Attachment Styles in Adult Relationships

Today, I was reading about attachment styles and adult relationships. As humans, we are programmed to bond with our caregivers for survival. The way they respond to our needs early on is crucial to our emotional health later on in life. There are four main types of attachment styles: secure, anxious/preoccupied/resistant, avoidant and disorganized. 

The Strange Situation Experiment.

The infant is left alone with a stranger while the primary caregiver/attachment figure leaves the room. The the attachment figure returns. The infant’s behavior is observed. Three main patterns emerged from this experiment:

The securely attached infant becomes distressed by being with a stranger and being left, however when the parent returns they are able to soothe, re-establish the bond and move on exploring their environment without much fuss.

The anxious/resistant infant vacillates between being needy and angry towards the attachment figure for leaving. They have a hard time being soothed and moving on to exploring the environment independently.

The avoidant infant seems unfazed by the separation and appears equally indifferent to the parent returning. However, the emotional distress he/she is under is equal to the anxious infant except they don’t show it.

Now think about your current or last relationship.

What is your attachment style?

Is it different with different people?

How do you reestablish the attachment bond after a separation, may that be minor or seemingly insignificant? How does it effect your communication?

If you have an anxious attachment style you may find that you are constantly pursuing the relationship which may push your partner way leading you to become even more anxious. This cycle of pursuit-rejection is toxic and will only make your problems worse. Often we blame ourselves for being “too needy” but what you partner is doing is equally detrimental. It is not that they don’t care. They just don’t have the skills to be emotionally accessible, they are not committed enough to be available or they have learned that the only way to protect themselves is to reject you.

If you have an avoidant attachment style you may have learned early on in life that you can’t trust anyone. Nor can you rely on people who claim to love you not to hurt you. So intimacy is so painful that it must be avoided. Often intimacy feel like “too much work” and it requires emotional and mental resources you either don’t have or you don’t want to give.

Research shows that people who are securely attached benefit significantly more from therapy which is interesting since, in therapy, we see more people with insecure attachment styles. That’s why they are in therapy to begin with!

 

Could it be that attachment problems naturally resolve once you find a partner who is securely attached and knows how to respond appropriately to your needs? Or is it be that the only way to repair an insecure attachment style in adulthood is through couples therapy?

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