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10 Things to Know About Attachment Styles in Relationships

Are You Ready to Learn About Attachment Styles?

If you also feel that relationships are a battlefield at times, you’re not wrong. We’re going to start by stating that. But today, we’re going to detangle why. I present to you the concept of the attachment bond, which is the emotional connection we form as infants with our primary caregiver. In most cases, it’s our mother.

According to the attachment theory, discovered by British psychiatrist John Bowlby and American psychologist Mary Ainsworth, the quality of the bond you create during the first relationship oftentimes establishes just how well you relate to other people and respond to intimacy. If you’re interested to read more about it, you need to try this book.

If you’ve felt safe and understood as an infant, if they showed up for you when you cried and accurately interpreted your ever-changing physical and emotional needs, then you probably developed a secure attachment.

This, in adult life, would translate into confidence and a trusting and healthy individual. However, if you experienced confusing, frightening, or even inconsistent emotional communication throughout your infancy, you probably experienced an insecure attachment.

Here’s another interesting thing: the infant’s brain is so profoundly and deeply influenced by the attachment bond that it will affect the adult throughout his life. If you present puzzling and self-destructive behavior in close relationships or repeatedly make the same mistakes over and over again, you will find this article helpful. You might understand yourself a little bit better, and that’s the first step to change.

man loves wife attachment style
Photo by fizkes from Shutterstock

Attachment styles and how they shape adult relationships

Attachment styles or types are generally characterized by the behavior shown within a relationship, especially if the relationship is threatened. For instance, someone with a secure attachment style might have the capacity to share their feelings openly and seek support when faced with relationship issues.

Those with insecure attachment styles, however, could tend to become needy or clingy in their closest relationships or even behave in a selfish and manipulative way when they feel vulnerable. Some simply shy away from intimacy altogether.

Understanding what your attachment style is and how it shapes your intimate relationships will help you understand your behavior better. It will also help you perceive your partner and how you respond to intimacy.

Identifying such patterns could help you clarify what you need in a relationship and what’s the best way to overcome problems. Even if attachment styles are generally shaped by the infant-primary caregiver connection, especially in the first year, it’s still important to note that the strength of the attachment is not entirely based on the level of parental love.

In fact, attachment builds on the nonverbal emotional communication developed between the caregiver and the infant.

Different attachment styles

Beyond categorizing attachment as either secure or insecure, there are three main subsets of insecure attachment, which might give us the four attachment styles:

  • secure attachment
  • anxious-preoccupied attachment
  • avoidant-dismissive attachment
  • disorganized attachment

Secure attachment: what it looks like

The secure attachment is capable of setting appropriate boundaries. They tend to feel safe, stable, and overall more satisfied in their close relationships. They don’t fear being on their own, and they thrive in close and meaningful relationships.

How secure attachment builds adult relationships

A secure attachment style doesn’t necessarily mean you’re perfect or don’t experience relationship issues. However, you are secure enough to take responsibility for your own mistakes and failings, and you’re also willing to seek the needed help and support when needed.

It also means you appreciate your own self-worth and aren’t afraid to be yourself in an intimate relationship. You also find satisfaction in being with others and openly seek support and comfort from your loved ones.

You’re also happy for your partner to rely on you when needed, and you’re able to keep your emotional balance and seek healthy ways to manage conflict in your close relationships. When you’re faced with disappointment or misfortune, you’re resilient enough to bounce back.

Anxious-preoccupied attachment style

People with an anxious attachment style tend to be overly needy. Just as the labels suggest, people with this kind of attachment style are often anxious and uncertain because they lack self-esteem. They desire emotional intimacy, but they worry that others don’t want to be with them.

divorce attachment style
Photo by PeopleImages.com – Yuri A from Shutterstock

How an anxious attachment style affects adult relationships

If you have an anxious-preoccupied attachment style, you could be embarrassed about being too clingy or that you have a constant need for love and affection. Or, you could feel worn down by fear and anxiety about whether your partner truly loves you.

You want to share your life with someone and crave feelings of closeness and intimacy with a special other, but you also struggle to feel that you can fully rely on them. Being in a close relationship takes over your life, and you might become overly fixated on the other person.

You could also find it difficult to notice boundaries and view the space in between you as a threat rather than a necessity. It’s something that provokes panic, anger, or even fear that your partner no longer desires you.

Avoidant-dismissive attachment style

Adults with an avoidant-dismissive, insecure attachment style are exactly the opposite of those who are ambivalent or anxious-preoccupied. Not only don’t they crave intimacy like anxious ones, but they’re incredibly wary of closeness. They try to avoid emotional connections altogether. They would rather never rely on others or have others rely on them.

How an avoidant attachment style affects adult relationships

If you have an avoidant-dismissive attachment style, you find it difficult to integrate emotional intimacy into your life. You deeply value your independence and freedom, up to the point where you could feel uncomfortable or even stifled by intimacy and closeness in a romantic relationship.

You are an independent person, more than happy to take care of yourself, and you don’t feel you need anyone else. The more someone tries to connect with you, the more you tend to withdraw. You’re deeply uncomfortable with your emotions, and partners oftentimes accuse you of being distant and closed-off, rigid, or even intolerant.

You also accuse them of being too needy. You minimize or even disregard your partner’s feelings, keep a ton of secrets from them, and even engage in affairs or relationships just to regain your sense of freedom.

Disorganized attachment style

Disorganized attachment, also known as a fearful-avoidant attachment, stems from deep fear, often as a result of childhood trauma, neglect, or even abuse. Adults with this kind of insecure attachment feel they don’t deserve love or closeness in their relationships.

How disorganized attachment style affects adult relationships

If you have a disorganized attachment style, you’ve probably never learned to self-soothe your emotions. Both your relationships and the world around you might feel frightened and unsafe. If you experienced a lot of abuse as a child, you could try to replicate the same abusive patterns as an adult.

If this resonates with you, you might find intimate relationships deeply confusing and unsettling, often swinging between emotional extremes of love and fate for a partner. You could even be insensitive towards your partner, selfish, controlling, and untrusting, which could also lead to explosive and abusive behavior.

In most cases, you’re just as hard on yourself as you are on others. You might even withdraw from social activities, exhibit antisocial and negative behavior patterns, or abuse drugs and alcohol. If you want to learn more about your attachment style, we deeply recommend you read this book.

Now that you’ve reached the end of this article and you still want to learn more about relationships, we invite you to read this: 9 Most Common Causes People Get a Divorce

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