Have you ever wondered where recurring patterns come from in your life?
- Maybe the next relationship looks just like the last ones?
- Maybe you’re having trouble with keeping a job?
- Maybe from time to time you react aggressively to difficulties?
- Maybe you have that deep feeling that your loved ones are going to leave you?
- Maybe you feel like you always have to count on yourself?
- Maybe you are defending your independence and freedom, which prevents you from building close relations?
- Maybe the fear of the future eclipses the beauty of the present?
It’s not difficult to realize that our relations in adult life have their beginning in our childhood. Although many of us associate our family homes with warmth and love, it may be the case that we have unhelpful behavioural strategies stemming from childhood. Styles of attachment tell us more about it.
Why do some relationships end while others don’t? Learn 3 styles of attachment!
The attachment theory is based on the research of John Bowlby and his colleagues, who observed the relationships between little monkeys and their mothers. Similar studies involving babies and their moms have led to numerous conclusions that can be drawn by observing early relationships between children and their parents. An important conclusion was the observation that children develop properly when the mother/parents constitute a safe base. So, by their behaviour, they communicate the following message: “go into the world, explore it, experience it, and if you hit yourself, if you are sad or scared, you can come back to us and we will support you in what you are experiencing”. In this way, a secure style of attachment is created, which in adulthood helps us shape safe partner relations.
Secure attachment style
A person with this attachment style uses this narrative:
- I want to be close to you and have passions at the same time.
- If I disagree with something, I should express my opinion.
- I support my partner in his passions. When he’s gone, I will organize my own time, e.g., by meeting with friends.
- I am not afraid of commitment and dependence, because I know that closeness is important and wonderful.
- Both mine and his/her needs are important.
- Compromise is important in a relationship.
- I do not play “games” and assume that my partner has good intentions.
However, when the base was not fully safe in childhood, we could have developed an avoidant or anxious style. What are they?
Avoidant attachment style
You can talk about the avoidant style if the following statements are part of your narrative:
- I have always been able to do this on my own and I’m able to do it now.
- For me, the most important things are freedom and independence, I won’t let anyone trap me.
- I feel that I need a lot of “me” time.
- I need to think about what’s going on in our relationship, and then I plan to tell my partner.
- Sometimes I find it hard to show support for a loved one.
- I don’t like to talk about myself and share my experiences.
- Sometimes I feel annoyed with my partner and I don’t know why.
- Sometimes I glorify my ex.
- I hate it when someone tries to control me or invade my territory.
- I often hear that I send contradictory signals, that sometimes I am characterized by tenderness and sometimes by coldness.
Anxious attachment style
You can talk about the anxious style if the following statements are part of your narrative:
- My biggest fear is that my loved one is going to “leave”…
- I am afraid that if someone “gets to know me”, they would not want to love me and be with me.
- I feel like I love my partner more than he/she loves me.
- I think about us all the time, but it sucks the energy out of me.
- When I start a new relationship, I think it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me!
- I feel like a barometer for my partner’s feelings. I’m picking up his/her mood swings at once. I often hope I’m the reason he’s/she’s not feeling well.
- Sometimes I want to date someone else so he’ll/she’ll really appreciate me!
- Everything my partner says and does I take very personally.
You might be interested to know that about 25% of the population experiences a change in the attachment style in their lifetime, both from unsafe to secure and vice versa. Working on inviting a a secure attachment style to your life is the main theme of many meetings. Remember: “What Johny doesn’t learn, John doesn’t know… unless he learns in adult life”.
Working on a secure style of attachment involves:
- Working on your own needs and on communicating them.
- Exercising attentive listening and sensitivity.
- Ways of ensuring mutual support in a relationship.
- Creating space to support mutual interests.
- Learning to “be available”.
- Work on communicating needs by the partner.
- Building closeness and acceptance.
- Strengthening the sense of the self-esteem.
Even if you identify an unsafe style of attachment in yourself, don’t lose hope! Now that you know, you can work on it. In other words, your style of attachment makes you have specific needs. If you develop assertive communication of your needs, while understanding and meeting your partner’s needs, you have a chance to have a successful and valuable relationship. If thinking about it is too much for you, remember that “some thoughts are so difficult that you have to think them in two heads”.