In honor of Valentine’s day, I wanted this blog to cover an important concept regarding romantic relationships: Adult Attachment. There is a growing body of research that examines how we as adults attach or bond to our significant others. There are 4 attachment styles that have been identified. Sometimes people fit cleanly into one category, and sometimes people are a mix. Securely attached people have healthy relationships while insecure attachment leads to conflictual relationships.
1.) Secure Attachment
- Comfortable with emotional closeness.
- Depends on partner to meet emotional needs and is able to meet the emotional needs of their partner.
- Has an independent life outside of the relationship and encourages their partner to have an independent life as well.
- Communicates directly and openly.
- Manages feelings effectively. Does not get overly emotional about relationship issues.
The following styles are considered Insecure Attachment which means the health and functioning of the relationship are at risk.
- Emotionally distant and keeps partner at an arm’s length.
- Unable to meet emotional needs of partner especially when the partner is seeking closeness.
- Over-emphasis on independence. Does not invite partner into their world and prefers to be alone.
- Doesn’t communicate much about emotions. Tendency to hold emotions in and then explode.
- Feels consistently worried about the state of the relationship. Has persistent concern about rejection and abandonment.
- Seeks reassurance from partner frequently which can push partner away.
- Independence is a source of anxiety. Wants to combine their life with partner’s and have no distinction between the two.
- Highly sensitive to partner’s behavior. Takes their partner’s actions personally.
- Emotion is not well regulated.
- Can appear controlling.
- Potential history of trauma meaning neglect, physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse as a child. As a result, may recreate past dysfunctional relationship patterns.
- Difficulty tolerating emotional closeness.
- Poor communication, argumentative, aggressive, highly confrontational.
- May demonstrate abusive behavior.
- Does not demonstrate much empathy or support for partner.
The way we attach to others as an adult stems from how we attached to caregivers in our early years. If responsive, supportive, loving caregivers were present, then children generally develop secure attachment which they carry with them into adulthood. However, if during childhood caregivers were inconsistent, emotionally distant, dysregulated, or even abusive, then it’s likely an insecure attachment style would develop and play out in adult relationships.
When it comes to insecure attachment, the good news is that people can shift their attachment style. They can learn new behaviors and new ways of interacting with partners that are more in line with secure attachment.
If you are struggling with a relationship and want to work through it in counseling, I’d love to chat with you. Please give our office a call, and we can discuss further.