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The Effects of Attachment Style in Your Romantic Relationships

Every person has their own attachment style. What is your attachment style and how does it affect your relationship with friends, family, and romantic partners? Attachment theory discusses the different types of attachment styles and here’s everything you need to know about it.



dad and daughter sitting near a body of water



Understanding Attachment Theory


Attachment theory is focused on the general relation and association between people, especially long-term relationships including parent-child and romantic relationships. Attachment has stages that start from birth and continue through adulthood.


The founder of Attachment Theory, Psychologist John Bowlby described attachment as “lasting psychological connectedness between human beings”. He became interested in understanding behavior of children upon working as a psychiatrist in a Child Guidance Clinic in London. He treated emotionally disturbed children; which led him to attachment theory. He wanted to better apprehend separation anxiety and distress experienced by kids separated from their parents or guardians.


Attachment Theory then sprouted studies about stages of attachment and attachment styles; how the parent-child relationship emerges and influences future relationships of the child.






Stages of Attachment


Researchers, Rudolph Schaffer and Peggy Emerson, examined 60 babies in a longitudinal study – 18 months at monthly intervals. The study is to determine numbers or types of attachment relationships the babies form from their parents or caregivers.


visual for stages of attachment

Pre-Attachment

Newborns do not show any specific attachment to any of their caregivers.



Indiscriminate

Infants begin to show preferences between their primary and secondary caregivers. They develop their trust in this stage to which caregivers attend to their needs.



Discriminate

Infants show strong attachment and preference to one specific caregiver. They show protest acts when separated from that caregiver.



Multiple

Children begin to form strong attachments and bonds with caregivers beyond the primary.



The stages of attachment above strongly influence the attachment style and pattern of an individual.


 

Attachment Styles


Our early attachment with our parents, guardians, and/or caregivers somehow dictates and heavily prompts how we build relationships as an adult. A person may fall mainly into one of the four attachment styles:


  1. Anxious (also referred to as Preoccupied)

  2. Avoidant (also referred to as Dismissive)

  3. Disorganized (also referred to as Fearful-Avoidant)

  4. Secure



attachment style graph


Anxious


This attachment style is also referred to as “Ambivalent”, “Ambivalent-Anxious”, or “Anxious-Preoccupied”. People with this pattern tend to be overly needy. They fall into the insecure attachment category. They have a deep fear of abandonment rooted from childhood.


In relationships, they always fear that their partner will leave them. Anxious attachment makes them need constant validation. They may seem very “clingy”. Even in the little things in the relationship, their demand for attention and sense of insecurity show. They always feel like their partner does not care about them, thus it may be hard when they are apart.



Effects of Anxious-preoccupied attachment style to romantic relationships

There will always be a question in your head whether your special someone really loves you. It’s tricky because you’d love to be with someone and you crave company; but you always worry if you can wholeheartedly confide in them. This attachment style hugely impacts your perspective in your relationship. Anxiety can make you overthink scenarios and it may be difficult to control it.


You tend to struggle setting boundaries; distance or space from them will make you feel uncomfortable. That feeling may cause you to be jealous and use manipulation tactics to keep them by your side. Your sense of self-worth may be dependent on how you feel about yourself as a girlfriend or boyfriend; also based on how your significant other treats you. You may receive criticism from others on being clingy or needy.




Avoidant

Avoidant attachment style may also be called ‘Dismissive’. Just like ‘Anxious’ attachment, this falls into the form of insecure pattern too. But people with this attachment style have a hard time keeping a close relationship. As they feel suffocated when they are in a romantic connection. They don’t easily trust others.


When in a relationship, it’s more likely that they create a certain distance from their partner. Unlike ‘Anxious’ attachment, they avoid closeness, they avoid people. Thus, they are undoubtedly emotionally unavailable and love being firmly independent.



Effects of Avoidant attachment style to romantic relationships

It’s truly rough for you to connect in a very invested way. You don’t quickly condone emotional intimacy. You’re a lone wolf– in love with independence and freedom which makes it not easy to let your guards down, emotionally. Though, physical closeness may not be a problem for you.


You feel complete even without a romantic partner. Depending on other people or seeking social approval and bonds is not your thing. You have a tendency to drift away all the more when your partner tries to get closer to you. You’re okay with keeping secrets. You feel uncomfortable with your partner’s emotions and your own emotions as well. You may have a high fear of intimacy but just like everybody else, you want a long-term, meaningful relationship.




Fearful-Avoidant

This attachment style is also known as “disorganized”. This is actually a combination of “avoidant” and “anxious” categories. People under this attachment style are far from the middle but are neither in both ends. They definitely crave intimacy and relationships but really don’t want to commit to one. Basically, they want it AND they avoid it. This type of pattern is not yet well-researched but is studied to be rooted from vivid childhood trauma or experiences.


They know they need and want affection but tend to distance from it as they feel undeserving of love. When they find themselves in a romantic situation, it is genuinely confusing for them. They literally deal with love-hate feelings towards their partner and the relationship.



Effects of Dismissive attachment style to romantic relationships

You may be hard on yourself and on other people. Even when you ache for a worthwhile relationship, you feel like you are not entitled to be loved. You have constant fear of being hurt again. Thus, you may possibly show unstable emotions and actions to other people and your partner. You are consistently mixed with desire and fear. You may have a hard time dealing with your feelings because you kind of not want it to escalate into something that can hurt you.




Secure

Having a secure attachment style is having the ability to build secure relationships. People with this attachment pattern have an almost equal “give and take” attitude. They can trust others and others can trust them. They give love and they are able to receive and accept affection as well. Intimacy is not an issue, they are not clingy and at the same time avoid being close with someone.


In relationships, they are really great in setting necessary boundaries. They are comfortable with expressing their emotions and understanding other people’s reactions and feelings. Being under secure attachment does not mean their relationships experience no issues. They just have the capability to own up to mistakes and take responsibility. They have the essential basis of being honest and emotionally available.



Effects of Secure attachment style to romantic relationships

Your self-worth is not solely dependent on the treatment you receive from other people or your partner. You thrive in meaningful relationships and find comfort in sharing your emotions and needs. It’s easy for you to be open and be relied on. You have a healthy way to manage conflicts in your relationship.



 


“Human beings are born helpless, so we are hardwired at birth to search for and attach to a reliable caregiver for protection.”


Which attachment style do you have? There are actually quizzes or tests designed backed by scientific research to know in which attachment style you fall into. Though, it’s good to note that an individual does not 100% fit into one category. A specific attachment style won’t exactly match your personality, but it will be a first step in identifying your attachment style and how you can improve it to better your relationships.


 


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