CNM 016: Relationship Attachment Model (RAM) – with Jim Gascoine

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The R.A.M. Model

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 healthy relationships.

It consists of five dynamics that can be pictured as a progression from left to right:

Relationship-Attachment-Model - 2

  • The first column is “Know” – bonding with someone and getting to know them.
  • 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.
  • 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 definition of ownership or belonging in a relationship. 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.
  • And the last dynamic is “Sexual Touch” – a strong 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 in fact if you trust someone before you really know them, you can end up in an unbalanced or unhealthy relationship. 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.

In our culture, recreational sex and “hooking up” are very common. When this happens very early in a relationship, there isn’t much time to get to know, trust, rely or commit. Jim says, “whether we like it or not, sexuality creates a bond between two people. So now we’ve got two individuals that are sexually active, and yet they really don’t know if they can trust each other, if they can rely on each other, or what level of commitment is in the relationship.”

In another example, it is possible to begin to rely on a person before trusting them or knowing them; and again, one is setting herself up for a fall, because it could be that the person she’s beginning to rely on is not trustworthy.

When Jim prepares couples in pre-marital counseling, he advises that couples spend at least 6-12 months getting to know each other before talking about creating a long-term loving relationship. This allows time to not only get to know each other, but know each other in many different contexts. He says,

“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, and that’s not always true. 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 continuing to go to dinner together or on traditional dates, that’s a very narrow context. I don’t know what that person is like around family or friends, especially if we haven’t been in a group together.”

R.A.M. Model and Codependency

Since codependents tend to care-give to the extreme, the first question should be, “How well do I ‘know’ the person I’m in a relationship with?” Also, “How well do I know what their needs are, and will they respond back to me and care for my needs as I care for them?” This sets the stage for everything else.

Jim says 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. So the first suggestion would be to slow the process down; spend more time getting to know the individual that you’re hoping to be your partner. As you do this you’ll learn in what areas of life they are trustworthy, and where you can rely on them. When you start to care-take immediately in a relationship out of compulsion in order to gain value, you may not be adding as much value as you think.

If you’re codependent and just getting to know someone, for example a narcissist, the narcissist will naturally put his or her best foot forward at first because if he’s attracted to you, he doesn’t want to do anything he believes will drive you away or turn you off. Being in a dating relationship for just a short time does not allow you to see the real person, but being willing to spend time and work on a relationship will let you get below the surface. That’s when you’ll be able to start seeing the warning signs.

Conclusion and Jim’s Advice

The Relationship Attachment Model directly addresses the tendency in our culture where couples want to move quickly into a sexual relationship before they’ve done the emotional bonding that helps create a strong relationship. It also brings scientific evidence that relationships have a better likelihood of success when they are grown slowly over time, and it defines the right steps to move a relationship forward in a healthy way.

Jim’s advice for codependents is to really know your partner, but also know yourself; if you know yourself well you’ll be aware of your tendencies. Codependent or not, we all have specific tendencies that can go flying off in the wrong direction. Be open and honest about who you are as a person including your character flaws. If you know yourself well you’ll have the ability to get to know another person well, and that applies across the board, codependent or not.

In this episode we discuss:

  • The dynamics of the Relationship Attachment Model
  • Why it’s important to take the dynamics in order
  • What happens when the dynamics get out of order
  • The importance of knowing your partner in varied contexts
  • Jim’s advice for codependents

Items mentioned in this podcast include:

What do you think? Do you believe this model makes sense? Have you followed or broken it, and what were the results? Comment below.

  1. I recently divorced and have been thinking about the next romantic relationship, and how to approach. This episode forced me to take a very close look at my past behaviors; it opened my eyes, really. I will use the RAM model for any future relationships.
    Thank you, Brian, for providing such a wonderful resource of…resources!

  2. I dated several guys in serious relationship before meeting my husband. Him and I both waited for sexual intimacy until after we were married. It’s not popular to wait for intimacy now days. there was a lot of pressure to be intimate before marriage. I couldn’t be more happy with my decision to wait. We’ve been married 8 years and are still going strong. From my perspective, waiting for my husband gave us the opportunity to get to know one another in a spiritual, emotional and mental way before we delved into the physical aspect. I think it helped to build our relationship and make us stronger because we weren’t just feeding those sexual appetites but actually building a relationship.