Attachment theory is fascinating and showcases how our childhood can affect our adult relationships. How you bonded with your parents or caregivers can tell you if you’re going to be secure in your relationships, or a little clingy.
Let’s look at the four types of adult attachment and explain how that can affect your relationships.
This is considered to be the healthiest attachment style. In this one, you’re intimate with your partner, who you find easy to be close to. You aren’t afraid of them leaving you, and you can do activities without your partner and not feel anxious. Someone with a secure attachment style is dependent on their partner but accepts that sometimes, a partner needs to be alone. They’re empathetic, can show forgiveness, and they’re quite good at taking care of their emotions.
Secure people tend to come from parents who were caring and who helped them meet every need. If both parties are secure, this is one of the healthiest relationships around.
When a parent was not available emotionally and didn’t seem interested in the child’s needs, the child may grow up to be avoidant. This is a person who tends to dislike relationships, particularly serious ones. They may like casual relationships, but when it comes to deep emotions and true intimacy, the avoidant person tends to be standoffish.
For the avoidant personality, being in a deep, intimate relationship may feel like the person is losing their sense of liberty. Instead of talking about emotions, they may have more intelligent conversations with people.
There are some good aspects of the avoidant personality. They are calm, cool, and collected when life gets difficult. They can be non-emotional when handling a crisis and fix it as soon as they can.
When it comes to relationship healthiness, the avoidant people may be okay in a casual relationship, but if you expect them to be committed, you need to look elsewhere.
Anxious, also known as ambivalent, is an attachment style that comes from a parent who tended to be inconsistent with how they parented. Sometimes, the parent was there for the child, and other times, they were nowhere to be found. Because of that, the person wants a close, intimate relationship, but is quite insecure with how they are.
This is better known as a clingy relationship. The person always needs reassurance and worries about being rejected. Their anxiety can cause them to be overly sensitive, argumentative, and they have a hard time staying within a person’s boundaries.
Someone like this tends to have an unhealthy relationship, and they tend to be their own worst enemy. They’re so clingy and they worry so much about losing their significant other that this tends to be their downfall. They may end up scaring their spouse away, and this can cause them to fall into deeper despair. Their habits can include a cycle of conflict, which can turn off their friends and family.
Also known as unorganized, this is an attachment style where the person avoids others and is highly anxious. This may come from a traumatic childhood, and it can have a severe impact on one’s adulthood. For example, someone with anxious-avoidant attachment is unable to regulate one’s emotions, and they can be abusive.
Some of them may not be abusive, but will have severe mental health problems, from depression, PTSD, to panic disorder. They may abuse substances, and it’s hard to get close to them because they tend to be standoffish and argumentative.
This tends to be the unhealthiest in the types of attachment, and someone with an anxious-avoidant attachment may need help.
Not Everyone Fits Into These
Attachment theory, just like any other psychological theory, is a fascinating way to explain human nature, but it does have its flaws. Some people may have a combination of styles, or they may display secure attachment one day and anxious the next.
Also, there are some other criticisms of attachment theory, such as it being Westernized and not considering the parenting styles of other countries.
How to Change Your Attachment Style
Changing one’s attachment style tends to involve therapy. Because it stems from childhood trauma, or at the least, a bad relationship experience, therapy is usually required. Being mindful of one’s clinginess, refusal to open up, or other behaviors that can be toxic for the relationship is one solution.
Also, some people may not be able to “change” their style completely. Instead, they need to reduce the number of problematic behaviors they have. For instance, someone who is anxious needs to learn ways to cope with that anxiety. They may use meditation to clear their mind when they are met with self-defeating or anxious thoughts designed to bring them down.
Improving one’s self in regards to attachment may also be something that the partner needs to help out with. Having patience and wanting to help someone when they are feeling anxious or avoidant is always a plus.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that not everyone can change themselves, and some people may prefer to live with what they have. Someone who is avoidant, for example, may end up going on casual relationships and being a loner, and for some, that is okay.
Knowing your attachment style, and knowing the attachment of your partner, is important for any relationship to be the best it possibly can be. Every relationship is going to have its flaws, and attachment style is just one of those flaws you may face. Being mindful of that helps.
Speak to a counselor or therapist if you have any relationship issues, or you want to improve yourself.
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