As you sit back and reflect on your early connections in life, what do you remember?
Did you have a safe and loving bond with your caregiver(s)? Were you independent and knew how to solve big problems by yourself? Maybe you were nervous, unsure if your caregiver would be able to give you the support and comfort you needed.
Depending on what your experience was, you have developed a secure or insecure attachment style. Attachment theory focuses on the relationships a person has throughout their lifetime. Our first relationship is the one we have with our caregiver as infants. This connection serves as the blueprint for love, safety, and care. Likewise, lack of a secure and emotionally supportive connection can result in avoidance or nervousness around our caregiver. As we continue to grow into adults, the things that we see and experience within our environments become the norm. Naturally, we replicate them in our own relationships (friendships included)!
What are the four attachment styles?
Secure: You are comfortable with intimacy, closeness, and know who you are. Your caregiver was present, made you feel safe, and showed you how to manage big feelings. Naturally, you replicate this in all your relationships!
Anxious: Sometimes our caregivers were available to meet our needs and support us. During times when they weren’t available, we learned to be aware of possible dangers/ threats to keep ourselves safe. This can make us apprehensive in our relationships as we’re unsure we can count on others.
Avoidant: Our caregivers were likely unavailable to us for multiple reasons. We learned our feelings were not important to others and turned them “off” to be able to survive. This makes being in close relationships difficult for us.
Disorganized: The world was a very scary place when we were growing up. Our caregivers were likely the source of a lot of our fears, and we had no safety blanket. Because of this, relationships are incredibly confusing to us. We carry traits from both anxious and avoidant attachments.
While there are four attachment styles, it is possible to have different attachments with different people. You may be securely attached to your best friend and have avoidant attachment to your parents. The type of attachment you have with another person will largely depend on the quality of the relationship you have with them.
Within our romantic relationships, this becomes especially important as our attachment system wants to know that we can count on our partner. That they are a safe base, and we are not alone as the relationship continues to develop. This comes with time, practice, and the ability to have vulnerable dialogues.
Likewise, our attachment styles can change throughout our lives. Surrounding yourself with loving, supportive people can lead to secure attachments with your partner, friends, and anyone in your support system.
So, what if we are having difficulty being open with our partner? Does your connection feel disrupted or distant?
Attending couples therapy can help you learn ways to have healthier communication, reminding you both that your love and bond remains strong. Ultimately leading to secure attachment.
While this may be unfamiliar or scary to some, it is something worth striving for. Like most things regarding our mental health, healing is not linear! It requires us to put in the work, be able to sit with our losses, and celebrate our wins.
When thinking about our romantic relationships, it’s important to remember that our childhood connections have shaped our understanding and acceptance of emotional intimacy. The ways in which we are present (or not) for our partners is linked to your attachment style. As you continue to grow with your partner, I would encourage you to ask: What attachment style do I have? What is my partner’s attachment style?
Knowing this bit of information can serve as a guide towards better communication and a healthier relationship!
If you’d like to learn more about attachment styles, the book “Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help YouFind – and Keep – Love” written by Dr. Amir Levine and Rachel Heller, MA is a great resource to further exploration and education.
Let’s start to build secure connections!