RELATIONSHIP ISSUES AND ATTACHMENT STYLES

First thing first, what are attachment styles?


Attachment styles are patterns developed early in life and eventually affect the way we find, keep, and end relationships.

Styles of attachment are mainly based on the way we bond (or don't bond) with our primary caregivers, usually parents, and play a role in:

  • how people perceive and deal with closeness and emotional intimacy;

  • the ability to communicate emotions and needs and listen to (and understand) the emotions and needs of others;

  • the ways of responding to conflict;

  • the expectations about a partner and the relationship.

Let’s have a close look at the 4 attachment styles:


1. SECURE ATTACHMENT


People with a secure attachment style generally feel confident in their relationship and their partner. They feel connected to their loved ones and comfortable with having independence and letting their partner have independence while openly expressing love. They reach out for support when they need it and offer support when their partner is distressed.


This type of attachment style starts early in life, when a child feels that their parent is a secure base, so that even though they’re happy to be with Mom or Dad, they also feel confident enough to explore the world on their own. Kids grow up this way when their parents themselves are securely attached people, and when they use an authoritative parenting style, meaning they are involved and firm, but also warm and allow independence.


2. DISMISSIVE-AVOIDANT


People who have the dismissive-avoidant attachment style find it uncomfortable to get too emotionally close to others or to fully trust them. They tend to be very emotionally independent and may seem actively trying to avoid closeness. They seem to pride themselves on not needing emotional intimacy. When they're rejected or hurt, they tend to shut down, withdraw and pull away.


The avoidant-dismissive attachment style is associated with having had negligent/absent parents and generally having experienced rejection. A number of negative experiences may reinforce this attachment style, such as being rejected by peers when very young, or a first serious girlfriend/boyfriend brutally ending the relationship.



3. ANXIOUS-PREOCCUPIED ATTACHMENT


People with an anxious-preoccupied attachment style tend to crave emotional intimacy, even when their partner is not yet ready. They often experience loneliness in their romantic relationships (feeling misunderstood, unheard and unseen). They long for approval, responsiveness, and reassurance. Often, people with anxious attachment style may feel dependent on others for approval or doubt their self-worth.


The development of an anxious-preoccupied attachment style is often associated with an inconsistent parenting pattern. Sometimes, the parents will be supportive and responsive to the child’s needs. At other times, they will be misattuned to the child.

This inconsistency and mixed-messaging may make it difficult for the child to understand what the parents’ behaviour means and what kind of response to expect in the future, triggering anxiety.



4. DISORGANISED ATTACHMENT


People with this attachment style appear extremely inconsistent to others in their behaviour and certainly have a hard time trusting others. Adults with a disorganised attachment style fear intimacy and avoid proximity, and yet they need approval or validation. At the same time, they’re more easily jealous and tend to perceive greater threat from possible romantic rivals.


People who have experienced loss or trauma are more likely to have this attachment style. They want to love and be loved. While on the other hand, they are afraid to let anyone in. They have a strong fear that people who are close will hurt them. A disorganised attachment style generally develops when the child’s caregivers (the only source of safety) become a source of fear.


WHO DOESN’T LOVE QUIZZES?

There are quizzes you can take to help you figuring out what style of attachment you tend to have, this one is one of our favs.



ATTACHMENT STYLES CAN CHANGE!


Sometimes, the change happens by itself. Being in a relationship with a securely attached individual could facilitate this change and lead to a shift in perception and to new habits and patterns.

Other times, you might need to work harder on your attachment style.


WE CAN HELP

  • If you are struggling with your partner and/or loved ones

  • If you find it hard navigating your romantic relationships

  • If your dates seem ending always the same way or you notice the same issues or same repetitive patterns

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One key to healing an insecure attachment style is to make sense of the way you interact with your loved ones, especially with your partner or former partners. Our therapist has an attachment-informed approach and can help with:

  1. Identifying your behavioural patterns in relationships - being mindful of them will make the issue easier to solve.

  2. Exploring and making sense of your childhood experiences.

  3. Realising that past experiences do not have to affect or predict the present and the future.

  4. Supporting you in your self-discovery journey to break free from established behavioural patterns and habits.

Summary:


There are 4 styles of attachment

  • Secure: trusting, independent but close, and able to express affection in confident ways with their partners.

  • Dismissive-avoidant: distant, uncomfortable with emotional intimacy, and tend to pull away from close others if they feel hurt or rejected.

  • Anxious-preoccupied: needing reassurance from their partners, seeking closeness and intimacy more intensely and often more quickly than their partner is ready.

  • Disorganised (Fearful-avoidant): a combination of avoidant and anxious, often confused and giving mixed signals of pushing away and craving connection.


You cannot change your past, but you can change the present. Either way, if you want to change your attachment style, you need to put in effort. Whether you are working through it with a close friend, a therapist, or a book, consistency and effort are the key to succeed!

Sources and Resources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2741157/

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/0165025024400015

https://www.attachmentproject.com

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/which-of-these-four-attachment-styles-is-yours/