Attachment Styles and What that Means for Your Relationship

How your parents raised you might have to do with why you are fighting so much with your partner

What is attachment?  The way our parents and caregivers treat us when we are babies, children, and teens informs our attachment style.  When we are infants and children we are dependent on our caregivers for basic needs and the way they treat us (lovingly, dismissively, overly engaged, etc.) affects the way we are able to attach to others when we are adults.  Attachment is the emotional bond we form with others.

Your attachment pattern can affect the way you relate to your partner.

There are four main types of attachment styles.

Secure Attachment:  In a relationship these are the people that are comfortable with themselves, comfortable with their feelings, and comfortable asking for what they need and want.  They have clear boundaries, aren’t afraid to express their feelings to their partners, and easily show vulnerability to their partners.

Avoidant Attachment:  In a relationship these are the people that tend to guard their thoughts and emotions.  They don’t easily share what they are feeling or thinking and they try and solve personal issues on their own.  When a problem comes up in a relationship or if they perceive themselves as being rejected by their partner, avoidant attachment people will tend to run for the door.  It is extremely difficult for people with this attachment style to express their feelings. When asked or pressured to share their feelings they might even have a difficult time identifying the feeling they are having.  

Anxious Attachment:  In a relationship a person who has anxious attachment will seek high levels of intimacy and attachment but then will worry that their partner doesn’t want to be with them.  When a problem comes up in the relationship or if the feel that they are being rejected by their partner they may aggressively demand reassurance, use blame tactics, or become emotionally dysregulated (bursts of anger, threatening to leave, and other forms of emotional manipulation) in an effort to engage and re-attach with their partner.  

Fearful Avoidant Attachment:  This attachment style frequently occurs (but not always) when a person has experienced trauma in their life.  They have learned that it is dangerous to get close to people (both physically and psychologically dangerous).  In a relationship these people tend to swing from one extreme to the other, desire a close and intimate relationship and then when becoming fearful they push away from their partner.  It is difficult for people with this attachment style to trust and as such they don’t feel comfortable with their feelings or with being vulnerable.

Your attachment style and your partner’s attachment style can have a big impact on the way the two of you connect.  For example when in a fight the avoidant person may withdraw emotionally from the argument while the anxious person may try to overly attach to their partner.  When the anxious person doesn’t get the reassurance they are looking for they may in turn become angry, escalating the conflict. No one way is right or wrong, each person in the relationship is seeking their own way to resolve the fight and get their needs met when experiencing heightened emotions.  Because these two styles don’t match up it may result in making the problem worse for the couple.

Being aware of your own attachment style and your partner’s attachment style can help you to better understand your partner’s needs, see the issue or argument in a different light, and foster a greater sense of empathy for each other.

Were you able to find your attachment style in this list?  How about your partners?