Attachment Styles within Relationships

You might notice that at times, in particular with your partner, you just don't seem to connect well. Arguments that started out of nowhere, leave you feeling like you're spinning. When you're noticing a rupture after an argument, the way you try to reconnect or repair it and the way your friend or partner might try to do so, causes more miscommunication than you before you made this attempt. So disheartening! This is most likely a product of your early childhood experiences...of what happened to you. 

Whether you are aware or not, the way you were cared for and connected with your early childhood caregiver(s) likely influences your current relationships. It could affect your intimate relationship, the way you connect with your kids even. You might be discouraged as you read about the anxious, avoidant, disorganized attachment styles, or alternatively you might feel "seen". As you read through these, you might resonate with some of the information and this can be grounding. What's important to know is that you can change your attachment style. It takes work but it can be done - therapy can be helpful in this, as can sharing some of how you're feeling with those close to you. Taking a posture of curiosity, rather than self-criticism or judgment is compassionate and kind! Individuals can be more open-hearted and open-minded when stepping into curiosity.

You may have an anxious attachment style, if you have a seemingly unending need to be close to your partner. You notice that you reach out frequently. You want to text or call your partner when you haven't seen them for awhile. You might notice this also, when you've argued and one of you has walked away from the situation. You want to pull them in closer, talk it out and when they don't reciprocate in the same way, that's very hard! You may reach out more or pull harder to draw them in. You notice that their opinion is very important to you and you catch yourself thinking more (highly) of them, than you. Maybe your partner compliments you most days on what you're wearing, or they make a point to say good-bye before leaving for work. When this happens, you soar! It feels so good and in those moments you feel secure in your relationship. Individuals with an anxious attachment style, might deeply worry about the relationship when your partner unintentionally forgets to do this one day. Your mind spins and you cannot stop thinking about it.

You may have an avoidant attachment style if you have this sense of needing to be alone often. When you argue with your loved one, you want to push them away rather than draw them in close. You likely think you are right and your opinion of yourself is the most important...their's is minimally influential to you. You want space and time when there's been a rupture and you do not want to talk about it with them. Alternatively, you might notice yourself making peace with them, simply to avoid having to address the issue at hand. This feels in-control, yet it is also isolating. If you have an avoidant attachment style, you might find it really hard to let your guard down and allow your partner or other loved ones in. Again, this feels safe but there's a sense of aloneness you might also experience.

A small portion of the population lives in tension between these two...they experience a disorganized attachment style. This causes noted challenge. As with the previously mentioned attachment styles, it is so helpful to be curious about this. Begin to notice how you connect, how you respond to ruptures and what happens in you (emotionally, mentally and physically) when you are disconnected. If you noticed this experience of both needing to be pulled in close with your partner, coupled with pushing them away you might have a disorganized attachment style. You might also notice you struggle to stay emotionally regulated. This could be partly because you both want a deep (intimate) connection and you fear abandonment. This may have to do with some feelings of low self-worth...again, likely because of what happened to you withing your early childhood relationships. 

The final attachment style, not mentioned above - and one that approximately 50% of the population experiences, is a secure attachment style. Here, you are able to advocate for what you need and do not need. When you are unsettled, you experience a rupture or argument in your relationship, you can remain emotionally regulated. You are able to either calmly decide with your partner that you both need a break, or you can stay in the argument and come to a peaceful compromise or agreement. You feel safe to share your emotions and your self-worth is neither wholly stemming from your self-belief, nor that of your partner. 

If you are struggling to identify which attachment style you most resonate with, or you can recognize your attachment style within what's shared above, but you wonder "what now", there's lot of great material out there. One informative book is Attached (Dr Amir Levine & Rachel S.F. Heller). This resource can help you better understand your attachment style and how to navigate struggles. You might better understand how to experience your relationship and what a healthy relationship feels like. You might feel seen, understood and equipped for whatever your next step is within your relationship!

Ashleigh Keizer
#106 - 9770 196a St, Langley, V2Y 2X5

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