Violations of trust and dependability can, over time, create a change in the way the offending partner is viewed by the injured partner. The culmination of a collection of such incidents affects the quality of the attachment bond. These changes may be experienced as changes in how one thinks about the partner, or how one feels toward the partner, experienced as occurring together.
Four of the markers for attachment injury were subsumed under the category of Change of Belief About the Partner: Betrayal of Trust; Questioning Partner Dependability; Change of Perception; and Change of Heart. As the markers were coded during the analysis, it became clear that there was overlap in the descriptors of each. For example, betrayal of trust seems to lead to questioning the partner’s dependability, while any question of the partner’s reliability can create a breach of trust. Similarly, changes in one’s opinion of (i.e., perception) and one’s feelings toward (i.e., “change of heart”) one’s partner are closely related, and are likely to occur together. A frequent cause in the changed belief was one partner’s rejection of the other’s children. The spouse might express blunt disapproval of the children, either to the partner or directly to the children. Disapproval of the child implied criticism of the biological parent and might be expressed as scorn, criticism, sarcasm, frustration, anger, animosity, hostility, or jealousy.
In subsuming these four related categories, they themselves became descriptors for “Change of Belief About the Partner.” Additionally, the descriptors included: manipulation and lying in the stepcouple relationship; a dichotomous view of the family, (i.e., “yours/mine”); rejection of children and related protectiveness of the biological parent.
A frequent cause in the changed belief was one partner’s. The spouse might express blunt disapproval of the children, either to the rejection of the other’s children partner or directly to the children. Disapproval of the child implied criticism of the biological parent and might be expressed as scorn, criticism, sarcasm, frustration, anger, animosity, hostility, or jealousy.
Rejection of children usually galvanized the biological parent into a defensive, protective stance, guarding the children from further attack. In cases where respondents rejected their stepchildren, they assumed a judgmental position about their stepchildren’s behaviors, expressing frustration, anger or sadness that their judgments were either deemed wrong or ignored by their spouses. Their marital attachment bond was tested, as each parent sought to protect their children’s emotions from the partner that had promised support in meeting the demands of childrearing.
Evidence of manipulation occurred in these interviews in behaviors between respondents and their spouses, or a stepchild, an in-law or an ex-spouse. It appeared in these interviews as challenges to the couple bond due to the input of others outside the marital dyad, or in the respondent feeling “maneuvered” for someone else’s perceived gain. Respondents mentioned that lying also affected their marital relationship. Some described lies between spouses; others noted lying between self or spouse and others in the family. Finally, the dichotomous view described the respondent’s opinion that their biological families remained separate. The sense of shared experience most families seek was noticeably lacking for many of these families. Instead, the families were polarized, maintaining emotional or financial separation, or both.