Your Attachment Style and its Role in Relationships

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Did you know that there are several different styles in which we form attachments to other people? Knowing your attachment style can help you gain valuable insight on why your relationship patterns repeat themselves and can help improve your current and future relationships. Attachment styles can impact whom you chose for partners, how your relationships develop and even how they may end. Knowing your style can be very helpful in making the most out of your strength in relationships and minimizing the impact of your weaknesses.

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Your style of attachment is formed in early childhood and is strongly influenced by your caretakers and how they cared for you. During your early years, you form expectations and beliefs of how you will be treated by loved ones and these expectations can follow you into adulthood and affect how you bond with others down the road.  For example, if you were closely bonded to your parents in childhood, and developed a belief and expectation that you can depend on others and they will meet your needs, you will most likely have a secure attachment style. If, however, your needs were not met regularly, you had multiple care takers that came in and out of your life (i.e. nannies, foster parents etc) or were abandoned in any way or abused, you may have formed an anxious or anxious/avoidant attachment style. If you were smothered by your caretakers, over protected and had an exceptionally strict upbringing where you felt you were always being controlled, you might have developed an avoidant attachment style as a result.  This attachment style can also be a result of hostile and emotionally unavailable care taking. There are many factors that influence our attachment styles and the ones I just mentioned are just a few possibilities. The 4 styles of attachment:

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Secure: Approximately 60% of the population fall into this category. People that are securely attached have a relatively easy time connecting with others and maintaining healthy relationships.   They are able to depend on others and feel comfortable with others depending on them. Securely attached people tend to be secure in themselves and have a positive view of their partners as well as their relationships. They find balance between intimacy and independence.

Anxious: (Also referred to as anxious-preoccupied) People with anxious attachment styles seek closeness with others. They tend to become anxious and worried when they feel distance in their relationships. Abandonment issues that stem from childhood can be a big influence here. Although they really want to be close and intimate with their partners, they tend to choose partners that will shy away from that intimacy. Anxiously attached individuals are approval seekers and tend towards insecurity. They will view their partners in a more positive light then they view themselves. They also run the risk of becoming overly dependent on their partners.   They will feel most at ease when they are with their partners and tend to worry when their partners are not around or in constant contact with them. Individuals with this attachment style tend to blame themselves when there are problems in the relationship. They will feel they did something wrong and are at fault for issues that may come up or if their partner is unresponsive for any reason.

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Avoidant: (also referred to as dismissive-avoidant) People with this attachment style really value their independence and avoid closeness with others. They have a tendency to withdraw when they are feeling too close to someone and to shut down emotionally. The lone wolves of the world and those that are much more inwardly focused can fall into this category. They fear intimacy for fear of being engulfed. People with this attachment style prefer not to depend on others or have others depend on them. They believe they are perfectly OK without having intimate relationships. Independence is very important to them and anything that threatens that can activate their avoidance. They tend to view their partners more negatively than they view themselves and blame their partners for any problems that might arise in the relationship.   They have difficulty in expressing their feelings to others and will distance themselves if they feel they are being rejected in any way.

Anxious/Avoidant: (also referred to as fearful-avoidant) People with anxious/avoidant attachment style are afraid to be too close or too distant. They fear both abandonment and intimacy. This attachment style tends to manifest in sexual abuse or significant loss in childhood. These individuals want to be close to others and at the same time are afraid of getting hurt. There are often trust issues here. They don’t trust their partners to have their best interest at heart and therefore feel they need to manage the degree of closeness versus distance. They do really want an intimate relationship, however they are afraid of it at the same time.

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If your attachment style is not secure, don’t worry, as you can move towards becoming more secure in your relationships. You can do this through awareness of your style and noting how it manifests. Once you have this level of awareness, you can choose different behaviors and get different results. For example, I tend towards anxious and sometimes avoidant. Knowing this helps me recognize quickly when my anxiety is kicked up as a result of my attachment style. This allows me to take a step back and look at the situation with a more objective point of view. I have also learned to recognize when I am being avoidant. When this happens, I make the extra effort to have a heart to heart conversation with my partner about what is coming up for me (using nonviolent communication of course) and this always helps to create understanding and support.

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Being with a secure partner can help both anxious and avoidant attachment styles become more secure. Knowing your attachment style and recognizing when it is driving you, can help you make changes in your behavior, which can transform how you relate to your partner. Knowing your partner’s attachment style is also very helpful. To find out what your style of attachment is, take the following quiz. If you would like to share any ahas that might have come up for you when discovering your attachment style, I welcome your comments below. © Copyright 2015 Vanessa Naja/Holistic Moving

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