Here's why learning about attachment styles could be a turning point in your dating and relationship successAug 30, 2021
Can we all agree that relationships, love or just pure lust can be amazing but also suck at the same time?
Sometimes they feel amazing and bring joy and magic into our lives. And other times they cause stress, pain, confusion and quite frankly make you want to poke your eyes out!!
But either way, the fact is this...
Relationships are an essential part of living a happy, fulfilled and healthy life.
And unless you’re intent on living in a hermit's cave till you die, relationships are not going anywhere. And even if you opted to be a hermit you’re still in a relationship with yourself!
So relationships are here to stay.
This is why it's important to learn how to navigate them the best way possible.
And the best way to do this is to understand yourself and how you behave in relationships as much as possible. To understand the relationship patterns you have.
Which of these do you identify with:
- Are you always insecure?
- Do you feel anxious all the time?
- Find yourself flying off the handle a lot?
- Do you find yourself stuck repeating the same shit?
- What do you notice about your thought patterns?
- What do you avoid?
- What do you seek out?
- Do you flee or cling when the going gets tough?
Knowing and owning your patterns is powerful. Being unaware of yourself in relationships is often what results in the breakdown.
It becomes a toxic container where neither party is happy. But neither knows what to do about it so you exist hoping that one day things might change.
Which is where I come in.
My intention is to share what I’ve learnt/am still learning about relationships.
To share my personal experiences. What I’ve learnt from my professional courses and from the clients I’ve worked with.
I’m not a therapist.
I'm simply a woman who didn’t understand anything about healthy relationships (romantic or otherwise) who has started to figure stuff out in her 40’s. And now having managed to find a healthy relationship I want to help you on your journey to find love. (if you want to know more about my love story go here)
And today we’re exploring attachment styles.
And this is such a HUGEEE and important topic.
Because my friend relationships end up being VERY difficult when we have different attachment styles from the people we love.
I think of it as playing a game monopoly with someone who has completely different rules than you. It might start out ok.
But after a while, it descends into chaos and before long one of you chucks the board in the air and storms off!!
It's a big topic so I’m breaking it down into parts. So this my friend is part one and is simply an intro to the attachment styles.
So grab a cuppa, get comfy and let’s dive in.
Let’s have some straight talk about what attachment styles are
WTF is an attachment style?
My introduction to attachment styles came from the book aptly titled attached. It's based on the attachment theory work of John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth.
According to the attachment theory, we each have our own preferred “attachment style.” And this dictates how we emotionally bond and connect to another human. And how therefore how we behave in relationships.
Where and when do attachment styles come from?
If you’re an old hand in the personal development/self-help world this answer will be of no shock.
If you’re new then it may come as a surprise.
Ready for it...
The answer is C.H.I.L.D.H.O.O.D
Yep, these attachment styles are often (but not all) the result of our childhood experiences.
More specifically, they are a result of how our caregivers related to us when we were young. And what we learnt about independence, dependence, receiving and giving love/support/affection.
Now an important reminder is this…
That doing the work on ourselves. Examining the root of our problems is not about pointing fingers and blaming our parents/caregivers for what they did or didn’t do.
They were parenting to the best of their ability based on their own emotional and mental health. And the parenting, they received in their own childhood.
The inner healing work is about empowering ourselves to move forward. Blaming will keep you stuck. Finding compassion & forgiveness will help you move forward.
Something else to know is that we don’t only develop attachment styles from our caregivers.
Experiences such as:
- Being an immigrant
- Losing a parent
- Being a person of colour living in a white-centric community are examples of a few of their other origins.
We can actually have one attachment style as a kid. But then through experiences, another can emerge so context is also important.
"A person can have had a secure attachment during childhood, however, betrayals and infidelity in adulthood can lead to an insecure attachment," says Mancao.
So now we’ve covered the WTF and where they came from. It’s time to dive into the different types.
The 4 types of attachment styles
Before we dive in I want to clarify a few things:
1. It’s 100% possible to be a combination of all 4 styles. We’re fluid beings so nothing is ever set in stone.
2. You can heal and become the attachment style that’s the most “desirable.” (spoiler alert: Secure) But you know even the securely attached person will likely have moments of not being so secure. IT’S CALLED BEING A HUMAN.
3. There is no need to feel any shame around the style (s) you identify with the most. It does NOT mean there is anything wrong with you.
They are things that just are. The point of understanding more is to ensure you’re not sabotaging the relationships you’re in. And to empower you to change the trajectory of your future love and relationships.
Sneak peek: In the follow-up articles on attachment styles I will also cover:
- 4 of the biggest misconceptions about attachment theory.
- I will break down in more detail each style
- Share the things you can do to change your attachment style and help your relationships.
Ok without further ado!
The 4 attachment styles
1. Secure attachment
Pretty much what it says on the tin!
The person with more of a secure attachment style is more naturally able to form secure, loving relationships with others.
A securely attached person finds it easier to trust others, love and accept love.
They are comfortable with full intimacy and they tend to be more resilient with loss. AKA they are less likely to be up at 3 am after a break-up stalking their ex on socials.
And overall they find it easier to attract and enjoy long-term, stable relationships.
Now looking back over my life I can say this...
I definitely scared off many a secure man with my high-level insecurities. And at times downright crazy behaviour!
2. Anxious attachment
This is a very painful existence. Because you’re wired with a fear of abandonment, rejection or inadequacy. In relationships, this can look like needing constant reassurance and validation.
In all previous relationships, this was me. And here's what it looked like...
I would suppress all my needs & do everything to please the other person.
Because I didn’t trust that I was enough for them. So I had to find some way to try and earn my place. And pleasing was a familiar way for me to create a feeling of control.
I would give up my independence & become clingy. Because that awful anxious feeling of thinking that the person was going to leave me was so strong.
If they went out for a night my mind would torture me with stories about all the awful things he was doing. And if he didn’t text me back immediately I would go into a state of panic.
Now my programmed reaction when I’m scared or angry was always to withdraw and give the silent treatment. And maybe yours is the same or perhaps it's shouting, screaming or accusing.
These programmed responses are simply a protection mechanism from an old wound. But they can be very detrimental to any relationship if you don’t understand what’s happening and learn how to manage your response differently.
So can you see how important getting to know thyself is and how it could be the key to unlocking the amazing relationship you want?
It’s completely transformed my love life that’s for sure!
Something else that can happen with the anxious attachment is they can be relationship hoppers.
They will hop from relationship to relationship because being independent feels very uncomfortable. They need constant reassurance from another to feel they are still a valuable human.
The anxious attachment can be a great connector.
Which definitely has many positives.
But also IMO this could be because they thrive on reassurance.
And I identified this layer in my pattern.
I would have so many “friends”. All of whom I felt were better than me,(another anxious attachment tendency)
But I only toe dipped with them.
Dipping my toe in just enough to get reassurance and approval but avoiding being too vulnerable with them. (yep you got it fear of intimacy)
This brings us to the next style.
3. The Avoidant attachment
Oh hello, the majority of the men I’ve ever dated!
The avoiders tend to be uncomfortable with intimacy. They prefer to be independent and self-reliant and the fear of losing this is very real.
This could show up as only wanting to date casually. Being very vague about plans. Avoid conversations about anything deep and meaningful relating to the relationship.
They tend to have very little interest in learning anything about you.
They can come across as being emotionally closed off. Difficult to get to know and afraid of commitment.
They're often not deeply invested in relationships. And so when a relationship ends, they're able to get over it without too much time spent dwelling on the loss.
I have so many stories to share.
Because I was the woman who would attract this guy and always ignore all the red flags. And when it ended the guy would have moved on in minutes and 6 months later I was still obsessing & feeling sick about it.
I will share more stories in future articles. Because I think stories can often help us identify things we might otherwise be in denial about.
Now as I mentioned you can be a combination of all of the attachment styles. Reflecting back I can definitely see when I’ve been operating more like the avoidant.
And you know how I drove secure men away?
In some cases, I also pushed them away.
Because “Mr nice” as I would refer to them wanted to know too much about me. He wanted to be fully intimate and I wasn't comfortable with that.
I was convinced he would find something out that would make him leave. And honestly, having someone show up & match his words and actions felt so unfamiliar & uncomfortable it freaked me out.
And this freak out did result in sometimes cutting the guy off cold. No explanation, nothing. Now I’m not proud of this but I do forgive myself because I know it was coming from a wounded place.
Can you see crazy this stuff is and how much it could be impacting your relationship success??
And that brings us to the final style...
4. The fearful-avoidant
So this wasn’t in my original reading. In fact, I wasn’t actually aware of it until more recently.
And out of all the styles, this is the least common. And actually, in some cases the one that may have the biggest need for professional help.
So I was ecstatic when this came out as my attachment style on the test I took !!!
So who is the fearful-avoidant? ( also known as the disorganised)
- This is the person who might come across as being hot and cold.
- Loving but distrusting.
- Emotionally available but afraid to commit.
So yes quite the swaying existence and I can relate.
The Fearful Avoidant is often warm and charming when you meet them.
They can be great at making you feel you’ve known them for years.
But then up comes a wall.
They will pull away and become disconnected when they feel triggered or overly vulnerable. It’s also not uncommon for the Fearful Avoidant to have strong fluctuations in their emotional state.
When I first found attachment styles I struggled a bit. Because I identified strongly with aspects of both the anxious and the avoidant.
But as I’m of the opinion that context always matters and we can always be more than one thing. I made peace that I was a bit of both.
But when I found this style I have gotta say I identified strongly with it this one.
In the upcoming articles, I will share more of how this shows up for me. And how having this knowledge is helping me navigate my relationship in a healthy way.
But for today, I want to end with an important reminder about personal development labels
When we’re doing the personal development work and looking at concepts they often come with labels.
But I want you to remember that the "inner work", "personal growth work", "healing work".However, you like to frame it, is about helping us to have more awareness, let go of baggage and understand ourselves better.
It's NOT about attaching labels to ourselves left right and centre.
So please don’t get too attached to labels. Use the information to evolve not to shackle you down to the idea that you can't change.
Thank you for reading. Here's to you and more successful relationships
Feel free to email any questions here @[email protected]
What to expect from future articles in this series
- Misconceptions of attachment styles.
- How to manage your attachment style in dating & relationships
- How to heal and shift your attachment style.
Here is one of the millions of attachment tests you can take to gain insight into yours
Pin this baby for later xx