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A Surrogate Partner's Perspective on Attachment

By Andrew Heartman

As a surrogate partner, I'm often asked about attachment. “What happens if the client falls in love with you?” As I will discuss, what might appear on the surface to be a problem actually turns out to be two separate gifts.

Before I get to the gifts, it’s important to know that I rely on the expertise of the referring therapist for their professional evaluation of whether this particular client and her specific goals would be appropriate for surrogate partner therapy. Clients with attachment disorders, for example, would probably not be good candidates.

Gift 1: Some clients who are appropriate for SPT have not been able to have the type of intimate connections they wish to have in their life. They most likely have fear or anxiety related to some aspect of relationship building. For them to feel safe and trusting enough to be comfortable forming an attachment is, in all likelihood, a positive step. It’s part of opening the heart to future relationships. Rather than being something to avoid, it can be an important part of the therapy, and something that can never be taken away from them.

Since the relationship formed is temporary, people then ask, “If there is an attachment, won't it be painful for the client when the therapy ends?”

Gift 2: We all have relationships that end. In fact, all of our relationships will end in one way or another. Some people are so afraid of what will happen when the relationship ends that they are not willing to take the risk to enter into the relationship in the first place. In SPT, the client learns that they can survive the end of a relationship, and that, even if there is sadness, relationships can be ended with respect, gratitude, and appreciation for the positive feelings that remain.

In this culture, we commonly handle breakups in a way that causes a lot of pain for both parties. We tend to believe that if two people break up, they will hate each other afterward. Often, we either blame our ex and make them wrong in order to justify the relationship ending, or we take on that there something wrong with us that makes us unsuitable to be with. I believe that conscious, amicable breakups, like the kind we practice in SPT, are healing to both parties and make us more able to have better relationships in the future. The world would be a better place if we all experienced the type of “breakup” we have in SPT.

As a surrogate, my experience of the end of this therapeutic relationship is like that of parents watching their daughter go off to college. I feel sad to see her go, but happy she is moving on to a brighter future, and proud that I've helped, in some small way, to prepare her for that future.

Rather than being something to avoid, the attachment formed in SPT is beneficial, both when the attachment is formed and also when it is ended.

Copyright © 2010–2017 Andrew Heartman

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