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Romantic relationships affect the levels of security that people generally experience with close others. Experiences with a partner carry immediate outcomes (e.g., feeling appreciated vs. ignored), but they also can have longer lasting effects when they cause people to reflect on their overall worthiness and comfort with closeness/trust toward others. Our chapter examines how such experiences shape the mental representations that underlie chronic tendencies with attachment security, and how these representations may change with new experiences in romantic involvements. We examine change through the lens of the Attachment Security Enhancement Model, which suggests that enhancing security in relationships involves both mitigating momentary insecurity and fostering more secure mental representations over the longer term. Whether partners are effective at enhancing security may depend on the strategies they enact, and optimal strategies depend on whether a person is experiencing momentary anxiety versus avoidance. Over time, partner strategies in new situations – especially those that depart from past insecure experiences (e.g., painful interactions in close relationships) – can lead to revisions of insecure mental representations (e.g., beliefs about the self, expectations of close others). Together, using strategies to manage insecure moments and create opportunities to revise insecure mental representations may enhance security across time.
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