Attachment styles and how you might be sabotaging in relationships

If you find dating and relationships baffling and can’t understand why it’s so hard to find (and keep) love, discovering your attachment style may be the missing piece of the puzzle

If you’ve ever felt suffocated by someone you’ve just started dating, felt desperate for affection from your lover, or like you and your partner fight about every little thing, your different attachment styles could be the reason your relationships and love life isn’t all sunshine and roses.

One way to explain the differences in how we relate while dating is our own particular psychological “attachment style”, which dictates how you give and receive love in a relationship.

Your attachment style is the unique way in which you form bonds with others.

Your attachment style doesn’t explain everything about your relationships, but it can help shed light on why your relationships have worked out in the way they did, why you’re attracted to certain people and not others, and the relationship problems that come up again and again.

This way of looking at how people form relationships is known as Attachment Theory, which was pioneered by psychoanalyst John Bowlby and later expanded upon by developmental psychologist Mary Ainsworth. 

The theory explores how the quality of the experiences you had connecting with your parents as an infant impact the way you form relationships as an adult.

What Are The 4 Attachment Styles?

There are four main attachment styles that define the way people react to the world around them.

  • Secure attachment style

  • Ambivalent attachment style

  • Avoidant attachment style

  • Disorganized attachment style

As you look through the 4 attachment styles below, think of them more on a spectrum.

Think of it like this: 

You can be mostly secure and still have some anxious or avoidant tendencies.

You can be mostly anxious and still have some areas where you feel very secure.

Plus, your attachment style is absolutely influenced and affected by your choice in partners. For example, if you date someone who isn’t willing to comfort you when we’re distressed, you may naturally feel more anxious and clingy. Whereas if you’re in a relationship with someone who comes to you for all of their emotional needs, you may feel more avoidant.

The key thing about attachment is bringing awareness to how you’ve related to people in the past, and what that may mean for your dating life going forward – including how you might change your behaviour so that you can have deeply connected relationships that feel great!

Secure Attachment

If you’re securely attached, you are generally : 

  • Confident and self-possessed

  • Able to easily interact with others, meeting both your own and another’s needs.  

  • Independent and autonomous

  • Resilient in the face of adversity

  • Able to manage impulses and feelings

  • Positive and hopeful about self, family, and society

  • Empathetic, compassionate, and conscientious

Avoidant Attachment

If you have an avoidant attachment, you may: 

  • Be extremely independent and self-directed

  • Be uncomfortable with intimacy

  • Have a hard time committing

  • Complain about feeling “crowded” or “suffocated” when people try to get close to you 

  • Often have an exit strategy

  • Construct your lifestyle in a way to avoid commitment or too much intimate contact (e.g. working a lot)

Anxious Attachment

If you have an anxious attachment, you may: 

  • Be more nervous and stressed about your relationships

  • Need a lot of reassurance and affection from your partner

  • Have trouble being alone or single

  • Succumb to unhealthy or abusive relationships

  • Have trouble trusting people, even if you’re close to them

  • Be irrational, sporadic, and very emotional

  • Complain that everyone of the opposite sex are cold and heartless

Disorganised Attachment

If you have a disorganised attachment, you may:

  • Have many of the qualities of both anxious and avoidant attachment

  • Be uncomfortable with intimacy

  • Worry a lot about your partner’s commitment and love

  • Find it difficult to trust and depend on people 

  • Find yourself in unhealthy or abusive relationships

How The Anxious/Avoidant Trap Could Be Sabotaging Your Relationship Success

The anxious-avoidant attachment is extremely common, yet makes for a terrible relationship because, at the core, the two have opposing approaches to intimacy. The anxious needs intimacy and the avoidant needs to keep independence.

Here’s how it might play out:

  1. The anxious and avoidant are strongly attracted to each other (probably before they’ve gotten to know each other properly)

  2. They quickly fall for each other and feel intense passion 

  3. The anxious moves towards intimacy

  4. The avoidant moves away from intimacy to regain their space

  5. The anxious feels that, in order to get their needs met, they need to be with their partner all the time and get reassurance

  6. The avoidant feels threatened and so becomes even more distant (because their attachment style is that the way to get your needs met is to act like you don’t have any) 

  7. The anxious starts arguments to get the attention they are lacking

  8. The avoidant avoids finding a solution because that would mean closeness

  9. Eventually they reconcile and briefly enjoy closeness

  10. But the closeness scares the avoidant so they pull away and the whole cycle begins again!

In a sense, the anxious and avoidant set themselves up by finding partners that confirm what they already believe about attaching to others. If we grew up with an insecure attachment pattern, we may seek to duplicate similar patterns of relating as adults, even when these patterns hurt us and are not in our own self-interest.

As seemingly passionate as these bonds can be, the advice from attachment specialists is for both anxious and avoidants to seek partnerships with secure people. 

Easier said than done? Yes, it takes a little effort to discover your own attachment style (and that of the person you’re dating! I recommend Diane Poole Heller’s quiz which you can find here.) but it’s so worth it to create the long lasting intimacy and deep connection you so crave.

If you’ve found yourself in the Anxious/Avoidant Trap, or want to stop sabotaging good relationships when they come along, book your free 30 minutes coaching session with me here. A secure and deeply connected relationship IS possible for you, and I’m here to help you find (and keep) it. 

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