Ever feel like you’re constantly hitting “repeat” when it comes to your love life? Whether you’re single, serial dating or unfulfilled in a longterm commitment, chances are you’re unconsciously recreating relationship patterns you first established while you were still in diapers. Psychologists have been telling us for years that our attachment styles affect every aspect of our relationships, from how we select our partners to how it all ultimately ends. But before you shoot off an angry text to your parents or former caregivers, blaming them for your relationship woes, it is possible to grasp a better understanding of your attachment style – and dilute some of the more negative aspects.
So, what exactly is attachment theory?
Attachment theory was introduced by pioneering British psychoanalyst John Bowlby back in the late-1950s and spoke to the notion that a kid’s sense of security with their primary caregiver ultimately plays a pivotal role in relationships as an adult. While there can be a wealth of variations as to which category one can fall under (avoidant-dismissive, for example that often leads to breaking up and making up), it’s generally accepted by psychologists today that there are four main definitions.
Breaking it down: Anxious Attachment, Avoidant Attachment, Secure Attachment
Those who fall into this category – roughly 20 per cent of the world’s population, according to research – require a lot of TLC. They need near constant attention and their actions are frequently driven by a crippling fear and anxiety that they’re not good enough or worthy of love. In the midst of striving for perfection, they compare themselves to others and fear their partners will cheat. Those designated as Anxious usually have messy, complicated friendships and relationships that are often mired in feelings of betrayal and neglect.
Try this: When you’re ready, find a therapist who specializes in the field of attachment therapy or read up on your attachment pattern to better understand your style.
Another 20 per cent of the world’s population falls into this category. Unlike the Anxious cases, however, Avoidants will cut themselves off from any relationship where love might grow. Fearful of showing who they truly are, they will shutter their emotions and resist every temptation to fall truly, madly, deeply in love with another person. To distract from their uncertainties, Avoidants will keep busy with a variety of mundane tasks. The fear of abandonment and rejection is real.
Try this: Seek out partners with Secure Attachment styles and, in time, you might be able to overcome those insecure impulses and find love that lasts like these celebrity couples who stand the test of time.
Those who fall under this category often crave love while deliberately trying to push a partner away due to anxiety. Try as you might to act happy and grateful for your romance, the reality is you find it difficult to fully indulge your relationship. At the end of the day, a Fearful-Avoidant often has incredible difficulty regulating their emotions and trusting their partner. Although not as common as the three previous categorizations, it's no less an emotional rollercoaster.
Try this: Avoid disclosing too much of your trauma to your partner all at once. Opening up too quickly may result in intense anxiety.
According to research, about 60 per cent of the globe have a Secure Attachment style. In most cases, their romantic relationships are characterized by love, trust and intimacy. They typically seek out partners who are healthy and not easily discouraged. In addition, secure adults are far more likely to both seek and provide support from their partners and less likely to find themselves involved with a narcissist. Where the Secures might fall a little short is in their inability to understand the mindset of an Anxious or Avoidant person.
Try this: Although you are secure in your intimate relationships, try reaching out to an Anxious or Avoidant connections to offer help, if needed.
Because attachment styles can change, some folks achieve the secure attachment status later and are able to make their second marriages last.
Reading Rec: Attached: The Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find—and Keep—Love
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Find Your Attachment Style
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