Did you know that April is also National Couples Appreciation Month? According to Google, it is the month were individuals in a relationships continue to work towards a better and healthier relationship. One of the theories that many therapist and counselors use while evaluating and helping couples is called Attachment Theory. Attachment Theory originated as a childhood development theory in which they determined the connection between human beings what was considered ‘healthy’ and what isn’t. This theory has also been moved in other fields of study such as communication (sociology) and human sexuality where it is both viewed positively as well as negatively. Let’s break down the 4 different styles of attachment and determine what they might mean for you and your relationship!
Secure attachment is characterized by having a healthy balance within a relationship that would be equal parts independence as well as closeness with your partner(s). Someone who has a secure attachment can openly seek support and comfort and are happy to return the favor when their partner(s) seek the same support. They able to regulate their emotions as well as be able to explore those emotions when alone and can reflect on their relationships and navigate it. Everyone wants this attachment but you need to be self-aware and willing to work on yourself AND your relationship to reach this attachment if you don’t already have it.
Anxious attachment is usually described as someone who is anxious and preoccupied with a fear of being left/dumped. An individual with this kind of attachment is often seeking reassurance from their partner. They will view themselves as unworthy of a relationship while viewing others as generally positive and prioritize their desires over their own. They perceive high levels of criticism forcing them to struggle to relax and view rejection as harmful. Someone with this attachment is able to have a successful relationship so long as both partners have open communication as well has the person with this attachment remains mindful that how they feel may not be reality.
This type of attachment is usually due to someone being able to build long-term relationships or not expressing distress during separation. As an adult, this would cause issues with engaging in emotional intimacy as well as physical sensuality. They may hold up a positive self-image of themselves but this is because they have a negative image of others and believe they can only depend on themselves. They are uncomfortable with sharing their emotions and have an extremely hard time trusting anyone close – almost to the point that they find closeness as potentially harmful. An individual who identifies as having this type of attachment will need to work with a professional to find where the ‘break’ happened and how to reconcile the ability to have an emotional bond with a partner.
Disorganized (aka Fearful-Avoidant)
This type of attachment is best described an in-between or a mix of both anxious and avoidant styles of attachment, Similar to anxious attachment, they have trouble regulating their emotions and can become dependent on their partner for reassurance. However, someone with this attachment style will also express indifference in their emotions with their partner. Someone who this attachment style will express contradictory behaviors in a relationship and, unfortunately, this is often associated with a mental health disorder such as depression, substance abuse and bipolar disorder.
Knowing your attachment style can help you work towards a successful relationship not only with your family and friends, but with your sexual and intimate partner(s). You may also experience different types of attachment styles with different people, so don’t get discouraged if you aren’t sure exactly what style you may identify as your own especially if you are in a non-monogomous relationship. If you are someone who is interested in working through these styles toward secure attachment, you can try to find a marriage and family therapist near you!