I’m such a fool for you
you've got me trapped around your finger
Do you have to,
do you have to,
do you have to let it linger?

the cranberries, linger

Children become attached to parents, no matter how the parent is, as long as the parents are accessible and attentive. It doesn’t matter whether they admire their parents or are even friendly to them. Personal characteristics of the child are influenced by the parents behavior toward the child, but the attachment itself occurs independent of the behavior. Abused children still will feel attached despite the abuse. Attachment is something that naturally occurs under the right circumstances. It is not willed into occurrence by wishful thinking, it is something that happens of its own accord.

Similarly, it also develops in marriage as long as the partner is accessible and attentive. The high electricity of courting and early marriage aid in the attachment process as does the mutual accessibility imposed by said marriage. The longer the marriage is, the greater the attachment, once it has been formed. The length of time strengthens that bond whether there is joy in the marriage or not.

Once the attachment is established, it persists. It lingers long after the love has faded. Spouses resemble battered children in their feelings when the bond is in the process of being broken. They are angry. They are furious. They hate the other party, have dreams of reconciliation or perhaps instead revenge. They are fearful of the other, waiting for the shoe to drop. No matter how bad the relationship has gotten, the thought of leaving the situation paralyzes them. Having an attachment, even a bad one, is better than being alone and lonely right?

Each partner has the ability to provoke separation distress in the other with the mere threat that if the other does not conform to the first person’s wishes that the marriage is over. It is a double-edged sword as both parties are wounded when separation occurs. In an attempt at self-protection, many will hide behind a mask of indifference, as if this will protect them from the pain inflicted by the loss of the attachment figure. There is no time so lonely as the final months of a marriage when each spouse is trying to emotionally separate from the other. Both know that it is over, yet both are unable to break this attachment bond that was naturally made.

That bond is remarkably resistant to dissipation as it should be. It is a survival mechanism inborn into the genetic makeup of the species. The parent/child bond assures that the child will have a higher chance of growing to reproductive age. The spouse/spouse bond also assures that the young will be protected, fed, nurtured and grow to pass on their genes. Attachment is an imprinted quality. Once a spouse is accepted as an attachment figure, he/she will still elicit attachment feelings long after the marriage has dissolved. These feelings will continue to show up even after one partner has found someone new when he/she comes into contact with the previous partner. This will happen until it is understood, and I mean CLEARLY understood, that the attachment figure is no longer the same person. Taken deep within the self that the former spouse is different and no longer the same person he/she was when the initial attachment was formed. It cannot be willed away any more than it can be willed into being. Until that time, attachment persists.

Suggested reading for those contemplating separation or are going through it :
Marital Separation, by Robert S. Weiss.

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