Our attachment style is one characteristic that might draw us to specific partners, or, in some cases, make it hard for us to maintain long-term, fulfilling relationships. This is why getting to know our attachment patterns can explain our behavior and needs and can give us the power to feel in control in our romantic relationships. The attachment is created in our early years of life and continues to guide us through the relationships we have in adulthood, so it’s our duty as adults to step and rethink our emotional patterns that might not be beneficial in the long run.
Attachment is mostly about the way we need our emotional needs to be met. The person who is preponderantly securely attached will have a stable way of relating to a loved one, willing to meet both their own and their partner’s needs. On the other hand, when it comes to the anxious or avoidant attachment pattern, the person might need more attention than the secure one, or, in the case of the avoidant one, more space.
Getting to know our attachment style helps us know why we need what we need on an emotional level. Most of the people with an avoidant attachment end up having a relationship with an anxiously attached person, and that’s where miscommunication starts. The anxiously attached will be in need of confirmations and more affection than a securely attached one, while the avoidant ones will withdraw whenever feeling like there is too much needed from their side.
So let’s see what are the main attachment styles:
Secure Attachment – People with a secure attachment have received a secure love and care in their early life. Their parents weren’t suffocating nor unresponsive to their needs, but they provided the right amount of attention and care, reason why they feel independent and confident to explore the world on their own. A person with a secure attachment has satisfying relationships that promote both partner’s freedom, being open to communicating their feelings and happy to resolve any conflict that comes on the way. They are responsive when their partner is asking for help, and confidently reach out to their partner asking for comfort when feeling distressed.
Anxious-Preoccupied Attachment – People with an anxious attachment were neglected by their caregiver during infancy, and the adults were not able to emotionally regulate them properly. The love received back then had a pattern of give-and-take, so they never had a secure base to be confident enough to go explore the world on their own. When in an emotional relationship, they often need an emotional hunger looks like a never-ending need for reassurance. Even though this need feels like an action that needs to be taken in order to feel that the ground is safe and they can become independent, they might look insecure or desperate, which leads to receiving the opposite – pushing away their partner. The gap comes from unhealthy patterns of thinking such as the idea that they don’t deserve love or no one is ever going to accept them the way they are, reason why they unconsciously sabotage the relationship with their insecurities, in a self-fulfilling prophecy that validates their distortions related to love (e.g. you shouldn’t trust anyone, everyone will disappoint you, you have to be cautious so you don’t get hurt”).
Dismissive-Avoidant Attachment – Having one or both parents unavailable, people in this category are uncomfortable with closeness and primarily value independence and freedom to an extend that they might convince themselves they don’t need anyone by their side. They learned to play the role of the parent, so they feel self-sufficient and feel as if it’s dangerous to rely on someone, since they might leave at any time. They usually withdraw emotionally easily and find it hard to get too emotionally close to someone. They often have emotionally unavailable partners and tend to run away when feeling there’s too much intimacy being asked from their side. When meeting an anxious partner, they will feel as running away as fast as they can since the anxious one will over-try to solve and discuss problems, thing that will make them feel vulnerable and trapped.
Fearful-Avoidant Attachment – A person with a fearful avoidant attachment lives in an ambivalent state, afraid of being both too close to or too distant from others. They often feel stuck as they struggle with the fear of abandonment when the partner is cold, and a fear of commitment when the partner is too close. This might make them feel powerless, as they try to satisfy the need from intimacy, but one they do and feel they are getting close to someone, they feel like running away as soon as possible. This is one of the most difficult attachment styles as the person needs both intimacy and space, and cannot enjoy any of them without feeling a sense of impending doom.
So now that we might identify with one attachment style or see the predominant one for us, it’s important to know we don’t have to be stuck in this behavior forever. Everyone can work on having an “earned secure attachment”, which means learning how to become more secure and to work with your inner child who sometimes shows up and takes control of your behaviors.
Sometimes we just have to take the inner child by the hand and soothe him the way our parents never did. We have to thank him for the care it shows trying to avoid getting us hurt again, while letting let him know we are now adults and we have more control of our own behaviors and feelings. The voice of the inner child might be so terrifying sometimes since during childhood the lack of love and care from one parent was an essential condition to survival. This, of course, doesn’t apply in our adulthood if we don’t receive romantic love from a partner, but can feel as terrifying as it felt back then when we had no control over the situation. However, now we are more in charge of our external and internal conditions, and without looking for someone who can fix us, we can choose partners that can understand where we come from and be by our side while we heal ourselves.
All we need to know during this journey is that we are not wrong or faulty, but we received or lacked a love we had no control of. With self-love and self-compassion, we can find healthier ways to express our needs and interpret our emotions. More, in the next article.