Dependability is a cornerstone of strong relationships. We must know that we can trust our closest family members and can turn to them when times are tough. Family studies literature identifies one measure of these strong intimate relationships as attachment, the bond in an intimate relationship. Originally, attachment was researched between mothers and children. Mary Ainsworth was a developmental psychologist who was researching the way children responded to unusual situations. Infants with “secure attachment” look to their mother as a secure base; that is, they can explore a unique environment or a strange situation and then come back to their mother for reassurance. Later, this research was applied in intimate relationships. Partners can also serve as a secure base for one another, depending on each other in the face of adversity.

Becoming Attached
Attachment is developed through the repetition of dependable, trustworthy interactions. When mothers respond to children’s cries, or when partners attend to one another’s needs, each of these interactions develops secure attachment in the relationship.

From the outside, dependability can feel repetitive and boring. Doing the same thing over and over again can be frustrating or challenging, but it is central to being trustworthy in relationships. We build healthy bonds when we can trust people who are consistently responsive and reliable. To work on building secure attachment in your relationships, be consistently available and dependable to answer needs. Pick up the phone when your stressed family member calls. Follow through on your promises and commitments. Respond consistently and lovingly.

When Being Dependable is Tough
Sometimes, this can be very difficult when you’re in the midst of tough circumstances. It can feel like you don’t have any more reassurance or compassion to offer. Look inward during those times to examine yourself and your limits, set healthy boundaries, and take care of yourself. Then discover your compassion, focus on your reasons for desiring a healthy relationship, and be dependable in the time of need.

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