Are you a family member, friend or romantic partner to someone with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)? Here are ways attachment problems affect adult relationships and what to do about them.
Attachment in childhood forms the basis of all adult relationships. If you or someone you love had a broken attachment to caregivers in childhood, they maybe have attachment disorder that continues into adulthood.
Your loved one can get help and support. While literature often focuses on the caregiver relationship, all intimate relationships including dating, marriage, friendships, and work relationships are impacted by Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD).
Attachment Problems in Relationships
A common difficulty with disorganized attachment is the impact on relationships. While this is a theme across all relationships, it impacts different relationships in specific ways.
1. Trouble Connecting with Family
Are you wondering how to help a loved one with an attachment disorder? Connections with family during childhood and adulthood can be difficult for someone with RAD.
If you are parenting a child with an attachment disorder, it is first important to understand your attachment style as the parent. Understanding how your attachment style impacts the ability to connect with your child can assist in evaluating the impact on your relationship. This can also be a helpful tool for other family members to use to understand their attachment style.
It is common for caregivers to report concerns with the caregiver/child relationship even in adulthood. A child with an attachment injury often feels unsafe to attach. This can create difficulty in the relationship both as a child and into adulthood.
With my children with RAD, I am not the source of their abuse and neglect; however, I seek to understand how their trauma history impacts our connection. Early in their lives, my children learned that adults are not safe and caregivers cause harm.
Their trauma history makes it difficult for them to understand an accurate timeline. They confuse order of events and locations, which causes challenges during family life.
The impact of trauma on memory is significant and well documented. While the current caregiver may not be the source of the abuse, they are likely to be a significant trauma trigger.
The family dynamic in the relationship of a child with attachment injuries will impact their connection in adulthood as well. There may always be distrust, boundary testing and triggering events that occur between family members and adult children with RAD.
Several factors impact the family dynamic and it will continue to be a challenge as the child with RAD grows into adulthood. Children in the same family may remember their experiences differently, and this could be because of the impact of trauma on the brain. Where one child may remember growing up in a safe, stable home, another child may remember fear and instability.
Connection in adulthood with attachment disorder is possible, but it will require continued work and support. A child with RAD believes they are unlovable, and they will continue to need their caregivers’ love and support as they transition into adulthood.
It may not be an easy relationship to navigate, but it will continue to be a significant source of comfort and support.
2. Trouble Connecting with Friends
Are you friends with someone with an attachment disorder? RAD can impact the ability to connect with friends both in youth and adulthood.
A person with childhood attachment disruption has experienced a series of relationship ruptures. For example, a child who has experienced foster care may have experienced many moves to new homes with little warning. These ruptures were likely never given the opportunity to be repaired, and relationships that were once important to them could turn into someone they never get to see again.
When a child experiences attachment injury, they are forced to protect themselves, as they have typically not been protected by their primary caregiver. This pain often continues into adulthood and impacts the ability to form healthy connections with friends, even as an adult.
3. Trouble Connecting with Romantic Partners
Are you concerned your husband, wife, or spouse has RAD? While RAD is a childhood diagnosis, the attachment symptoms carry into adulthood and impact romantic relationships.
Someone with attachment injuries is likely going to have difficulty with trust, being emotionally vulnerable, and exercising empathy in their adult relationships. This doesn’t make them a terrible partner, but it means their childhood experiences did not allow them the opportunity to learn these skills.
While tt is possible to form a healthy relationship with someone who has an attachment disorder, it takes a significant commitment on the part of both individuals. Counseling and other supports will be necessary to ensure neither partner is behaving in unhealthy patterns or triggering one another.
A secure attachment is possible between partners, but it could take work and communication. There is hope and there is help.
Signs of Attachment Disorders in Adults
While attachment disorders are typically categorized as mood or behavioral disorders in adulthood, the signs in adults are similar to those with children with RAD. (Use this RAD checklist for further information.)
Signs of attachment problems in adults may include:
- A difficulty understanding the emotions of others
- A difficulty showing affection or sharing their emotions with others
- Persistently low self-image
- Difficulty trusting others
- Anger and impulsivity issues
Do you or a loved one deal with relationship issues due to attachment problems? Share about it in the comments below.