Have you ever wondered why you act the way you do in relationships?
Let’s chat about Attachment Theory, which focuses on how you interact + bond with others, resolve conflict, and manage difficult situations. If you haven’t heard of this before, you’re about to learn a whoooole lot about yourself!
Psychologist John Bowlby studied the relationship between children and their parents/primary caregivers, and how the way a person was cared for and supported by an “attachment figure” (particularly in the first few years of life) shaped elements of their later life, including how they expressed emotions, bonded with others, and developed coping strategies for stressful/emotional times.
Attachment theory suggests that the way you attached to others as a child may be how you attach to others in your adult life (romantic partnerships, family bonds and even friendships).
Understanding your attachment style helps you better understand and improve how you relate to people close to you, as well as how you work with groups of people and how you handle obstacles in your life.
The four attachment styles are:
Secure: The secure style is the style most likely to report satisfaction within their relationships. It’s estimated 50-60% of the population are securely attached.
If you have a Secure attachment style you tend to:
- Be naturally warm + loving
- Feel confident your needs will be met
- Be assertive (without aggression)
- Feel happy to ask for help
- Comfortably give and receive emotional support
- Have a generally positive view of yourself
- Be content with closeness + quality time
- Enjoy your independence without feeling threatened
- Not be fearful rejection/abandonment
- Feel happy setting and enforcing boundaries
- Communicate openly
- Be seen as “couple goals” if paired with another securely attached person
Anxious/Pre-Occupied: The anxious-preoccupied/ambivalent style accounts for approximately 15-20% of the population.
If you have this attachment style you are likely to:
- Tend to alternate between being clingy (more often), and rejecting others before you can be rejected.
- Be easily stressed in higher-pressure situations
- Often be the first to say “I love you”
- Have trouble making decisions on your own, needing outside validation
- Be jealous, insecure or self-conscious more often than others
- People-please or put others’ happiness before your own
- Crave intimacy and closeness
- Doubt your self-worth and/or need reassurance often
- Blame yourself for other peoples’ lack of responsiveness/affection.
- At times come across as “needy” or overly clingy
- Have difficulty respecting others’ boundaries or perceive it as rejection
Dismissive/Avoidant: The dismissive/avoidant style accounts for roughly 20-25% of the population.
If you have this attachment style you’re likely to:
- Be fiercely Independent and unlikely to ask others for help
- Feel uncomfortable with emotional intimacy
- Be more withdrawn, preferring to be a lone wolf
- Not believe that others can/will meet your needs
- Generally have a more negative, distrusting view of others.
- Usually avoid acknowledging or sharing your feelings.
- Have difficulty forming close friendships/bonds
- Bottle up your feelings or shut down in emotional situations
- Have shorter-term relationships/flings rather than long-term commitments
- Feel overwhelmed by people you see as “clingy” or emotional
- Sometimes self-sabotage relationships to avoid vulnerability
Disorganised:This attachment style is around 5% of the population.
If you have this attachment style you’re likely to:
- Be seen as unpredictable/Hot + Cold – simultaneously being drawn to a partner, but fearful of getting “too close”
- Experience anxiety, depression, or PTSD (this attachment style is often linked to trauma in early life)
- Potentially be a bit of a bully, sometimes defending yourself confrontationally/aggressively when attacked.
- Use drugs/alcohol as a coping mechanism.
- Enjoy testing/pushing others’ boundaries
- Have difficulty coping with distress, may have been disruptive in school or work environments
- Be uncomfortable putting trust in others
- Want love, but often feel like you don’t deserve it
Still not sure which one you fit into? Take a short, 5-6 minute quiz below to find out which attachment style you’re most likely to fall into.
Attachment styles can really impact the success and quality of your relationships. But don’t worry if you’re not the style you’d like to be – it IS possible to alter your style.
So how can you become more securely attached?
1 – Develop an awareness of your attachment style (well done, you’ve already ticked that one off!) and start reflecting on how this shows up for you within your relationships.
2 – Consider therapy – Anxious-preoccupied types may need to work on their self-esteem and overall self-worth to feel more secure in themselves in order to feel more secure within a relationship, whereas Avoidant types often require more inner work on connecting with and expressing their emotions, being less fearful of intimacy and healthier coping mechanisms for the potential threat of rejection.
3 – If your current attachment style is creating difficulties within your relationship, try communicating with your partner about your individual needs to understand each other better. This might include learning more about each other’s attachment styles, making a list of the qualities in your partner that you appreciate, or seeking out couples counselling together to work through any differences together, so you can best meet each other’s needs!
Want to know more about how to become more securely attached, and work through your current attachment style to better communicate with others, develop stronger connections, and improve your sense of self?
Click below to book a 1:1 counselling session, coaching call or free consultation!