Nora Femenia, Ph.D.

In times of stress, are you here for me?

desperate fight

How can we have love and secure attachment in times of virus pandemia?


desperate fight

Watching attachment in my clients has opened my eyes to a new interaction, developing dynamically in front of my eyes…

We have around us the concentric circles of anxiety: the wider one of the global virus threat, the second one of national political changes making waves of despair or anger.

And at the couple's level the tension of connecting with each other in order to experience being supported and loved.

Now, I can hear it clearly:

The combined stresses impacting the couple’s dynamics are raw and urgent!

And, when this thread of anxiety appears, the basic need bursts open:

Do you love me enough?

Now, in the horrible circumstances we are in, can I count on you to support me wholeheartedly?

The husband is having some virus indicators: perhaps is fever, perhaps is generalized body pain or sore throat….he wants to go to the hospital and asks her for her company.

Will she drive him to the hospital? Will she suspend all her other work demands and prioritize rushing him to the hospital?

Will she be there with him, for him, at the hospital, or would she continue enmeshed in the demands of her own professional life? Will he be finally, her first and only concern?

The impact of this anxiety unleashes only one very strong demand: are you there for me?

If she is distracted, slow in measuring the size of his anxiety, and slow in responding with the extra care that his fear demands…

If he is clearly busy, assigning importance to clients, deals, and other external time demands, he will be blind to this profound, vitally important request: can I count you will be there for me?

Now we have an open conflict: he is hurt, feeling unattended in the peak of his drama; and she feels accused of not being the loving wife she pictures herself to be…Or she is feeling deeply alone, miserably alone, confirming that he never was the support she imagined or needed him to be?

The gap is there. They have spent the last 20 years in the certainty that their relationship was secure enough. Now we have this emergency and the old attachment question pops up

If you are not here, totally caring for me in my time of need, what are we for each other?

The security demands that the virus threat has thrown upon us are forcing couples to redefine who they are for the other: a mere roommate? A routinary partner? Or the person who can give security through offering us a secure attachment?

Let’s list the basic aspects of this demand, that now is explicit:

  • Are you putting me before any other of your interests?
  • Am I the person you want to fight for with all you have?
  • Do you offer all your stamina and care to invest in me?
  • Can I experience your total dedication?

We are not saying that this demand is permanent.  Normal, everyday life will brush those deeper, unspoken concerns below the surface for a long time. They will never be openly expressed because we don't want to show weakness or neediness….  It is only when we are faced with life or death issues (“will I leave this hospital alive or dead”?)  that the need for a secure attachment shows itself.

Now, we deeply remember what a good marriage stands for.

This is the basic premise of any good marriage, listed in the marital vows: when circumstances are difficult and demanding, we need to be there for each other. Not using evasive words like ifs, buts, or using petty negotiations…The heart knows very well if the emotional container offered to us is secure enough to help us to fight for our lives.


  1. Take the Attachment Test.
  2. Identify your attachment style and know how it was created.
  3. Look at your main behaviors created by the style.
  4. Watch those behaviors when they appear interacting with your partner.
  5. Evaluate the degree of damage those behaviors cause to your partner's trust in you.
  6. Make a plan to correct first your most damaging behavior (perhaps doing the silent treatment?) and plan how to repair the damage.
  7. Establish reminders to keep your progress on track.


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