Relationship Issues

Did you know that there are 3 main attachment styles in which people perceive and respond to intimacy?

Do you think you are secure, anxious or avoidant in a relationship?

In this post I will tell you a bit about:

  1. attachment theory
  2. each of the 3 attachment styles.

Attachment theory is a vast and complex field of research that goes from child development to parenting to romantic relationship. Here I will limit myself to romantic attachment and romantic relationships.

According to psychiatrist and neuroscientist Dr. Amir Levine, all people in our society fall into one of these categories or into a combination of them. Each of us behaves in relationships in one of these 3 ways:

Anxiously attached: crave intimacy, people are often preoccupied with their relationships and tend to worry about their partner’s ability to love them back. Relationships tend to consume a large part of their emotional energy. They are very sensitive, experience a lot of negative emotions within the relationship and get easily upset.

Avoidant attached: they want to maintain independence. Even though they want to be close to others, they feel uncomfortable with too much closeness and tend to keep their partner at distance. they are emotionally distant.

Securely attached: people feel comfortable with intimacy and are usually warm and loving. They effectively communicate their needs and feelings to partner

According to Dr. Levin over 50% are secure, around 20% are anxious, 25% are avoidant and the rest is a combination anxious/avoidant.

Where do attachment styles come from?

The pioneer of the attachment theory was the psychologist John Bowlby in the 1950’s.

Attachment theory is based on the assertion that the need to be in a close relationship is embedded in our genes.

John Bowlby theorised that we have been programmed to be attached to few specific individuals in our lives. we have been programmed to be dependent on a significant other. the need starts in the womb and ends when we die.

Genetic selection favored people who became attached because it provided a survival advantage. the brain has a biological mechanism responsible for regulating our connection with our attachment figures (parents, children). this mechanism is called attachment system and ensure we remain safe close to our loved ones. a child separated from his mom will cry until he reestablish contact with her. these reactions are called protest behaviours and we still have them when we grow up. Although we all have a basic need to form close bonds, the way we create them varies.

The Strange situation is a procedure devised by Mary Ainsworth in the 1970s to observe attachment in children.

She was observing the way babies behaved during a reunion with a parent after a stressful situation.

Child attachment styles:

anxious: baby becomes extremely distressed when mom leaves the room. when mom returns, he is happy to see her but angry at the same time.

secure: baby is distressed when mom leaves the room. when mom returns, he is very happy to see her. once in safety of her presence he can calm down and resume play activity.

avoidant:when mom leaves the room baby acts as nothing has happened. upon her return he ignores his mom and continues to play indifferently. but inside, their heart rates are just as elevated as other babies who express distress.

Kid can play only if mom stays in the room. A secure base is a prerequisite for a child to explore, develop and learn. Likewise for adults, if we feel secure we can be functional at work, inspired in our hobbies, pursue our dreams. If we lack the sense of security that our partner will be there for us, we’ll find harder to maintain focus. having a partner who fulfils our attachment needs can help us remain emotionally healthier.

Why is it important to understand attachment styles?

1.Understanding attachment will change the way you perceive new people you meet.

2.Past failures will be seen in a new light.

3.You will learn what your needs are and who you should be with in order to be happy in a relationship.

The steps each one of us should take to understand our relationship patterns are:

  1. Determine your own attachment style. understand your specific needs in relationships and
  2. identify the attachment style of those around you who will be able to meet those needs.
  3. understand the emotional price of connecting with someone who has different intimacy needs from your own.

For a more complete understanding of attachment styles you can read the book “Attached”, of Dr. Amir Levine or come to my workshop “Find your perfect match”. Check my Events page for the next dates.