Have you ever tried to make sense of your intimate relationships and felt stuck in trying to recognize what influences the way you or your partner behaves? In an era when people seem more attached to their smartphones than one another there has never been a better time to understand how our intimate relationships, or lack thereof of, shape and define our lives.
Attachment refers to the particular way you relate to other people and influences so much of what happens in our close relationships. Each one of us has our own unique attachment style that profoundly influences how we behave in relationships. Attachment styles develop in childhood and are carried with us into adulthood. They affect everything from partner selection, to how well a relationship progresses, and how they can end. They even affect the type of parent you become, should you decide to have children.
The 4 Attachment Styles (and what they mean for you)…
Securely attached adults tend to be more satisfied in their relationships. They typically enjoy intimate relationships, seek out social support for comfort, and have an ability to share their feelings with friends and partners. They will feel comfortable going to a loved one when they feel vulnerable or hurt and are eager to reciprocate when the tables are turned. Their relationships tend to be honest, open and equal, with both partners feeling their own sense of autonomy while being loving toward each other.
Securely attached children have instilled in them a sense of trust and safety in regards to relationships. They experience their parent or caregiver as a secure base from which they can venture out and independently explore the world. Securely attached adults experience a similar relationship with their romantic partner, feeling secure and connected, while allowing themselves and their partner to move about the world freely.
Insecure Anxious Attachment
Adults with an insecure anxious attachment are typically preoccupied and obsessed with their relationships. They are constantly worried about their love life, they crave and desperately need intimacy, but they never stop questioning their partner’s love (“Do they really love me?”). They usually have a hard time taking a relationship slow and may demonstrate a high demand for attention and validation. They may want their partner to spend the night with them every night because they hate sleeping alone or they may have an intense desire to stay in constant communication via text message or phone to help manage their anxiety. If their partner is unable to fulfill these needs the anxious individual typically becomes clingy, demanding, or possessive toward their partner, which will often push their partner away, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Insecure Avoidant Attachment
Insecure avoidant adults tend to have trouble with intimacy and are more likely to leave relationships, particularly if they are going well. They may not return calls and resist talking about their feelings. They do not like it when people get close, and they don’t like being dependent on a partner or having someone be dependent on them. They are usually self sufficient and independent in nature. They are more apt to put their time into their careers, hobbies, and activities, rather than their relationships. They are less likely to fall in love and need a lot less affection and intimacy. Avoidant individuals are not just uncomfortable with intimacy—they actually fear it.
Insecure Disorganized Attachment
Finally, insecure disorganized children and adults display both anxious and dismissing tendencies in an illogical and erratic manner. Such individuals experience mixed emotions, seeking both closeness and distance in their relationships. This behavior is usually the result of situations where a childhood caregiver was threatening or abusive. Imagine the person who terrifies you the most is also the person you rely on for comfort and safety—that is the dilemma of the insecure disorganized child.
If you aren’t sure what your style is, take this quiz.
Don’t Like Your Style? Here’s How to Alter It…
We blame our parents! Just kidding. While our parents and caregivers directly influence the way we attach, it is a waste of time to focus on blame. All this really does is distract you from your own healing. It’s okay and normal to experience anger or resentment toward your parents but the truth is, once we become adults it becomes our sole responsibility to take care of our self and heal our past wounds.
One is by getting into a long-term relationship with someone who is securely attached. The second is by making sense of your past through the process of writing a coherent narrative. This helps you understand how your childhood experiences are still affecting you in your life today. When you create a coherent narrative, you actually rewire your brain to cultivate more security within yourself and your relationships. The third way to change your attachment style is by entering into therapy. Since our attachment ability is broken in relationship, it is best healed in relationship. Therapy helps because you ideally feel both safe and seen, and this is what creates secure attachment. In addition, therapy can help a person identify the filter through which they see the world and challenge the critical inner voices and defenses they formed to deal with emotional pain in their earliest relationships.
Want to learn more about attachment? Try one of these…
Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller
A solid book to start with.
Wired for Dating by Stan Tatkin
Great for those on the dating scene.
Wired for Love by Stan Tatkin
Great for those who are married or in long-term relationships.
Parenting from the Inside Out by Dr. Dan Siegel
Great for parents.