All of us are likely to have experienced relationship problems at some point in our adult lives. It’s not possible to always share the same values, beliefs and life long dreams with everyone we initially find attractive. But for many people, ongoing difficulties in relationships can leave them scratching their head in confusion as to why their love life didn’t work out… yet again.
For some it might have been falling too heavy, too fast. Or some being in love but not being able to commit. Some just can’t get close to others, others just get too close. Some want the physical, without the emotional. For others it all starts out so hot, but quite quickly growing so, so cold.
Exploring the attachment style of not only ourselves, but our significant others comes in handy when dysfunctional patterns are on unconscious repeat in our love life. Knowing it can help explain why we do what we do, even when we don’t even know we’re doing it.
Our attachment style influences how we react to our own needs and how we unconsciously try and get them met by others in our lives. It can affect everything from what kind of partners we choose, how we choose them, how we communicate, how close we get, how we argue, and also how our relationships ultimately end. This attachment style is established in our early childhood relationships, and continues to function as a blueprint for relationships in adulthood. If certain patterns played out in our interactions with our main caregivers, like mum and dad, we are going to seek that familiar pattern in our relationships with other adults, often to our own detriment.
There are four main attachment styles; secure, anxious, avoidant and disorganised. About 60 percent of people have a secure attachment style and are those adults who are likely to be more satisfied in their relationships. They are likely to have had parents of their own who allowed them to feel safe, secure and supported in childhood. This pattern plays out the same in their own adult relationships allowing them to feel intimately connected to their partners, but allow them also to be free and independent.
The other three attachment styles tend to be more dysfunctional, and are often a result of a caregiver (s) who were not responsive at times. A child growing up in an environment where they had either neglectful or inconsistent caregiving is likely to lead to an insecure attachment style.
Adults with an anxious attachment style often feel insecure, fearful and have trouble trusting others. They become clingy, demanding or behave in desperate measures to try and alleviate the strong fears of their partner leaving them. They have a need to feel safe and secure constantly, which can often drive a partner away. Unfortunately those who are anxious preoccupied are likely to have caregivers that were inconsistent in their availability.
The avoidant attachment style tends to play out in those who try have a tendency to emotionally distance themselves from those who want to get close to them, and often can come off as not caring and detached. They spend more time in their own head, than connecting with others. But when you think about it, is a protective mechanism that was likely established when they were young, when a caregiver did not meet their needs. The child would have learned very early to meet their own needs rather than expect it from others.
Those with a disorganised attachment style often live in a state of confusion, not knowing what they want. They know what might feel good to them, but not sure how to get it from someone else. Because they are afraid, they are often in a state of overwhelm which can lead them to be in relationships that end up quite dramatic, with big highs and low. Often their blueprint in childhood is one of chaos or abuse; those who are supposed to have loved me the most, are also the ones that hurt me those most. So the confusion as an adult is quite understandable.
Self-awareness of our own attachment style comes in handy as we start making conscious what ordinarily would be unconscious. Often what plays out in a relationship is a result of two walking childhoods, and once that can be talked about, we can make sense of our personal situations, and get a deeper understanding of each others actions that we would have likely personalised before.
With a little work, the blueprint that we thought was laid out in stone during childhood can be changed to be not only a little healthier, but can set us on a pathway to a happier relationship with us being able to meet our own needs and communicating these to those we love.
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