Have you ever wondered why you are attracting, or, are attracted to particular people? Or, why past lovers have not been as compatible with you as you first thought?
Love requires choice, commitment, and work, together with an intuitive understanding of ourselves as well as our partners. A key aspect which contributes to the success or failure of a relationship is being aware of and understanding our attachment styles, as well as that of our partners.
We all have our own unique way in which we bond emotionally with people. The way in which this connection takes place plays a central role in forming and maintaining healthy relationships and is known as an attachment style.
According to Neuropsychologist, Dr. Judy Howe, an expert in attachment styles, the theory is that each style is based on the attachment and type of relationship we formed with our primary caregivers as infants. The status of attachment and relationship from infancy determines how we function as adults, in our careers, in love, with friends, and in every other aspect of life. It’s been found that unhealthy attachments to, and relationships with our primary caregivers result in huge hurdles for us as adults.
The thing is, as grown-ups most of us aren’t aware of this and continue to become entangled in our primary attachment style through relationships. The choices we make leaves us feeling misunderstood or lacking in judge of character as we continue choosing people who aren’t compatible with us.
Now that you know this, take a moment and think back on past decisions…. Do you see why you made certain choices? Do you see a pattern of why you are attracted to certain people? Whether friend or lover. Think about your career choices…. Does it make more sense to you now?
Attachment styles and the origin of it affects so many areas of our lives and we need to become aware of it sooner rather than later. Having an understanding of your attachment style which was formed as a baby with your primary caregiver is fundamental, as this is your master template against which you build relationships with everyone. In addition, the relationship between infant and caregiver is literally the most important at the time as it forms the basis of all relationships as we grow into adults.
It’s true that we are able to jump from one style of attachment to another depending on where we find ourselves. For instance, we may have a secure attachment style at work but when it comes to intimacy, it suddenly shifts gear. Needless to say, that in an intimate environment your primary attachment style will always surface as this is where you are most vulnerable.
Due to more tarnished attachment styles, many of us are too afraid to interact with others in life which causes us to hold ourselves back in careers, relationships, and friendships and ultimately, we never reach our full potential.
This is why it’s so important to identify our attachment styles. When we know why we behave in a certain manner it enables us to adjust unwanted behaviours or negative beliefs regarding relationships. Our decisions will be influenced positively as we become aware of why we do the things we do.
It’s important for us to know that we cannot be held responsible for the template adopted as infants, but we are responsible for being aware of our attachment style and if it needs to be tweaked to take ownership.
Below are the 4 primary styles:
- Secure Attachment: These humans have a great advantage in love. They feel comfortable to communicate with their partner when something feels off, as they believe they are safe, and in return, they are able to create a safe space for their partner to share their feelings. When 2 people who hold this template come together, they tend to have an open, honest, and equal relationship where both partners are able to thrive and grow at a healthy pace. They understand how to merge to form a stable foundation from which they can operate. It may sound too good to be true, but security is not to be confused with perfection. People with a secure attachment style also experience challenging and conflicted days. What sets them apart is a high emotional intelligence that allows them to communicate their feelings effectively. In addition, their ability to problem-solve, rather than shift blame, and attack their partners contributes to a successful union. These individuals are highly resilient and comprehend how to move past obstacles with great care and self-awareness. They are very flexible in relationships and approach each relationship individually for what it is.
- Anxious Pre-Occupied Attachment: These are dreamers who choose to romanticize love. They find it easier to form a fantasy bond with someone instead of something based on reality. This adopted style often sees the person attracted to partners who need to be “saved” or, partners who are able to “save” them. Personality traits such as being demanding, obsessive, and clingy will surface in a relationship with someone who holds anxious pre-occupied attachments. Confusion sets in for them as they are unable to distinguish between passion and turbulence. They tend to overanalyze situations and have mood swings. Anxious pre-occupied attachments occur in people who were raised without healthy boundaries, as well as little to no guidance on nurturing their individuality which often leads to insecurities and low self-esteem.
- Dismissive-Avoidant Attachment: People with a dismissive-avoidant attachment style tend to be emotionally distant in a relationship. They come across as being self-sufficient, independent, and can avoid true intimacy. They tend to escape situations where people want to express strong emotions as it makes them uncomfortable. Although personal space is important in a relationship so that partners are able to breathe and remain true to themselves, people with a dismissive-avoidant style seek it more frequently and withdraw themselves from being vulnerable with their partner. If at any point their partner threatens to leave them, they have the ability to shut their emotions down and pretend that they don’t care. This extreme independence is an illusion because humans need a connection to survive. As a result, people with a dismissive-avoidant attachment style have very few close relationships with others.
- Fearful Avoidant Attachment: This style of attachment is a delicate mix between fear of being too close to another or too distant. They are often overwhelmed by their own emotions and can be unpredictable. They are well aware that they have to approach others to find love but when someone gets too close, they often hurt them. They are fearful of being abandoned but cannot find the confidence to rely fully on their partner. They deal with inner conflict between wanting intimacy and resisting it, and as a result, usually experience frequent highs and lows in relationships. When they feel rejected, they cling to their partners and if not cautious may end up in abusive relationships. Similar to the avoidant-dismissive attachment style, these individuals have very few close relationships with people.
Although this information seems daunting and like our fate is sealed, it’s important to realize that we aren’t trapped in one attachment style for life, it’s something that can change as we evolve as partners, friends, and employees. The important part is being aware of our attachment styles so that we are able to work on choosing and reacting in ways that will secure lasting relationships.
Let’s start with these 4 steps to learn more about our own styles:
Step 1: Identify your past relationship patterns: Think about your relationship with your parents as a child. Did you feel comforted and secure? Were your parents reliable or did they neglect you?
Step 2: Work on your self-esteem: Low self-esteem is prevalent across all insecure attachment styles. Learn to love, embrace, value, and care for yourself.
Step 3: Get in touch with your real needs: We tend to form an insecure attachment style because of deep-seated fears that the relationship will fail. Therefore, it’s important to feel secure in a relationship. We have to know what our needs and desires are in relationships. Learn to be assertive, set boundaries, honour what you feel, and express your needs in words.
Step 4: Don’t be afraid to seek therapy or counseling: Therapy can be beneficial for both individuals and couples. Professionals are able to guide us to identifying past emotional pain, inner child wounds and take us through the process of healing. In addition, they are able to assist in establishing healthy boundaries and promoting healthy relationships.
Acceptance of our master template as far as attachment style goes followed by taking the steps to alter it is life-changing and powerful. It’s up to us to change destructive patterns and build healthy lasting relationships.
If you need assistance with low self-esteem, childhood hurts or how to create healthy boundaries, please feel free to contact me.
Debbie Hartmann, Life, Relationship and Teen Coach @My Kinda Life Coaching.