Why are some people more ready for relationships than others? The question can be related to attachment, our desire to form an enduring, emotional bond that develops with another adult in an intimate, romantic relationship.
Attachment styles are formed in our childhood and impact our adult relationships
Our evolutionary history shows that, as humans had evolved, parental care of our offspring created bonds – the foundation of our experience of love. These bonds allowed us to get close to one another, and to promote love between us. But hidden beneath these attachment bonds we desire to form with others are two basic motivations, approach and avoidance. We desire to bond with others, but we are hesitant, uncertain. Our fears and other tendencies can distance us from others.
If, as children, we developed a negative view of ourselves and felt unworthy, then as adults we tend to feel more anxiety in our adult relationships. But if we learned, as children, that others are there for us when we need them, then as adults we tend to have low avoidance in our relationships. There are different types of attachment styles we formed in our childhood, and they carry over and impact our adult relationships as adults.
So what are the different attachment styles, and how do people with different attachment styles experience love, and how do different attachment styles affect our relationships?
The four main styles of attachment have been identified in adults:
Secure people have lower anxiety and avoidance, and are the most comfortable in their relationships compared to the other relationship attachment styles. Securely attached people tend to have positive views of themselves and their attachments, and have more positive views and greater satisfaction of their relationships. Secure people feel comfortable in both their intimacy and with their independence, and tend to seek to balance intimacy and independence in their relationships. Secure people are better communicators in general, and have better problem solving abilities like compromising.
Dismissive people tend to avoid dependencies in their relationships, and are more comfortable without close emotional relationships. Dismissive attachment style people deny needing close relationships and often desire a high level of independence, but that desire for independence is often just an attempt to avoid attachment altogether. People with a dismissive–avoidant attachment style tend to suppress and hide their feelings, and generally do not reveal much to others because they lack trust, and are least likely to be in a committed relationship. Dismissive people tend to deal with rejection by distancing themselves from the sources of rejection to avoid conflict.
Fearful people avoid relationships as much as possible. Often, people with with loss or other trauma, including sexual abuse in childhood and adolescence, develop this type of attachment style. They want to have emotionally close relationships, but tend to feel uncomfortable with emotional closeness. Fearful people worry they’ll be hurt if they allow themselves to become too close to others. Seeking less intimacy from attachments, and frequently suppressing their feelings, fearful people often view themselves as unworthy of their relationships and often don’t trust the intentions of their attachments/partners.
Preoccupied people are overdependent and often experience jealousy in their relationships. People with this style of attachment seek high levels of intimacy and approval from their attachment figure, sometimes valuing intimacy to an extent that they become overly dependent. Preoccupied people often can be so worried about losing their relationship that they’re not responsive to what what they’re partner is actually experiencing. People who are anxious or preoccupied with their attachment also tend to have less positive views about themselves, maybe feeling a sense of anxiousness that only goes away when they’re with their attachment figure/partner.
Can attachment styles be changed?
Our feelings we developed about ourselves and others are based on patterns of behavior and experiences that we have had early in our lives and are deeply ingrained. But life changing events, like being in an abusive relationship, can turn secure people into fearful-avoidant type behaviour. And on the other hand – being in a stable, loving relationship can build trust that’s missing for an avoidant type person.
Do you want to know what your attachment style is? Take the test below to find out, or do a Google Search on attachment styles: