Your Loving Attachment Style
The type of attachment style we develop as we emotionally mature describes how we love and want to be loved. It affects everything from our intimate partner choice, how we interact in a relationship through to how our relationships end.
If you can recognise your attachment pattern in can help you understand why you might respond in certain ways to your partner and even why you might experience your relationships in the same frustrating ways.
Your attachment pattern originates in childhood and is developed through interactions, right from a baby in your mother’s arms. This pattern becomes your template for how you are in the world, not just for interacting with your immediate family as you grow up, but forms your beliefs values and expectations about the world and other people you might form relationships with. For example if your mother or father or significant other was not always there for you emotionally or physically, or was there inconsistently this can influence our ability to trust, love and form attachments with others.
Your attachment style influences how you react to being loved by someone else and how you might give love. Our attachment pattern becomes most obvious when our need to be loved and belong is not met. When a person has a secure attachment pattern, they are confident and can meet their own need to be loved as well as manage themselves when someone they are close to disappointments them. They can give love without needing the assurance that they will receive love in return.
When a person has anxious or avoidant attachment they have difficulty with managing their own need to be loved and how they give love to others.
If a person with anxious or avoidant attachment chooses someone who fits their own unique anxieties they can find themselves getting caught in a toxic relationship pattern. What happens in they unconsciously choose someone who is unable to give them love in the way that they want to be loved. They ask again and again and find themselves being disappointed in the same sorts of ways.
It can be helpful for you to reflect on the different types of attachment as another way of understanding your own relationship patterns.
We know that children only need one stable, caring figure in their childhood to be securely attached. This one figure becomes that secure base that enables the child to explore their world. This security then transfers into adult relationships where there is a feeling of being connected to the intimate partner while being able to manage togetherness and separateness in the relationship. A securely attached adult can manage their own emotion as they support a distressed partner. They are able to go to their partner for connection and support if they feel upset themselves. Their relationship with their partner is equal with neither part of the couple feeling drained by the other, each is independent and yet together and loved by the other.
A person with Anxious-Preoccupied attachment never feels as though they can settle with the love they are being shown by someone. They are always hungry for their partner to show them more love, or to rescue them from life. This is because as a child they have had a parent who has struggled to show them love and so their needs have been incompletely met. The confusing aspect of a person with Anxious-Preoccupied attachment is that when their partner tries to love them, it is never enough. If they do feel their partner connecting with them, this can cause them to feel so anxious that they will push their partner away. When a person is anxiously attached, their behaviour makes them feel worse rather than better. By pushing their partner away when they feel unsure they make their feelings of vulnerability worse. When their partner responds by withdrawing it can make them feel as though they were right not to trust that they are safe in the relationship.
Dismissive-Avoidant Attachment –
People with a Dismissive-Avoidant attachment emotionally distance themselves from their partner. They seek isolation because as they were growing up, they have had to learn to be emotionally self-reliant, rather than to rely on others to be there for them. As a child, they may have had to take on a role of parenting themselves and so as an adult may well be very aware of their own needs first. The reliance on independence is an illusion to protect themselves from the fear of being emotionally reliant on others and being let down. People with dismissive avoidant attachment often isolate themselves from others and disconnect from family and loved ones very easily, especially if they believe they are at risk of being emotionally hurt. They will shut down emotionally and even be non-reactive in heated discussions. Often they do not reveal any emotions preferring to behave as if they don’t care than to show any emotional vulnerability.
Fearful-Avoidant Attachment –
A person with fearful avoidant attachment struggles with being afraid of being too close or too distant from other people. They try to manage these feelings, but they become too overwhelming for them. They can become so confused by their feelings that they can be very unpredictable in their reactions and moods. They want to move towards others to get their needs met, but then are fearful that if they get too close, they will be hurt. As a child, they will have experienced their significant caregiver as a person you go to for safety, but as a person, they are also frightened of. Their understanding of how to trust another person to have their needs met is so disrupted that as adults they have no template for approaching others to be loved. People with fearful avoidant attachment often find themselves in intense relationships with emotional highs and lows. They often describe great fear of being abandoned and fear of being intimate. This plays out as feeling trapped when they are close to their partner, distancing themselves, and then clinging to their partner because they feel rejected.
How do attachment styles describe relationship patterns?
An example would be a relationship between a person who has an Anxious-Preoccupied attachment style and a person who has Dismissive-Avoidant attachment style. The Anxious-Preoccupied person feels that they can never be loved enough, so they want to be with their partner all the time so they can have constant reassurance. However, their working model is that you have to work hard to be loved and so they choose a life partner who is hard for them to emotionally connect with, such as a person with Dismissive-Avoidant attachment style. The problem is the person with this attachment style uses independence to manage their need to be loved. They behave as if they don’t have any need for love or to give love. In reality, they do want to be loved, but their attachment model is to manage that need by being self-reliant. They crave having someone show them, again and again, they are loved. However, they are unable to give the love to the Anxious-Preoccupied partner in a consistent manner that answers their insatiable need to be loved, they often withdraw for fear of getting to close their partner and being let down. When we choose our intimate partners, we choose someone who either fulfils our deepest need to be loved or replays our childhood interactions patterns or both. However, the person we choose cannot give us what we are looking for and so we ask and ask and are repeatedly disappointed. This is why when we don’t understand our own patterns of attachment we can set ourselves up for failed relationships again and again.
You are not defined by your attachment style.
When you understand your attachment style, you can take steps to manage the ways you defend yourself from getting too close to others for fear of being hurt. The attachment style you developed as a child doesn’t have to define how you are in your adult life. The best way to do this is by making sense of your family story, what you need to do is understand how your childhood experiences are still affecting you in your adult life. When you understand the patterns, you give yourself the chance to identify your triggers and interrupt your way of being, as you do this your build you own emotional resilience. As you get to know yourself, you build your confidence and give yourself the chance to choose a secure partner and experience a relationship with healthy patterns of relating, for a satisfying, loving relationship.
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