Attachment theory in psychology can explain a lot about how we interact with others, why we’re attracted to certain kinds of people, why some of our relationships succeed or fail, and why similar problems crop up over and over in our relationships.
Depending on your attachment style, you may deal with and perceive intimacy differently; communicate, listen to, and understand emotions differently; respond to conflict differently, and have different expectations of your partner and relationships.
But, firstly, here are the different attachment styles you can have.
If you have a secure attachment style, you’re comfortable with intimacy, rejection, and will tend not to obsess over your close relationships. You find it easy to become close with others. You’re comfortable with depending on others and having others depend on you. You’re also not worried about abandonment or having someone get too close.
If you’re the avoidant attachment style, you tend to feel uncomfortable with getting close to others. You highly value independence and personal freedom, so depending on others can be something that’s hard for you to do. You may find it hard to trust others and would prefer not to depend on others and for others not to depend on you. In relationships, you often feel pressure to be more intimate than you’re comfortable being.
If you’re the anxious attachment style, you’re basically the opposite of the avoidant style. Where the avoidant will run from intimacy, you crave intimacy and being close with others. If you have an anxious attachment style, you tend to feel insecure about your relationships. You often worry that your partner will abandon you, or doesn’t love you. Because you want to be as intimate with others as possible, your approach may scare people away or make your partners feel uncomfortable.
If you are the anxious-avoidant attachment style, you may be a very conflicted individual. Even while you’re uncomfortable with intimacy, you also crave being close with others and will worry about being abandoned by those you love. You may find it hard to trust and depend on others because you may get hurt, but you also want to be emotionally close to them. These mixed feelings may have developed from past loss or emotional trauma during childhood and adolescence. You may tend to feel like you’re unworthy of mutually fulfilling relationships and may second-guess the intentions of the people who choose to be close to you.
How Your Attachment Style Affects Your Relationships
Now that you have a general idea of which attachment style you could have, here’s how your attachment style can impact your behavior in romantic relationships, and what you can do to build a healthier relationship.
If you have a secure attachment style, you tend to feel comfortable with displaying affection and being by yourself. You know how to deal with rejection and are not as scared of failure or rejection as those with other attachment styles. You are also better at choosing worthy partners because you are naturally interested in people who treat you well and in relationships that make you feel fulfilled and happy.
If you’re the secure type:
It may be easy for you to trust others, but make sure you’re not trusting people too much and too quickly. Also, just because you can tolerate a relationship doesn’t mean you should stay in it. Don’t feel bad for striving for a relationship that truly makes you happy. You don’t have to be responsible for someone else’s baggage.
A quarter of us are highly independent and are uncomfortable with becoming too close to others. If you’re avoidant, you may have “commitment issues,” and always seem “too busy” for a fully committed relationship. Whether you’re aware of it or not, you tend to feel more comfortable working late hours at the office than spending an intimate night with your partner.
If you’re the avoidant type:
Make a mental note of every time you start to pull away or block yourself off from becoming intimate with someone. Perhaps you said you weren’t ready to commit to a relationship but entered into one anyway. Maybe you’re constantly looking for any excuse to “prove” that your partner isn’t the one for you. You could be choosing partners that you know you don’t have a future with (i.e., starting a relationship with someone who’s not single, or someone who’s emotionally unavailable, etc.).
When you notice that you’re starting to distance yourself, remember that the discomfort is something you can control, and perhaps you should give it a chance before running from it on pure instinct. It may also be helpful to choose a partner with a secure attachment style and to start controlling your tendency to nitpick at your partner’s imperfections. Understand that no one will ever be perfect and start focusing more on what makes your partner wonderful.
If you have this attachment type, you may be a serial monogamist, and tend to need a lot of reassurance and attention from your partners. You may find it more uncomfortable being single compared to the other attachment types, and therefore more likely to enter into unhealthy relationships just to avoid being single. You may also have difficulty trusting your partners as your fear of abandonment can result in doubt about the intentions and faithfulness of your partner.
If you’re the anxious type:
Work on communicating your needs more effectively. Never be ashamed of what you need from your partner. Expressing your feelings and needs to your partner clearly and directly can be scary, but it’s crucial to establishing a stable dialogue between a couple and can reduce a lot of stress in the relationship when you know you’re both on the same page.
If you’re the anxious-avoidant attachment style, you may feel some degree of confusion and frustration due to wanting to be close to someone yet feeling uncomfortable with intimacy at the same time. So you may consider finding out who you can trust in a safe way by consciously choosing to reveal small parts of yourself and gauging how the other person reacts to being privy to that information. Don’t be afraid to confront others on things that matter to you, but stay open-minded to consider reasonable arguments so you don’t stunt your personal growth or limit the expansion of your worldview.
Poll: Your Partner’s Attachment Style
Poll: Your Attachment Style
If you don’t have a secure attachment style, don’t despair. It’s never too late to change your attachment style even though most are developed based on childhood relationships with our parents or caretakers.
If you know your attachment style, you can work towards forming a secure attachment by working on your self-esteem or practicing compassion and forming connections with others. The key for both the anxious and avoidant attachment styles is learning how to deal with fear.
You’re Not Stuck With Your Attachment Style
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2018 KV Lo