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Measuring Relationship Attachment

Updated: Nov 10, 2021

The RAM Model was produced by Dr. John Van Epp in his research regarding relationships progression. It’s a simple way to look at how relationships should grow to become healthier. It consists of five dynamics that can be pictured as a progression from left to right:

The first column is “Know” – bonding with someone and getting to know them. He calls it "becoming a connoisseur of your partner". If you look it up, connoisseur is one who understands the details, technique, or principles of something; one who enjoys with discrimination and appreciation of subtleties. It is important to note the word becoming, because it is about the effort to constantly get to know your partner. You stay curious instead of complacent. You are never done knowing. If I only know someone in a small area of my life, I may overgeneralize. I may assume that the knowledge I have of them in one small area is applicable to many other areas of life.

The next column is “Trust” – as you get to know someone, you put together your pieces of knowledge to make a dynamic picture of that person, and the more you know, the better you can begin to trust. The “knowing” comes first, and from that, trust develops. Trust is the mental picture of someone you carry in your mind, where you may be able to guess what they were doing even when you are not there, and that it would be in line with the values you share in the relationship.

The third bonding dynamic is entitled “Rely” – this refers to the action that follows from trust. Reliance grows from the ways you meet another person’s needs as well as how they meet your needs.

The fourth column is “Commit” – the extent to which you feel like you belong to someone, and that they belong to you, is a measure of the degree of commitment in your relationship. Think about how you carry your partner in your heart.

And the last dynamic is “Sexual Touch” – a contributor to the feelings of intimacy and closeness in any romantic relationship. Moving In Order The columns are developed progressively in such a way that one should start with “Know”, then move to “Trust” and so forth, and no column should get ahead of the one in front of it. For instance, it’s difficult to Trust somebody before you get to Know them, and if you trust someone before you really know them, you can end up filling in the blanks with your own narrative and then finding yourself feeling betrayed.

It’s also hard to rely on somebody before you’ve begun to trust them, so one dynamic should follow the other from left to right. It is possible to begin to rely on a person before trusting them or knowing them; but one is setting themself up. If I jump right to a heavy reliance, and rely on the other person to meet my emotional needs while they rely on me to be a caregiver, I may really not know how trustworthy the person is in many other areas of life. If I’ve only gotten to know someone by spending time together alone, that’s a very narrow context. I don’t know what that person is like around family or friends. You can’t jump into a relationship and know quickly what are the true needs of another person. Yes, there may be visible surface needs, but you can’t quickly know to the core of someone’s being what their true needs are. When you start to care-take immediately in a relationship out of habit or in order to gain value, you may not be adding as much value as you think. If you find yourselves feeling disconnected or that needs are not being met, slow down and revisit to address issues in the model from left to right to strengthen them. Recommit to spending more time getting to know your partner. As you do this you’ll learn in what areas of life they are trustworthy where you didn't expect it, and new ways where you can rely on them. The Relationship Attachment Model directly addresses the tendency in our culture where couples want to forgo the need to continue a process of emotional bonding that helps create and sustain a strong relationship. It also brings scientific evidence that relationships have a better likelihood of success when each pillar is attended to, and in an order that works.

Finally, it is a great way to structure a regular couples' check-in. If you are anticipating a check-in, feeling a heavy convo coming, or just feeling "off" in your relationship, print out two of these and spend a few minutes setting your bars across the columns. The higher the bar, the more satisfied you feel in that bonding measure. Individually, this gives you insight into what might be bothering you and how to bring it up, without getting lost in the details. You and your partner can both share your RAM's to see what is out of sink and what bonding measure needs attention. There are a myriad of creative ways to get curious about your relationship.

Ask me more about how I use RAM in counseling and coaching.

Watch this interview to learn more.


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