What is the most important thing to consider when determining if a relationship will be successful or not? Some of us will say things like astrological programming, love languages, career and goal similarities, emotional intelligence, physical attraction, sexual compatibility, or plain old chemistry.
Others would argue that the most important thing that impacts a relationship is one’s (and their partner’s) attachment style. Obviously, there are many things to factor in when assessing and determining the success of your relationship however knowing your own attachment style could give you more insight into how you think and behave in relationships as well as how you form attachments to other people.
What is Attachment Theory?
The Attachment Theory was first studied and developed by British psychologist, John Bowlby.
This theory suggests that our attachment style is developed by the way we were loved and cared for in childhood. Bowlby theorized that children develop attachment to caregivers regardless of the nature of the caregiving, be it sufficient or poor. He believed that the experiences and interactions of the infant/child with the caregiver heavily impacts our behaviors and development throughout life.
Simply put, we typically identify, recognize and respond to love (and relationships) through what we're most familiar with.
Perhaps, on a subconscious level we're attempting to repair or relive the relationships in our past. Others feel that this is due to our tendency as human beings to gravitate to things that are most familiar to us, we equate "familiar" with "comfort". In many cases "comfort" is simply "predictable".
It is important to note here that your attachment style can impact all relationships, so that is friendships, family and in some cases professional relationships.
Today we are looking at how our attachment style shows up in the love department.
What are the attachment styles?
There are four attachment styles - Anxious, Avoidant, Disorganized and Secure
Let's take a dive into each one and see what resonates with you.
Dismissive-Avoidant also referred to as “insecure avoidant” is typically developed in children when the primary caregivers are not responsive to or are even rejecting of their needs. Children learn to pull away emotionally to avoid feelings of rejection. At some point, they learned that they could only depend on themselves.
As adults, they become uncomfortable with emotional openness and may even deny to themselves their need for intimate relationships.
Other characteristics include:
Expressing comfort with NOT having close emotional relationships
May have fears of disappointing and hurting their partner.
May have a higher view of themselves than they do of others and feel that only they know what’s best for them
May avoid closeness and intimate relationships all together
Highly independent, self-reliant and values their autonomy thus can perceive generous acts from their partner as threatening AND may view their behavior as manipulative
May experience a sense of relief if the relationship ends
Can come across as guarded and defensive
Prone to “shut down” especially in conflict
Tendency to feel smothered in relationships
May appear emotionally unavailable
Struggles to communicate complex emotions and feelings
Usually NOT the first to say “I love you”
More prone to ghost in relationships
Anxious Preoccupied also referred to as “insecure ambivalent” is seen when primary caregivers provide inconsistent responses to the child. There are times when the caregivers can be quite loving, nurturing, attentive and caring. Other times the caregivers are detached emotionally, cold and rejecting towards the child. Naturally, children in this situation do not know what to expect.
Adults with this attachment style have a heightened need for connection thus can appear “clingy” in relationships.
Other characteristics include:
Experiences anxiety with any change, however small, in their partner’s behavior they typically think "Oh no! What did I do wrong?"
Feels validated in relationships thus feel they NEED to be in a relationship
May try to position themselves in their partner's life so that their partner needs them, thus making it harder for them to leave
Requires frequent validation and seeks their partner’s approval
Tendency to settle in relationships
Can become dependent on their partner
Struggles with self-esteem and may feel unworthy of their partner
Typically assumes the blame for problems in relationships and take on the responsibility of “fixing it”
May be drawn to people who aren’t emotionally available
Engages in people pleasing behavior
Fearful-Avoidant also referred to as “disorganized or anxious ambivalent” is believed to be developed in children who have prolonged exposure to abuse and neglect via primary caregivers. People with this attachment style (not to the dismissal of others) definitely have some trauma.
As children, we typically turn to our primary caregivers for love and support, when abuse or neglect is present, these same caregivers are also a source of hurt and pain. This type of instability creates a conflict in children who grow up to often have BOTH the fear of intimacy within their relationships but also fear not having close relationships in their lives. People with this attachment style often feel conflicted or have mixed feelings about relationships.
Other characteristics include:
Tendency to sabotage relationship
Behavior can be unpredictable in relationships and partners may describe feeling like they have to "walk on eggshells"
Will express, want, and recognize the importance of close intimate relationships but fears of being hurt or rejected contributes to behaviors that would suggests otherwise.
Overly cautious and preoccupied with protecting themselves
Slow to trust
May want to stay in the dating stage longer than others
May gravitate towards “situationships” which provides the close intimacy desire but absolves them of commitment- not to be confused with casual relationships or one-night stands because people with this attachment style want intimacy and closeness.
May “run” when the relationship gets more “serious”
Can appear “Hot and Cold”
May overgeneralize situations (one argument then the whole relationship is doomed)
May frequently threaten to leave or will leave the relationship then come back
Partners may describe them as “intense”
Secure – individuals with secure attachments generally grew up in a supportive and loving environment and had caregivers who were responsive to their needs. This in no way suggest that people with secure attachments had a “perfect childhood” or “perfect caregivers” because let's face it- there is no such thing as a perfect childhood or perfect caregivers. Simply put, those with secure attachments had enough consistent positive interaction to be comfortable feeling dependent on their partners and with their partners depending on them.
In relationships, those with secure attachments are comfortable giving and receiving love, showing up and being open about themselves, providing support and asking for help. They have a healthy relationship with emotional intimacy and are not preoccupied with rejection or emotional overwhelm.
People with secure attachments are not absent of their own insecurities and having a secure attachment style does not mean that they do not contribute to the negative discourse in a relationship. A secure attachment simply means that have a higher emotional intelligence and are more equipped to handle their insecurities, address concerns, communicate and honor boundaries.
Which attachment style resonated with you the most? Initially it can be disheartening to acknowledge the many ways our past experiences still contribute to our present reality. I find that information like this can better equip us to assume control over the many things we may not always understand about ourselves. So Wild Spirit, I hope you walk away feeling empowered! With this new knowledge you can begin learning about your own attachment style, begin the healing process of working through your traumas and ultimately, navigate your love life with a greater sense of confidence!
Talking with a licensed mental health professional is a wonderful way to discover your attachment style and further explore ways to improve your relationship with your partner.
I want you to vibe with me by clicking here to check out my "Attachment Stylezz" Playlist. To make it interesting try to identify which songs correspond with each attachment style.
What is your attachment style? How has it impacted your relationships? Let’s talk!
PEACE, LOVE & JUICE