by Allie Quade
Attachment Styles: a Key to Understanding Your Relationships
Attachment is a buzz word you may have heard before, perhaps in Psych 101 class or mentioned in parenting books. But did you know that discovering what your and your partner’s attachment styles are can unlock the key to a greater understanding of your needs and theirs?
Attachment Style Basics
For the most part, we form our attachment styles starting as babies through our early experiences with how our primary caregivers respond to our needs (such as crying to be fed or soothed). When a caregiver is attuned to the needs of the baby, the baby feels safe and secure with that person. They learn their needs can and will be met when they signal for it. This creates Secure Attachment.
However, if the caregiver is frequently emotionally or physically unavailable, or is inconsistent in their level of attunement to those needs, or there is abuse/neglect occurring, the child will learn to adapt in several ways in order to cope with the inconsistencies of the caregiver. These coping strategies form different attachment styles rather than Secure: Avoidant, Anxious and Disorganized. As adults we tend to carry these attachment styles with us in our romantic relationships, and they show up in the way we view our emotional needs.
The following descriptions will give a brief summary of the way these Attachment Styles tend to present in people. You may resonate with some of these as you read.
Secure Attachment Style
- High ability to convey and express emotions appropriately.
- Have healthy boundaries with others.
- Have many close relationships.
- Feel generally secure while single or in a relationship.
- Have a positive outlook on their relationships and social interactions.
- Are overall resilient in the face of loss or change.
Avoidant Attachment Style
- Very self-sufficient, and independent.
- Do not like to ask others for support.
- Struggle to identify and express their emotions, especially during an argument.
- Shut down when confronted and tend to isolate after an argument.
- May have commitment issues due to viewing intimacy as vulnerable and risky.
- Have very few close relationships.
- Can be passive-aggressive during conflict.
Anxious Attachment Style
- Are very attuned to the needs of others.
- Sometimes place others’ needs before their own needs.
- Strong fear of abandonment.
- Insecure about relationships and sometimes friendships.
- Can become clingy, overly sensitive, and possessive at times.
- Need validation of their feelings and reassurance by their partner.
- Struggle with being single and alone in general.
Disorganized Attachment Style
- Have often experienced trauma, abuse and/or neglect at an early age.
- Desire closeness yet push others away simultaneously.
- Attachment to others is fused with fear.
- Fear of both intimacy and abandonment.
- Struggle to recall feelings related to past attachments, become confused, disconnected and disoriented.
You may resonate with several statements in one or more of these categories; people are often a combination of two primary attachment styles. Not to make it too confusing, but we can also have different attachment styles with different people, i.e. Secure with mom, Avoidant with a partner.
Understanding the Real Needs in Your Relationship
When we learn what our attachment style is and what our partner’s is, then not only do we understand why we react to situations in habitual ways, but we can have a better understanding of the lens our partner views the relationship in, and what they are communicating to us on an unspoken level. Viewing relationships from this framework allows us to be able to attune to the needs of our partner, and be able to work together toward a more secure and strong relationship.
If you want to better understand your attachment style and create healthier relationships, schedule with our counselors by clicking below!
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” -Rumi
If you want to learn more about discovering your attachment style, you can take the free quiz found on our resources page, or check out the book Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller.