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The propensity to make strong emotional bonds to particular individuals is a basic component of human nature.
~ John Bowlby

Simply put, your “style of attachment” is the way you emotionally bond with others. It is the model you learned in childhood to “connect.”

Growing up in a loving, stable home with two parents is certainly going to leave you with a different “attachment style” than someone who grew up in a chaotic home, where parents divorced or kids were abused.

Securely attached children have more self-esteem, independence, success in relationships, resilience; and less anxiety and depression. Insecurely attached children may have difficulty trusting, less resilience when distressed, more anxiety and depression, and are more prone to addiction.

What does this have to do with your relationship today? A lot. The central principle of attachment theory is that the way we are treated by our parents or primary caretakers early on, forms the basis for how we are wired to connect with others as adults. Though attachment theory has not been popularized until recently, it was conceived over 50 years ago by psychoanalyst John Bowlby, and scientifically validated by psychologist Mary Ainsworth.

The way we are wired to connect with others influences who we pick as partners,
and how we behave in relationships.

Dr. Kim Bartholomew and Dr. Leonard Horowitz created a working model with four styles of attachment. Two dimensions of individuals were assessed:

  • Attachment-related Anxiety – Will my partner be present for me?
  • Attachment-related Avoidance – How intimate can I be with another?

They identified four attachment styles and how they show up in adult relationships:

1) Secure Attachment:

  • Positive self-model and positive model of others.
  • Comfortable being close to others and being alone; independent.
  • Handle rejection well.
  • Most happy and fulfilled.
  • Expect loving behavior – move away if partner is uninterested.

2) Anxious-preoccupied:

  • Negative self-model and positive model of others.
  • Anxiously look to gain acceptance and validation from others.
  • Need reassurance from partner; trouble being alone or single.
  • Succumb to unhealthy/abusive behavior.
  • Difficulty trusting people.
  • Can be erratic and over-emotional.

3) Fearful-avoidant:

  • Negative self-model and negative model of others.
  • Dependent on others for acceptance and validation.
  • Avoid intimacy to avert the pain of loss or rejection.
  • Extremely independent/self-directed.
  • Uncomfortable with intimacy; may limit time together.
  • Commitment “phobe.”

4) Dismissive-avoidant:

  • Positive self-model and negative model of others.
  • Avoid intimacy.
  • Maintain self-worth by denying the value of close relationships.
  • Desire but resist intimacy.
  • Suspicious of others.

Left undiscovered, your attachment style will unconsciously influence your choice of mate, the depth of your connection, and how you react to your partner.

The good news is studies show that awareness of your attachment style gives you access to changing it. The brain can be rewired if you practice different behaviors.

Want to find out your attachment style? Click this link to take a quick survey that will measure your Attachment Style in relationships.

Next week we’ll look at what happens when attachment styles “get together.” Stay tuned.

If you are feeling disconnected from your partner or want to learn how to more deeply connect, Bob and I can help. Call us at 410-363-2825 or email info@relationshipswork.com.

Image Copyright Darya Petrenko