Attachment Styles & The Impact They Have on Relationships
There are four main attachment styles that individuals possess. Usually, these attachment styles are a direct result of their own childhood and the familiar dynamics that occurred within their own household. In identifying each individual’s attachment, a couple can gain deeper understanding of how past experiences have shaped their level of communication, security and autonomy within a relationship.
Anxious attachment is associated with an inconsistent parenting pattern. Individuals who possess this type of attachment style may have been raised in a household in which there was tremendous inconsistency – making it difficult to anticipate their parents’ reactions and behaviors.
In this case, individuals ultimately end up seeking emotional / physical closeness to others to help satisfy their own needs.
The anxiously attached adult often seeks approval, support and responsiveness from their partner. They highly value their relationship but are often anxious and preoccupied with the fear of losing their partner to someone or something else. There is a strong fear of abandonment and constant reassurance is required from their partner that the relationship is secure.
Individuals who possess this type of attachment were raised by dismissive parents who may have regularly minimized the importance of an emotional connection. As a result, these individuals have learned to turn off that need for intimate connection. It has been reinforced for these individuals that they cannot rely on others, so they learned how to cope by “burying” their emotions and building a protective defense from that vulnerability.
These individuals may perceive themselves as “lone wolves;” independent and self sufficient. They are perceived as possessing high self esteem and confidence, and believe they do not necessarily need to be in a relationship to feel complete.
These individuals do not allow for much vulnerability – with an unwillingness to depend on others or have others depend on them.
This type of attachment is most commonly seen in individuals who have been physically, verbally or sexually abused in their childhood. The central aspect of disorganized / fearful attachment is “perceived fear” during developmental years.
As adults, these individuals show unstable and ambiguous behaviors in their social and intimate bonds. They perceive their partner as both a source of desire and fear. They want intimacy but at the same time, fear the vulnerability of allowing someone in on that level.
These individuals have difficulty regulating their emotions and avoid strong emotional attachments out of fear of getting hurt.
The secure attachment style is the most common type of attachment in our society, with approximately 66% of individuals being securely attached. These individuals were raised in a household in which there was consistency in having their needs satisfied, they felt safe, seen and known. There was comfort, reassurance and a deep feeling of being valued by their caregivers.
Individuals who are securely attached are comfortable expressing their emotions openly. They are able to depend on their partner and in turn, allow for their partner to do the same to them. There is honesty, tolerance and an emotional closeness. They enjoy being in a relationship but do not require it to feel fulfilled. They possess a positive view of themselves and others.
How Couples Counseling Can Help:
It may be difficult to fully understand at first, but most of us enter into relationships with our own unresolved issues and traumas. Both the dynamics we observed as well as experienced ourselves, have impacted the way we engage with an intimate partner.
As a result of this, we end of transferring much of this unresolved trauma into our adult relationship, in hopes of having them “make it all better” and provide the love, support and consistency they were seeking throughout their formative years.
The problem with that however, is that it becomes unrealistic and unhealthy to place that amount of transference onto another individual.
Through couples therapy, each individual can learn to better understand their own attachment style, where it developed and how it has impacted their behavior within the relationship.
As a couple, the two work to find empathy, boundaries and effective communication to strengthen the bond and establish a secure attachment.