Your attachment style is impacting your relationship
Are you struggling with relationship problems?
Are you finding it hard to explore intimacy?
Are you curious of what your partner is thinking?
Everyone is wired differently, which means the way we connect and bond also varies. You might have heard about love languages, but this is not what we are focusing on. While love languages may be a helpful framework to understand how we express love and care for one another, attachment theory by British psychoanalyst John Bowlby tells us more about “how every person is wired for love differently, with different habits, needs, and reactions to conflict” (Tatkin, 2012). Attachment theory really is attachment science, and is a psychological model that explains the different ways we connect and bond to one another.
When looking at attachment science, there are 4 main attachment styles that are often talked about. These different styles paint the picture of the ways we approach connection and bonding to one another. Generally, you'll often hear about Secure Attachment, Anxious Attachment, Avoidant Attachment or Disorganized Attachment. Let's dive into these a bit more and understand them separately:
People with secure attachment tend to feel safe and stable because they can set appropriate boundaries. They also are more satisfied in their close relationships, while they aren’t afraid of being alone, they usually thrive in close, meaningful relationships. This can seem like the ideal attachment, but it is important to remember that having a secure attachment style doesn’t mean you’re perfect or you don’t experience relationship problems. But you likely feel secure enough to take responsibility for your own mistakes and failings and are willing to seek help and support when you need it. Other characteristics a person with a secure attachment embodies are appreciating their self-worth, embracing their true self, being comfortable expressing their feelings, and they are resilient enough to bounce back when faced with disappointment or setbacks,
Anxious-Preoccupied attachment (also known as ambivalent attachment)
People with an anxious-preoccupied attachment tend to be overly needy and are often anxious and uncertain, lacking in self-esteem. However, they crave emotional intimacy but worry that others don’t want to be with them. Other characteristics a person with a dismissive-avoidant attachment embodies are; questioning whether their partner(s) really loves them, craving closeness and intimacy with their partner(s) but they struggle to feel that they can trust or fully rely on their partner(s), they find it difficult to observe boundaries and see space as a threat, and the relationship consumes their life and they become fixated on the other person.
People with an avoidant-dismissive insecure attachment style are the opposite of those who are anxious-preoccupied. They are cautious and wary of closeness they try to avoid emotional connection with others. In other words, they’d rather not rely on others, or have others rely on them because they find it difficult to tolerate emotional intimacy. Instead, they value independence and freedom. This affects relationships because a person an avoidant-dismissive insecure attachment style tends to withdraw the needier their partner(s) becomes. It is common for their partners to accuse them of being emotionally distant, closed off, and intolerant. Avoidant-dismissive attachments also make people more prone to keeping secrets, engaging in affairs, and minimizing their partner’s feelings.
Fearful-Avoidant Attachment (Also known as disorganized attachment)
People with a disorganized attachment have an intense fear when it comes to intimacy, and this is usually because of childhood trauma, neglect, or abuse. They may feel like they don’t deserve any love or closeness in a relationship and may find intimate relationships confusing. This may cause them to display emotional extremes toward their partner(s). If they have experienced abuse as a child, they may try to replicate the same abusive patterns which can lead to explosive behaviour. These individuals are also prone to show antisocial or negative behaviour patterns, abuse alcohol or drugs, or show signs of aggression or violence.
The Next Steps
It is important to recognize that your attachment style is not concrete, and according to research, it’s fluid. The best way you can change your style is by changing your relational culture. This takes effort and time from all parties involved. This means asking yourself to reflect about your relationship with love; it means having those hard conversations with your partner(s) and actively listening to them. This can also mean changing relational habits or being more mindful of the way you speak around your partner, etc.
Overall, as scary as these hard conversations can be, they pave transformational paths for couples, it encourages transparency and allows room for vulnerability which can improve the overall quality of your relationship(s). If you and/or your partner(s) need help, here at Relationship Matters Therapy Centre, we offer various types of therapy services. Whether it is individual, relational, or sex therapy, we strive to support you to get to where you want to be. If you've been curious about therapy, get in touch with us today!
When you understand how your attachment style shapes and influences your intimate relationships this can help you make sense of your own behaviour, how you perceive your partner(s), and how you respond to intimacy. Learning your attachment style can help you come up with a better working model for your romantic relationship(s) based around your personal needs and help you build stronger, healthier relationships.
Every person is wired for love differently which is why there are different attachment styles.
If you have a fearful-avoidant attachment style, this is not the end all, be all. Attachment styles are fluid and they can be changed if you want to.
If you do have a secure attachment this does not guarantee perfection in your relationship(s). At the end of the day, you are human, arguments and disagreements are normal and if not too frequent and overwhelming, they represent what a healthy relationship looks like. Balance is key in a relationship(s).
Take time with and/or without your partner(s) to understand your attachment style and how you love others.
When discussing attachment styles and changing up the relational culture in your relationship, practicing transparency and honesty ultimately benefits all parties involved.