Understanding what your attachment style is in a relationship

June 2020| 3 mins to read

Attachment styles form the way we relate to others, typically learned from childhood attachments with your parent(s)/caregiver(s). It is your primary caregiver(s) that establishes how you view and see the world by how they met your emotional needs as a child. The way you have experienced these early relationships, will determine how you attach to others in adulthood. Many of us find ourselves in relationships that keep repeating the same old patterns of behaviours and attracting similar types of partners. This can be attributed to seeking parents in partners – yes, I know it is scary to say it, but it is true. I continually hear myself say to my client(s) over the years:

You are, conditioned by your parent(s), be it a good or bad experience, grow up, attract them, married them, become them!’

Ann-Marie Masson

If we consider for one moment that you are half of each parent, (after all they are who made you who you are, however, you also have your own charter traits in the mix),  you can then go on to seek what is known to you in potential, or current partner. You can also inherit your parent(s) patterns of behaviours, which they have inherited, and can be passed down from generation to generation. If you think about it logically, you are conditioned by your parent(s),usually for the first 16 years of your life.  

Your parent(s) instills, which is known as your ‘core conditions’, setting out your value and belief systems. A parent(s) influences your behaviours, how we view relationships, and your understanding of boundaries, which then can become embedded within you.

‘Don’t panic, once you can identify what these patterns are, you can then choose what you would like to keep, and what you want to update from your parent(s) conditioning’.  

Ann-Marie Masson

Depending on the early childhood experiences, and what ‘parenting style’ you have been brought up with, this can be indicative of your ‘attachment style’ in relationships. I have divided out the four standard attachments styles. This is an opportunity to see which one you connect with, and nothing fits 100%. Often you can relate to more than one style, however, there will be a leading ‘attachment style’ that you gravitate towards and is more familiar to you.

What does ‘secure attachment’ mean?

A secure attachment style indicates that you find it easy to attach, and you can become close to others, to express your emotions comfortably, and feel safe to share vulnerabilities with others. To be at ease in a relationship, and you can rely on others and let them depend on you. You will not be concerned about being alone or not being accepted by others.

You will have experienced a positive, warm, and caring response from your parents growing up, enabling you to adapt and adjust in relationships accordingly. When in a relationship, there will be openness to intimacy, and you find it easy to regulate your emotions.

What does ‘anxious-pre-occupied’ attachment mean?

An anxious-preoccupied attachment style is when you to want to be intimate, and have a close relationship with others. You feel that others do not value you in the way you want to be appreciated. It can lead to looking for higher levels of intimacy, being overly emotionally expressive, and seeking out validation from your partner, leading to becoming too reliant in your relationships. It can create difficulties in relationships, as you have a low opinion of yourself, not feeling ‘good enough’, which you can blame yourself for, and your partners can find this emotionally draining.

What does a dismissive-avoidant attachment mean?

A dismissive-avoidant attachment style creates the illusion that you do not need a close relationship, as you tell yourself you are independent and self-reliant. You go into the mindset of, ‘I do not need anyone’, and ‘I don’t want anyone to need me’.

Often viewing relationships as unimportant, and you will be avoidant of attaching in relationships, by being dismissive of partners. You resist emotionally expressing yourself by finding regular distractions to hide your true feelings. You do not allow your partner in and push them away, which then creates separation and disconnect in the relationship.

What does a fearful-avoidant attachment mean?

A fearful-avoidant attachment style is when you have experienced childhood trauma or significant loss. You are not able to allow someone into your life due to not being able to trust anyone. You believe that no-one can be depended upon, leading you to believe, the world is an unsafe place.

You struggle with intimacy on any level out of fear of being let down or rejected, leading you to believe that you are not lovable. There will be high levels of vigilance, not being able to relax with others, which can often lead to withdrawing or isolation. You find it hard to know how to be in a relationship and engage with your partner.

Can I get help understanding my attachment style?

Depending on what ‘attachment style’ you connect with, then will highlight what support you would benefit from. Everyone deserves to be in a loving, healthy relationship. Having counselling can support to work through the impact of your childhood or past relationship experiences, to then be able to heal and move forward in your life.

‘Don’t let the past dictate the future’.

Ann-Marie Masson

You can make changes in your life for the better, and you deserve to be in a loving, caring relationship regardless of what your life experiences have been!