How your attachment style plays out in romantic relationships.

Have you ever fallen in love? – Then you would know that the feeling is part an attachment process similar to that of a child attaching to a parental figure.

How you fall and attach to a lover in a romantic relationships determines what your relationships become, especially in the face of adversary.

If you are not aware of such a thing as an attachment style, you may not realise that there are patterns you employ. This is because attachment styles appear to be normal even when we behave in toxic ways.

Attachment style theory.

Bowlby, a family clinician, originally led attachment theory interested in learning the consequences of separating a child from its mother.

In one of his essays, Bowlby concluded that children who don’t receive enough maternal care grow up to struggle with forming and nurturing close-proximity relationships because of what he called an insecure attachment style.

The attachment style you grow to embody, insecure or otherwise, makes up characteristics, thoughts, feelings and behaviours you exhibit in romantic relationships.

Our attachment styles influence how we perceive our partners: their availability, supportiveness, personal traits, and intentions.

It also influences how we perceive ourselves in a relationship: our values, lovability, ability to handle challenges and threats in the relationships.

It was Mary Ainsworth, a psychologist who worked with Bowlby who further investigated the attachment theory in 1969 which concluded that there are four attachments styles in total.

Secure attachment style

If you have a secure attachment style then you probably trust your relationships and feel self-sufficient in them. You feel seen by your partner and trust them to have your back. You can also self-regulate emotions romantic relationships evoke in people.

With a secure attachment style, you rarely have a problem with being vulnerable and you trust people you date to support you. You seek and get into romantic relationships because you want to.

A secure person is autonomous and gets into relationships that nurture their true selves.

While being secure makes you autonomous, it also makes depending on lovers easy. You can act on your own accord while appreciating support you receive in your relationship.

Your relationships do not need constant co-dependent interactions to survive because there is a shared interdependence well balanced between dependence and independence.

You trust your partner’s actions, intentions and the relationships so much so you can spend time apart from your partner without assuming the worst of the distance.

Secure attachment traits

  • Trusts their partners and themselves.
  • High self-esteem
  • Emotionally engaged
  • Comfortable with both negative and positive feelings
  • Does not fear abandonment
  • High capacity to tolerate fights and to forgive.
  • Has healthy give and take relationships.

Avoidant-dismissive attachment style

If you attach in an avoidant-dismissive way, people you date may see you as aloof and disconnected. And it’s not like you don’t try, it’s just that what you offer in relationships is subjectively not enough.

More than anything, avoidant-dismissive people are self-sufficient. But this is not as good as it seems at face value.

In relationships, this self-sufficiency means self-isolating whenever there are problems in a relationship. This is because you struggle with being psychologically and emotionally present for your partner. If anything, showing up in relationships feels like an obligation.

Studies in Psychology suggests that people who attach this way may have suffered emotional neglect when young. Now, as an adult, expecting and being compassionate towards a romantic partner is a foreign concept .

The rejection experienced in childhood repeats itself in a relationship.

You will reject and keep a distance from people who want to love you because you don’t know how to receive and reciprocate their love.

Despite this, being avoidant does not mean you don’t want love and connection because you do. You just find it difficult to embrace intimate gestures. Romantic relationships make you feel too vulnerable by tapping into your insecurities about love and rejection.

It is easy for avoidant-dismissive people to leave relationships and to ghost their partners. Essentially, avoidant people have earned themselves the insensitive prick label.

Overall, avoidant-dismissive attachment makes you doubt that true love exists.

Avoidant-dismissive traits

  • Independent, self-sufficient and self-directed.
  • prefer shallow, superficial connections over true intimacy.
  • Prone to be workaholics
  • Prioritize social fun obligations to friends over romantic relationships
  • Arguably has commitment issues.
  • Not unlikely to be passive aggressive.
  • Capable of making acquittances but fail at forming close friendships

Ambivalent-anxious attachment style

Anxiety marks ambivalent-anxious attachment.

If you attach anxiously, there’s a good chance you struggle to comprehend that people can love you from a distance because you don’t trust people you date. This ultimately makes you feel insecure in relationships.

Distance and closeness influences a lot of relationship problems you go through. When close to a partner, you feel safe. And when apart, you feel insecure.

Many ambivalent people grew up in homes with inconsistent emotional guidance. As a result, they get into unpredictable and inconsistent relationships.

The gist is you want people you date to make you feel better about yourself and so you expect more than lovers can offer. No matter how much love you are shown, it is never enough.

An ambivalent-anxious person’s relationships have short-lived blissful moments because they always assume a partner is showing love just to abandon.

Constant stimulation is an ambivalent-anxious person’s top need in a relationship. If this is you, you likely exhibit clinginess, neediness, oversensitivity, need for control and generally have high maintenance emotions.

While displaying these characteristics is not attractive, these characteristics come from a deep need to be close and attached to someone. That is why attaching ambivalently can make you latch onto romantic potentials prematurely.

To combat relationship fears, ambivalent people overbear and overextend themselves to their partners. For them, this ensures they are in their partner’s mind all the time. These gestures can sometimes come from a manipulative place.

Sensitive and always expecting the worst, you are quick to anger and project onto your partner. You unintentionally push away people you love by being jealous and holding false suspicions that undermine the trust in the relationship.

There is a need for constant reassurance which is sadly never enough. Instead of embracing your partner’s efforts and seeing them as cues of love, you focus on what’s missing.

Ambivalent-anxious attachment traits

  • Moody, possessive, oversensitive, jealous, controlling, needy and obsessive.
  • Needs constant validation.
  • Gets into dramatic and turbulent relationships.
  • Has trust issues and suspects other’s words, actions and intentions.
  • Gets into relationships but does not trust relationships.

Disorganized attachment style

Disorganized attachment is arguably the worst form of attachment compared to the others. This is because it comprises of traits in other insecure attachment styles as well.

Like the name suggests, disorganized attachment is marked by being all over the place. Romantic relationships easily become both a place to seek comfort and also to experience extreme irrational fear.

One of the saddest thing about disorganized attachment is that you want to fall in love, belong and connect with a lover but can’t do so without having extreme anxiety and fear about the danger that comes with intimate relationships.

Reaching a working balance is hard because anything you perceive as pulling away is rejection, and becoming too close is also unbearable and too stressful.

Disorganized attachment traits can alternate between secure, avoidant and ambivalent depending on present context.

The inability to engage feelings steadily makes it hard to decide if you want to be in a relationship or not. You also alternate between being clingy and being distant.

Disorganized traits

  • Negative self-image and talk
  • Extremely intense emotions
  • Black & white thinking (No grey area)
  • Self-destructive behaviours that ruin relationships
  • Self-absorption and controlling behaviour
  • push and pull behaviour
  • Extreme fear of abandonment

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