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May 2024

Understanding your attachment style

I’m delighted to hear that many of our community members are curious to better understand their attachment style. So I thought I’d take the opportunity to give you a brief overview of what attachment is, the different attachment styles, and why they matter when it comes to relationships.

‘Attachment style’ refers to a psychological framework that describes the patterns of how we relate to ourselves and the people we care most about. Our attachment style forms in childhood and reflects the type of interactions and relationships we’ve had with our primary caregivers. Our attachment style persists into adulthood and impacts how we unconsciously approach intimacy, our emotional needs and conflict in our romantic relationships. It also impacts how we care for ourselves.

There are four different types of attachment style:

  1. Secure – if you’re securely attached, you’re comfortable with intimacy, able to ask for support and express your needs. You trust yourself and others. Your self-worth is intact and you believe that your loved ones will be there for you, even if you make mistakes. During tough times, you’re able to comfort yourself and manage your emotions. You can also be there for a partner, hearing their needs and responding effectively (rather than getting defensive or sulky).
  2. Anxious – if you have an anxious attachment style you may be prone to seeking reassurance, fearing rejection or abandonment and worrying about the state of your relationship. If something in your relationship is bothering you, for fear of disapproval or being spurned, you may compromise at the cost of your needs or values. If you’re upset, you may struggle to regulate your emotions, seek soothing externally or become self-critical. Others may experience your behaviour as a bit clingy or a little needy.
  3. Avoidant – If you have an avoidant style you tend to be a lone ranger. You feel more comfortable keeping your emotional cards close, thereby maintaining emotional distance. You tend to minimise your emotions and avoid self-reflection and introspection. Doing that feels scary. You may also feel uncomfortable relying on others and asking for help. In your bid to maintain distance, others will find it hard to get to know you and this can get in the way of developing true closeness and intimacy. Serial daters and ‘quick dismissers’ are often lone rangers who remain puzzled about why they can't find someone suitable.
  4. The combo (also known as fearful avoidant) – as the name suggests, fearful avoidants may swing between anxiety and avoidance. You can go from needing relational reassurance and intimacy to fearing getting hurt, sabotaging your relationship and pulling away. You may struggle to trust a partner and find it difficult to manage your emotions. You won't feel very connected to yourself, let alone someone else. Your own emotional swings can confuse you.

Our attachment style impacts how we date and succeed in relationships. If you’re interested in learning a little more about your own attachment style, I highly recommend giving Quiz B a go.

And in terms of gearing up for future relationship success and reflecting on past experiences, I recommend this great read.

The good news is that your attachment style is not set in stone. If you identify strongly with one of these styles and you feel it may be impacting your ability to be in a successful relationship, now could be a good time to seek the support of a therapist.

He or she can help you understand your attachment style and behaviour, which is often at odds with what you’re yearning for!

Want to know more? Contact the team today.