one’s spouse (in coalitions, in staying in the marriage or leaving). Overall, events contributed to a change of view of the partner, evolving from one view earlier in the relationship, to another view once events or processes became pronounced in the relationship; for example, the partner used to be trustworthy, but now after a series of events, cannot be trusted.
Abandonment and Detachment were revealed through factors involving threatened or actual separation, filing for divorce, coalitions (implying no support of the respondent), leaving the respondent as an outsider in coalitions with an ex-wife, stepchild or in-laws, extreme emotional withdrawal, rejection of (detachment) or by (abandonment) the partner, and a sense of dire hopelessness about the longevity of the relationship (i.e., “there is no point in continuing our marriage if…”). Every respondent reported some event, or intention, related to either separation or divorce.
Pivotal Events appear in these relationships as a line of demarcation, an event before which respondents understood their relationship in a certain way, and after which the relationship was redefined in some way. Four of the respondents reported pivotal events, including: “I never understood why (he wanted to reconcile and still wonders);” “Trust started eroding for me at that point;” “I wanted out of this marriage;” “Lying has
made me not trust him;” and “I’m selling the house and leaving you.”
These women all reported at least some of the markers of attachment injury in their relationships. This suggests that they likely experienced events at some point in their relationship that could be interpreted as attachment injury. The respondents repeatedly noted lack of mutual partner support in their interviews. Salient for all of them was the pronounced sense that they felt unsupported by their partner in child- focused coalitions. These coalitions aligned biological parents with their children, fortified by alliances with those outside the stepfamily, such as in-laws and ex-spouses.
The coalitions supported a prevailing sense of dichotomy. These stepfamilies, to varying extents, maintained a sense of being polarized into “your family-my family” positions. The resulting alliances maintained biological parent-child bonds, at the expense of the stepcouple bond. In these interviews, these alignments threatened the respondent’s perceived sense of attachment to her partner.
The respondents’ reports suggest that, had a unified parental front been achieved in their stepfamilies, this might have countered the sense of abandonment or threat of detachment that colored these interviews. Their unified front was blocked by their inability to support their couple bond in the face of a loyalty conflict about their children.
The literature suggests that the experience of attachment is individual; so, too, is the interpretation of events in ascribing possible attachment injury. These interviews seemed to support that the context of events is crucial to understanding the individual experience of attachment injury. Within each interview, some of the same events or processes were categorized for more than one attachment injury marker. This occurred when the events or processes held multiple meanings for the respondents. The context in which an event or process occurred affected which descriptors were assigned to it. Correspondingly, this suggests that it was the context of the event or process in each relationship that was crucial to understanding its interpretation and its meaning to an individual.