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Affairs, Addictions and Attachment Insecurity: The 3 A’s of Heartbreak


I think most people on the planet have experienced heartbreak at one time or another. When it comes to love relationships, Attachment Insecurity will often result in Affairs and Addictions…which will likely lead to Heartbreak.

Can you relate to Jonathon and Megan’s story of heartbreak?

Jonathon swirled the ice cubes in his sparkling soda while his coworkers downed their second and third whiskeys. They were just beginning to unwind and celebrate a very successful sales meeting. When the bar tab hit the triple digits, it was customary to divvy up the damages and reconvene at someone’s house where the beer was cheap. From there, things would often get a bit crazy. This was all Jonathon had known for the last few years.

Tonight he was stone sober. He stared into the effervescence of his soft drink intent on keeping his eyes off the flirtatious blonde across the table. Deaf to the celebratory toasts, he quietly prepared his alibi. The details of last week’s one-night-stand had leaked, and Megan would be crushed…again. Head down and fighting for composure, Jonathon excused himself and headed home.

Megan paced the kitchen floor wondering if her husband would have the guts to come home tonight. I can’t do this again, Megan screamed into the otherwise quiet kitchen. The dog shrieked and then cast his sorrowful eyes up at Megan. She scooped up her pup and sobbed into her fur. Once, twice, and now a third affair. I don’t think I can survive this again.

With a deep breath, Jonathon timidly opened the kitchen door. His heart broke at the sight of his wife in a heap on the floor. Megan’s cold stare cut through Jonathon like a knife. And then came the explosion. You liar, you cheat. I hate you. You need to get out of this house. Get your stuff and go. I’m done with you this time. I’m finished! Megan grabbed the only thing in her reach and hurled it at her husband. Her cell phone shattered at his feet.

  • What is it that is so familiar about Megan and Jonathon’s story?
  • What keeps Jonathon in a helpless cycle of deceptive desire?
  • What makes Megan stay for yet one more round of devastation?
  • What makes them unable to find each other?
  • What will soothe each others love-starved souls?

When love goes wrong you often find the three A’s of heartbreak in the mix of the problem.

Affairs and addictions are a natural outgrowth of insecure attachment.

Sue Johnson, the pioneer of Emotionally Focused therapy, uses the acronym A.R.E. to describe the foundation for secure attachment.

A = Emotional Accessibility: Can I reach you? Will you pay attention to me?

R = Responsiveness: Can I rely on you to respond to and care about my feelings?

E = Engagement: Will you value me, put me first and stay close?

When the A.R.E.s of attachment are present in a relationship, both people are in tune with each others emotional needs and desires. They create a kind of Eden in their own relationship that creates what attachment theorist John Bowlby referred to as a safe haven for love. By creating a free-flowing zone of emotional satisfaction and safety, the needs and wants of both people are fulfilled within the relationship.

What sets affairs and addictions in motion?

When attachment is insecure because the foundations of A.R.E. are not present, both people in the relationship suffer from an emotional poverty that feels too painful to bear. Unless the A.R.E.s are restored, each person will cope by either clinging or escaping from the relationship. This is what sets affairs and addictions in motion.

The more Megan clings, the more Jonathon tries to escape the flood of her needy and condemning emotions. He runs to affairs to feel the rush of new love and to recover the manly man feeling that he once had with Megan.

Addiction is the hook that keeps both of them doing the same thing over and over again. Addiction is the feeling that makes the pain go away…though only temporarily. It then leaves the user feeling emptier than before and wanting to return to the false feeling to escape the pain once again.

Insecure attachment…what are the symptoms?

Affairs and addictions are symptoms of insecure attachment. Securely attached couples are Accessible, Responsive and Engaged. It is in that space that they create their own Eden, and the freedom from addictions and affairs.

Can you relate to Megan and Jonathon’s story? We invite you to share your feedback below.

What are you struggling with in your relationship? We will address your needs in a future blog.

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The books Hold Me Tight and Love Sense by Sue Johnson, Ph.D. may help you begin to understand and grow in emotional communication. Couples in cycles of conflict should consider getting the help of an Emotionally Focused Therapist. Go to our home page or to to find an Emotionally Focused Therapist in your area.


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