Betrayal-Oriented Attachment

A strongly driven pattern is observed with almost all primary aggressors: 1) an obsessive jealousy toward the partner, 2) an intense anger toward past partners, present partners, and all women about perceived betrayals, 3) an intense desire to re-unite with partners perceived to have betrayed him, and 4) near continuous infidelity by the primary aggressor himself. Frequently, the primary aggressor encourages, or even insists that the partner dress sexually attractive, despite the climate of jealousy. This all seems very contradictory. Other signs of betrayal attachment in men are:

What seems to connect this group of behaviors is the combination of attachment and sexuality--sexuality not just in the content but as a seeming distorted motivator underneath the actions. A researcher, Donald Dutton, sought to clarify this pattern, and he felt it was related to early attachment. He called it angry attachment, and he felt it was an aspect of almost all domestic violence. While the author of this website agrees with Dutton as far as the phenomenon goes, he prefers betrayal-oriented attachment as a more specific term. A discussion of attachment theory is beyond the scope of this website. Clearly betrayal-oriented attachment is built on top of the concept of insecure attachment, but the manifestations are far beyond that

A better model to explain betrayal-oriented attachment is an approach-avoidance conflict from the field of classic conditioning. This is a complicated concept to concisely describe, but perhaps worth it, since this phenomenon is so central to intimate partner violence. An approach-avoidance conflict exists when the same condition has become a conditioned stimulus for both pleasure (approach) and pain (avoidance). In human affairs, it is usually other people that become this type of stimulus. This is at root a biological dilemma that affects the arousal and autonomic systems. There are four elements that will be active simultaneously: the approach conditioning, the inhibition of the approach conditioning. the avoidance conditioning, and inhibition of the avoidance conditioning. These are all in different compartments so to speak, it is not possible to average them out to a 'middle road.' This is never a stable situation, it relies on precariously balancing and constant management of one's exposure to the stimulus. When the balance begins to fail great upset usually erupts in the emotional equilibrium. Where approach-avoidance conflicts exist, arousal is usually kept high.

So for instance, the surprisingly common finding in domestic violence that a man that prefers women working as strippers as partners, but is also extremely jealous, seems illogical. Why doesn't such a man seek a woman that wants to avoid this exposure? The reason is that psychic balance is being achieved by putting two extremes together, just like an amateur tight rope walker will start to flail his arms farther to each side as his balance become less and less stable.

The origin of betrayal-oriented attachment is simply not yet understood. Dutton's theory is that it may stem from inconsistency by the mother, who at times is very loving or even indulgent or inappropriately close, and at times is uninterested or rejecting. It is very possible that this inconsistency can be caused by a women having to deal with abuse from her partner. For the child, however, the experience could be one of being, at least psychologically, sexually stimulated and then dumped when another male comes into the picture (even if the male is a father or step-father). As an adult, the man unconsciously attempts to solve the trauma by recreating it. That is, he seeks to be stimulated but then is certain he is not the 'real' interest of the partner. His infidelity is revenge, doing to the women what he experienced as done to him.

Betrayal-oriented attachment is almost always seen with primary aggressors with either a cyclical or over-controlled style. It is present with psychopathically-styled primary aggressors to a lesser extent.