with.
Shane: Are those the little sort of bids that you’re putting out there that people are reciprocating?