Attachment Patterns: Understanding What Happens In Our Relationships


From the moment we take our first breath at birth and are placed on our mother's chest the foundation of our attachment style is set and from there it continues to develop and creates a lens of how we view and relate to ourselves, others and the world around us. 

Our attachment style is formed in earliest moments of our existence, but it holds power over the rest of our lives, especially when it comes to how we function in our closest intimate relationships. 

You can read more about childhood attachment styles and how they develop by clicking here. 

Research has shown that attachment styles tend to remain consistent throughout the life span and it is important to be aware of and understanding how you, your partner and the relationships are being impacted by differences in attachment style. Especially if you are having conflict in your relationship and are stuck in a negative pattern that you can't seem to break. 

Your attachment styles can be part of the reason that you keep getting stuck in destructive cycles with your significant other.  By understanding the attachment dynamic and making a conscious effort you may be able to save your relationship. 

Secure Attachment: Individuals who developed a secure attachment style in childhood are able to develop nurturing and fulfilling relationships as adults. Securely attached individuals are able to tolerate high levels intimacy and closeness while still being able to set boundaries and communicate their needs assertively. Relationships with secure partners are rewarding, stable and consistent. They are reliable and are willing to stick by you when the waters get rough. 

Anxious Attachment: Adults who developed an anxious attachment style tend to have relationships that feel like an emotional rollercoaster. They long for connection but do not ever feel secure in the relationship. Often they engage in provocative behaviors such as threatening to leave, trying to make the other partner jealous or constantly calling/texting. The purpose of these behaviors is to calm their intense fear of abandonment that developed in early childhood. As children, they did not know if their caregiver would be or would not be available emotionally or physically. Because of this, they developed a hypersensitivity to any form of rejection from others. In romantic relationships, this can become triggered when they feel like the partner is unable to be 100% available to them. 

Avoidant Attachment: Avoidant people grew up with a caregiver that was completely unavailable to them. They learned, "there's no point to cry or ask for love. No one is there for me anyway. I must protect myself." Avoidants are hard to spot- because, despite their independent nature, they long for emotional connection. Often times the pursue partners aggressively and are very romantic at the beginning of the relationship, but quickly begin to disengage and distance themselves when they feel that they are becoming "too close" or connected. Avoidant adults have a hard time tolerating intimacy, conflict and emotional connection. They often "shut down" or push away their partners and are dismissive of emotional needs. 

Ironically, avoidant and anxious individuals seem to commonly find themselves in relationships with each other. These relationships are usually extremely exciting at the beginning when the avoidant partner is pursuit mode.

However, they quickly can become toxic when the chase is over and the anxious becomes dependent on emotional validation from the avoidant, causing them to retreat and disengage and triggering the anxious partner to act out their fear of abandonment. 

For anxious adults, it is possible to find comfort in a partner that has a secure attachment style. Secure individuals are able to provide the warmth and closeness that will help ease the fear of abandonment. However, for the avoidant being in a relationship with a secure partner can still be difficult, because they will have expectations for intimacy but also not put up with all the avoidance and lack of intimacy that an anxious will. 

If you identify with any of these attachment styles or want to take a deeper look into your own relationships, it may be of benefit to seek help from a professional. Avoidant adults especially can benefit from taking the risk to look at their fear of connection- therapy provides a safe place to do that without pressure or too many expectations. 

It is possible to heal and to work towards a more secure attachment style. However, this requires a conscious effort, commitment, therapy and practicing new habits in your everyday life.