What's Your Relationship Attachment Style?
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What's Your Relationship Attachment Style?
If you've ever hunted around the internet, looking for why your relationships might all be screwed up (and screwed up in the same ways, I might add), then you've probably come across Attachment Theory.
When we get into relationships, we create an attachment. "Attachment is a deep and enduring emotional bond that connects one person to another across time and space." So, whether we like it or not, we have created this attachment; the question is, what kind of attachment have you created? What is your go-to attachment style, and is that serving you in the long run? Is that getting you closer to the love you are absolutely worthy of?
Your attachment style doesn't explain everything about your relationships, but it probably explains a great deal of why your intimate relationships have succeeded/failed in the specific way they did, why you keep attracting the same archetype of people, and the nature of the relationship problems that arise again and again for you, why it feels like that you are stuck in a cycle.
Your attachment style plays a bigger part in your life than you realize! Have you ever wondered why you attract the wrong person every time you try to date? Maybe you feel excited about dating the bad guy or typically pick a partner you can fix. Much of this attraction can be credited to your attachment style. As adults, we tend to recreate relationships from childhood because they feel comfortable and confirm our way of relating to others.
The attachment theory isn't new; it was founded by psychoanalyst John Bowlby in the 1950s and expanded by Mary Ainsworth.
The attachment theory outlines how your bond with your primary caregivers sets the foundation for how you navigate relationships throughout life.
The theory states that the primary goal of a human infant is to maintain proximity to its caregiver, [which] was necessary for survival during our evolution.
As infants and toddlers, we were sponges. Strategic sponges. We monitored everything our parents did, and because we loved them, we created strategies or attachment styles that would help us stay close to them or help us cope with the fact that they couldn't take care of us fully. Isn't it wild to think that children are like little computers downloading a parent's every move and taking that information to create the foundation for the rest of their relationship life?
Suppose you, as a child, could rely on your parent to fulfill your needs growing up, then you likely have developed a secure attachment style. You didn't have to use alternate strategies to get them to stay close to you. Thus, you now see relationships as a safe and cozy space where you express your emotions freely. 50% of the population has developed secure attachment.
On the other hand, insecure attachment styles develop if you, as a child, have a strained and unreliable bond with your caregivers. If this was the case, you might have learned that you cannot rely on others to fulfill your basic needs and comfort. Therefore, you don't feel safe getting close to others, opening yourself up to say what you really mean. Because unconsciously, your inner child believes your love interest is just like your caregiver who could not be there for you.
And we unconsciously expect our romantic partners to act as our parents did, and therefore, we act in certain ways due to these expectations," says Jordan. These tendencies play out whether we realize it.
Now, there are four different styles of attachment that we will be exploring today:
Avoidant (insecure attachment styles)
Anxious (insecure attachment styles)
Fearful avoidant (insecure attachment styles)
How do attachment styles affect our relationships as adults? Why is it important to have an awareness of your attachment style? Well,
It affects how we deal with closeness and emotional intimacy in romantic relationships.
It Influences how we communicate needs and understand the emotions and needs of others.
Affects how we handle conflict.
Influences the expectations we place on partners and the relationship.
Okay, so let's dig into each attachment style!
Secure Attachment Style
People with secure attachment strategies are comfortable displaying interest and affection. They are also comfortable being alone and independent and display a healthy level of self-confidence. They can prioritize their relationships within their life correctly, tend to draw clear boundaries, and stick to them.
Secure attachment types obviously make the best romantic partners, family members, and even friends. They're capable of accepting rejection and moving on despite the pain but are also capable of being loyal and sacrificing when necessary. They have a little issue trusting people they're close to and are trustworthy themselves.
Secure types comfortably form intimate relationships not only with partners but also with friends. They have no trouble revealing themselves and occasionally rely on others when the situation demands it. And they are excellent caregivers.4
According to research, over 50% of the population are secure attachment types.5
In a relationship, you know you have a secure attachment if you:
Find it easy to open up and get emotionally and physically close with your partner.
You're not scared about expressing your emotions to your partner. You believe that your partner reciprocates these feelings.
You trust that your partner will be there when you need them.
You like to talk things out and want your partner near you when you're upset.
You don't worry about your partner leaving you.
"Securely attached people grow up feeling secure emotionally and physically and can engage in the world with others in a healthy way."
As a result, people with secure attachment styles tend to navigate relationships well. They're generally positive, trusting, and loving to their partners.
"They trust their partners' intentions, and jealousy is often not an issue for them. "Securely attached people feel that they're worthy of love and don't need external reassurance."
Generally, you can regulate your emotions if you have a secure attachment. You easily trust others. You can communicate even clearly and effectively when conflict is present. You seek emotional support and lean on others when you're having a hard time. You're quite comfortable in close relationships and can stop, self-reflect, own your part, and apologize in a conflict. You feel comfortable being able to be in close relationships, have high self-esteem, and are emotionally available.
Anxious Attachment Style AKA The Clingster
Those with anxious-preoccupied attachment often feel emotionally empty. They often seek a partner to complete or rescue them. They desperately seek security in a partner; however, their clingy behavior usually pushes people away. It becomes difficult for their partner to act independently within the relationship because doing so sends a signal to the anxious-preoccupied person that their partner may leave them. So, to fill that empty emotional tank, they cling to their partner more, pushing them further away.
Anxious attachment types are often nervous and stressed about their relationships. They need constant reassurance and affection from their partner. They have trouble being alone or single. They'll often succumb to unhealthy or abusive relationships. Anxious types have trouble trusting people, even if they're close, yet excessively rely on others for their emotional needs and to resolve their problems. Their behavior can be irrational, sporadic, and overly emotional. They complain that every one of the opposite sex is cold and heartless. And probably bursting into tears while doing so.
This could appear as the girl who doesn't like her partner going out, so she calls him five times to bust some drama because she needs reassurance that he's thinking about her. Or with men, a guy who is constantly monitoring everything his GF is doing on social media to ensure she's not flirting with other men.
Women are more likely to be anxious than men, but it's okay; there's still plenty of insecurity to go around.
These individuals are sensitive and attuned to their partners' needs but are often insecure and anxious about their own worth in a relationship.
If the loved one rejects them or fails to respond to their needs, they might blame themselves or label themselves as not worthy of love.
Generally, adults with anxious attachments need constant reassurance that they are loved, worthy, and good enough.
During the conflict, you may continue arguing about eliciting the response you want from your partner. You may also feel incapable of calming down after conflict until the other person has met your need for assurance.
The strong fear of abandonment might often cause anxious adults to be intensely jealous or suspicious of their partners.
This fear might make them desperate, clingy, and preoccupied with their relationships. Adults with an anxious attachment style are often afraid of or even incapable of being alone.
They seek intimacy and closeness and are highly emotional and dependent on others. The presence of the loved one is a remedy for their negative self-worth.
Constant need for closeness and intimacy
Worrying that your partner will leave you
Being overly dependent in your relationship
Constant fear of rejection and abandonment
Constant need to please and gain people's approval
Difficulty trusting your partner
Requiring frequent reassurance that you're cared for
Hypersensitivity to your partner's actions and moods and strong emotional needs.
If you have an anxious attachment, you have a sensitive nervous system. You struggle to communicate your needs directly. You tend to act when you are triggered. Instead of speaking directly to your partner, you will instead work to make them feel jealous.
Anxious-Avoidant Attachment Style
Anxious avoidants get the worst of both worlds. They avoid intimacy not because they prefer to be alone like avoidants. Rather, they avoid intimacy because they are terrified of its potential to hurt them.
Anxious-avoidant attachment types (also known as the "fearful or disorganized type") bring together the worst of both worlds. Anxious avoidants are not only afraid of intimacy and commitment, but they distrust and lash out emotionally at anyone who tries to get close to them. Anxious avoidants often spend much of their time alone and miserable or in abusive or dysfunctional relationships.
Anxious-avoidants are low in confidence and less likely to express emotions, preferring to suppress them.10 However, they can have intense emotional outbursts when under stress.11 They also don't tend to seek help when in need due to a distrust of others. This sucks because they are also incapable of sorting through their own issues.12
Anxious avoidants get the worst of both worlds. They avoid intimacy not because they prefer to be alone like avoidants. Rather, they avoid intimacy because they are so terrified of its potential to hurt them.13
According to studies, only a small percentage of the population qualifies as anxious-avoidant types, and they typically have many other emotional problems in other areas of their life.
Fearful-Avoidant Attachment Style
Fearful-avoidant individuals, as the name implies, tend to be rather anxious about being abandoned or rejected by their partner and, as a result, will often keep an emotional distance to protect themselves from what they believe will be inevitable pain. Often characterized by low self-esteem and an unwillingness to trust others, people with this attachment style are extremely reluctant to commit to their partners, assuming the partnership won't last. This attachment style may result from nonchalant or unresponsive parenting, leaving the fearful-avoidant individual feeling unworthy of love.
Those with Fearful Avoidant Attachment are often afraid to be either too close or too distant from others emotionally. They have trouble with being intimate while also experiencing fear of abandonment. They may chase after a partner who is pulling away but then retreat when that partner becomes available. These people often avoid their emotions but become overwhelmed by them, which can lead to huge mood swings. Fearful Avoidant people feel the only way to meet their needs is to approach others. However, they fear getting too close will cause them to get hurt. Their adult relationships are often volatile and fluctuate between feeling trapped by their partner and feeling rejected by their partner.
Fearful-Avoidants face several obstacles when in a relationship. Although they are often perceived as cold, unloving, and detached from their emotions, their emotional distance stems from their own fear of not being loved. They tend to view their relationships as rather unsatisfying, and as much as they may want to, fearful avoidants are extremely reluctant to rely on their partner. In addition, should a conflict arise, people with this attachment style prefer to walk away, assuming that a quarrel will probably result in the dissolution of the relationship anyway.
I want to get emotionally close to my partner, but I worry about them hurting my feelings.
I want to feel close to my partner, but I also don't trust them to want to be close to me.
I can't live without my partner, even though being with them isn't working.
If you are an anxious-avoidant, you struggle with self-esteem, high anxiety in relationships, and strong fears of rejection; however, you also fear intimacy and closeness.
Avoidant Attachment Style
Avoidant attachment types are extremely independent, self-directed, and often uncomfortable with intimacy. They're commitment-phobes and experts at rationalizing their way out of any intimate situation. They regularly complain about feeling "crowded" or "suffocated" when people try to get close to them. They are often paranoid that others want to control or box them in.
People with dismissive avoidant attachments tend to distance themselves from their partner emotionally. They disconnect easily from loved ones and can separate from their feelings even during very emotional conversations. Their response to a partner threatening to leave them would be one of not caring. They seek out isolation from others.
In every relationship, they always have an exit strategy. Always. Avoidants often construct their lifestyle in such a way as to avoid commitment or too much intimate contact.
In surveys, avoidant types score uniquely high on self-confidence and uniquely low on emotional expressiveness and warmth. They not only reveal themselves far less to their partner and friends but also tend not to rely on others, even when they should. They score lower than other types as caregivers, meaning they're not to be relied upon when in a pickle.7
It's a sad fact that relationships tend to be controlled by those who care least. Therefore, avoidants tend to be in control of friendships and romantic relationships, as they are almost always willing to leave. This is opposed to anxious types, who let themselves be controlled in both.8
This guy—we'll call him Alex— works 80 hours a week and gets annoyed when women he dates want to see him more than once on the weekend. Or the girl who dates dozens of guys over the years but tells them all she doesn't want "anything serious" and inevitably ends up ditching them when she gets tired of them.
Men are more likely than women to be avoidant types, nine, but as always, there's plenty of neuroses to go around.
I prefer to keep to myself when I'm around my partner.
I don't talk to my partner about my feelings.
I don't give my partner the chance to let me down.
I don't want to be around my partner if I'm feeling upset.
I wouldn't care if my partner left me.
According to a 2018 studyTrusted Source, women score higher on anxiety, and men score higher on avoidance when it comes to relationships. But these gender differences are small and do not directly impact a person's attachment style.
Regardless of your primary relationships, you can change attachment styles.
"The most important takeaway is realizing that someone can change from an insecure attachment style and develop healthy and secure bonds in future relationships,"
Don't stop now! Check out our next article!
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