Healing of Family of Origin and Attachment Issues
Michsam, her Love and Respect forum name, writes the following testimony about her healing of Family of Origin and Attachment concerns. Sarah and I thoroughly enjoyed her following insights:
L&R Ministries offers a simple two-part message for a strong marriage: First, your primary focus must be your relationship with God, not your relationship with your spouse. Second, you must obey God's command to husbands and wives in Ephesians 5:33.
But, isn't this too simplistic for those of us with significant family of origin issues?
My testimony is that the answer to that question is "No"!
In Ephesians 4:22-24, Paul commands us to "put off your old self which is being corrupted by your deceitful desires" and "put on the new self, created to be like God."
L&R works because it shows us how we are to "put off" the old, as well as how to "put on" the new. It works because it is Biblical.
The specifics of my family of origin issues are too much to disclose here. Please believe me when I say that they are significant. The secular psychology literature describes me as someone who entered adulthood with only a limited ability to form secure attachments.
People with attachment issues have four disordered understandings of how families function. These include misunderstanding of authority, permanence, sharing, and caregiving.
In my case, I equated authority with domination, so did not feel safe in family settings. I also questioned whether my husband's love was permanent. I feared rejection and worried that he would die or leave me. Third, I had trouble sharing myself with him because I thought that meeting his needs would come at the expense of my needs not being met. Finally, I rarely asked him to meet my felt needs because my childhood experiences told me that he wouldn't take care of me. Yet even though I didn't tell him what I wanted, I would occasionally blow up at him when my needs went unmet.
Each of these beliefs and associated behaviors significantly harmed my relationship with my husband.
By explaining the "how" and "why" of God's command in Ephesians 5:33, the L&R message told me what to "put on".
First, I was to accept my husband's authority in the home because my husband needed that authority to fulfill a God-given responsibility to protect me and to provide for me. Second, my irrational questioning of my husband's love for me stemmed from my obsessive focus on the few areas in which my needs weren't met. I needed to change my focus on the positives about my husband. Third, meeting my husband's felt needs didn't have to come at the expense of his meeting my felt needs because the two of us had different needs! I could meet my husband's need for respect at the same time that he was meeting my need for love. Finally, the L&R messaged empowered me to ask my husband to meet my felt needs, but to do so in a respectful fashion.
I'm not strong enough to "put on" the new without God's help. So, "putting on" is fundamentally about my relationship with God. It's not enough to know what to do. God wants my obedience, but that is only possible if I trust in him for the strength to obey.
So far, so good. I know what I should do, and I know that God will give me the strength to do it. But, how is it possible to "put off" the family of origin issues that hinder intimacy in marriage? Well, feelings often follow behaviors. Putting on new behaviors supports the "putting off" of flawed thought patterns.
But, more than that, the L&R message reminded me that my primary relationships is my relationship with God. As I meditated on various Scripture passages that tell me who God is, I came to understand that God - and only God - can meet my deepest needs. Knowing God is the key to straightening out disordered thought patterns.
Specifically, I do not need to fear earthly authority, because my God is Righteous (Psalm 89:14-15; Psalm 71:14-16). I do not need to fear my husband's rejection of me, because my God is Trustworthy (Psalm 22:4-5; Psalm 28:6-7). I don't have to worry about having my needs met because my God is Responsive (Psalm 116:1-2; Psalm 138:2). And, I don't have to worry about taking care of myself, because my God will always be my Refuge (Psalm 142:5; Psalm 141:8).
Besides learning about who God is, I also learned about what God expects of me. Psalm 25:14 tells me that friendship with God is reserved for those who reverence him. My reverence is motivated by the fact that God is the sovereign Lord of the universe.
I am God's child, but that means I will have to answer to him for how I have lived my life. I must be honest with him about who I am - a sinner in need of forgiveness.
So, I do not take God's love for granted. I stand in awe of God's desire for intimacy with me.
I don't want to claim that healing from my family of origin and related attachment issues is complete or that it happened overnight. It's an ongoing process, and the wounds remain.
But, I'm here to say that that healing is possible because there is freedom in knowing God.
That's the heart of the Love and Respect message.