What is your attachment style and how does it effect your relationship?
Updated: Oct 12, 2021
In the early 1990s, Kim Bartholomew and Leonard M. Horowitz revealed a model of attachment styles for adults, a four-group model that is generally applied to personal relationships. Your attachment style probably found its foundations in your childhood, though it can change over time. We all may exhibit all four styles at one point or another. We are a mixture of these four. We can become more in one of these attachment styles depending on the partner and on our self-awareness.
Knowing your style can help you understand why you behave the way you do in relationships across the spectrum of your life.
Going through self-development can help us become more aware of others, and of our blindspots, that can lead us to become more secure.
What are the 4 attachment styles?
• Secure/ autonomous:
Childhood: Relatively secure/healthy. As a baby they got attended to lovingly according to his or her needs. It got a sense of security from a secure and stable environment. It’s caregivers were mentally and emotionally stable people and mature enough to prioritize the baby’s needs above their own where necessary. They baby learned early on that people are good and that they can generally be trusted.
Those who are secure tend to be able to express their emotions appropriately, give and receive intimacy, and draw boundaries. They’re solution-focused. Their outlook on relationships and connection is generally positive, and they’re okay whether or not they’re involved in a romantic relationship. Not that people with a secure attachment style aren’t without their faults and challenges, but this is the healthiest of the styles.
These individuals relate freely and normally to other people. They find relationships natural and for the most part enjoy healthy relationships with other people. They enjoy company but are also ok to be alone. Their general anxiety levels are low.
Traits: positive view of self and others, interdependent, comfortable with emotional intimacy, comfortable with closeness, healthy relationship bonds and boundaries, secure & trusting,
Inner talk: "She/he is there for me and calms me'"
Childhood: Trauma. Here the baby learned early on that he or she cannot completely trust the care giver. They did care and attend to the baby, but it fluctuated according to their own needs, whims and circumstances, so it did not come in a constant flow. Later on, these children probably learned to read their caregiver’s mood and state of mind from facial expression and posture. That mood assured them that they were loved and secure momentarily or it confirmed their fears that it is not the case.
These people feel more nervous about relationships, and they’re more likely to be needy or jealous. They don’t like being single and may even struggle when they’re not in a romantic relationship, but their dating histories tend to be rich with drama. They often go to a worst-case scenario when evaluating someone’s intentions or words. They need ongoing validation and expressions of acceptance.
As adults in relationships these individuals default towards being anxious and emotionally dependent. They feel the need to be close to their partner and reassured. They aren’t good with being alone and prefer not to be.
Traits: negative view of self, positive view of others, dependant, fear of losing the relationship, emotional highs and lows, can be aggressive, clingy on separation.
Inner talk: "She'll let me down. He will leave me."
Childhood: Trauma. Here the baby was neglected and learned to self-soothe. They got the message that others cannot be trusted or relied on.
Freedom-loving and self-sufficient, people who have a dismissive-avoidant style prefer to be single and are likely to avoid intimacy—they don’t want to be vulnerable. They put work and other activities before their romantic relationships. You might refer to them as having “commitment issues.”
Needless to say, as adults these people struggle with relationships. They tend to avoid closeness. They struggle to pick up on emotional clues (in stark contrast with the previous style who are oversensitive to other’s emotions) and their partners often experience them as distant.
Traits: positive view of self, negative view of others, independent/self-reliant, difficult to get close with others, puts up walls, leaves and avoids conflict
Inner talk: "I don't need her/him."
• Fearful-Avoidant/ disorganized attachment style:
Childhood: Trauma. This style could be seen as a combination of the previous two. Babies here probably got a mix between real good parenting at times and real bad parenting. They grow up confused as to when and who to trust. It could be the result of the same parent checking in and out of parenting or two parents with completely different (healthy and unhealthy) approaches. Sometimes childhood trauma can also affect a child who had consistent good parenting in this way, for instance, a child that has been sexually molested by a family friend.
These people may crave intimacy, but they’re afraid of getting too close to someone and ultimately losing them. They may have a hard time trusting people and tend to push others away. Those who have experienced abuse, abandonment, or grief may be more likely to adopt a fearful-avoidant attachment style.
They can tend to avoid intimacy and can be emotionally manipulative. They have a difficulty expressing positive emotions towards their partner, even though they do feel it. They tend to harbour frustration and anger and have a tough time managing it. They might be intermittently explosive.
Traits: negative view of self and others, seeks closeness & avoids closeness at the same time, fearful of making connections, could be self-harming or abusive.
Inner talk: "There is something wrong with me."
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