Our attachment style is something we carry with us throughout our upbringing and into our adult romantic relationships. Attachment is defined as the strong, intimate, and emotional bond typically formed between an infant and its caregiver in the early years of life. Attachment affects everything from selecting your partner, to how you behave in relationships, to how you leave them. According to Mary Ainsworth and other recent researchers, there are four attachment style categories we can fall into: secure, anxious, avoidant, and disorganized. Every person’s attachment style is established during their early years of development and influences their needs and desires in romantic relationships. While the majority of people fall in the securely attached category, those who do not can become secure over time by learning healthy relationship patterns. This is why it is so important to identify and understand your attachment style. It will only help you better understand your strengths and vulnerabilities in your relationships and promote growth. Below is a description of each form of attachment and how they are projected in romantic relationships.
Mary Ainsworth described those who were securely attached during infancy as having caregivers who were dependable, reliable, and who were a safe base for the child to explore the world. Based on this theory, securely attached adults then go on to experience romantic relationships in a similar manner. These individuals are usually confident, self-aware, and able to meet their own needs as well as the needs of others. They are able to securely and intimately connect to their romantic partner while maintaining a sense of autonomy in their relationships.
Those who develop an anxious attachment style commonly exhibit “clingy” behaviors in their romantic relationships. When anxiously attached adults feel unsafe in their relationship, they will cling to their partner by becoming jealous, insecure, possessive, or demanding. Their tendency to seek reassurance, validation, and safety from their romantic partners often leads to them pushing away their significant others in the process. Many times the anxiously attached will interpret the increased distance as validation that their partner doesn’t love them or can’t be trusted.
The individuals who fall into the avoidant category tend to emotionally distance themselves from their romantic partner. They will likely focus inward, isolate themselves, and shut down when it comes to conflict, emotion, or confrontation. Being vulnerable is difficult for everybody, but for those who have an avoidant attachment style, being vulnerable is extremely difficult. They are emotionally defended and can “turn off” their feelings in order to avoid a reaction.
Those who are in the disorganized category tend to live in a constant state of ambivalence. They are afraid of becoming too close or too distant from their romantic partner causing their relationships to be very chaotic, dramatic, and unhealthy. The disorganized attached individual tends to have inconsistent moods and often have fears of being alone or abandoned. They may cling when they feel they are going to lose their partner, but become distant or feel trapped when they sense their partner is getting too close. While this form of attachment is the least common, it can lead to a lot of intense, emotional, and negative relationship experiences.
If you are interested in identifying and exploring your attachment style and would like some guidance, it may be useful to connect with a therapist. Contact Symmetry Counseling at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment with one of our very skilled therapists today.