Are we defined or doomed by our attachment styles?
By Carol Graham, 22 January 2019
Did you know that our adult relationships may be heavily influenced by our upbringing? The way we attached to our primary caregivers in childhood and other life experiences as we grew, may have shaped how we attach romantically.
Have you noticed that some couples seem happier than others and are more able to work through their problems? Whilst others seem to run from one relationship to another, never really finding that happy ever after that they are searching for. The reason for this is very likely to be rooted in attachment styles.
Attachment Theory, in psychology, is based on the belief that we are biologically wired to connect with others and form deep emotional bonds. It originates from the work of John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth and through the development of this theory during 1960-1970’s three major attachment styles were identified;
- Avoidant; and
The primary caregivers of a securely attached child are attuned to their child’s needs and are consistently responsive to those needs. The child feels secure, and knows it has freedom to venture out and explore, safe in the knowledge that there is a secure, loving dependable base to return to. This is replicated in adult relationships, when secure people attach, they are happy, friendly and are more trusting in their relationships. They can have friends and interests of their own, independent to those of their romantic partner knowing that they have a secure, loving base to return to. When problems arise in their relationship, they are more likely to be able to talk about them with their partner and work through them.
A child may develop an avoidant attachment style when the primary caregivers are regularly distant, preoccupied, indifferent or absent. The child will quickly learn to fend for itself and not rely on others. So, it is easy to see how this attachment style could later affect adult relationships. Avoidant types will find it uncomfortable forming close relationships, they may find it difficult to rely on others and could have trust issues resulting in a fear of intimacy and an unwillingness to commit wholeheartedly to their partner. When there are problems in the relationship, they cope by distancing themselves and will often choose the safer option of quitting and maintaining their independence, believing they would be better off on their own. Relationships with people of an avoidant attachment style are very often brief, and consequently, you will find many of these types in dating pool.
A child brought up by caregivers who are inconsistent; responsive one minute and not the next, may form an anxious attachment style. They wouldn’t know what to expect next. They may feel loved one minute and not the next. Did they do something wrong? Would their parents be there when they got home? A child living with this sort of inconsistency would become unsure and clingy. As an adult, they would seek intimate relationships but would worry that others wouldn’t reciprocate their love or stay with them. They are likely to obsess about the relationship, constantly checking their phone in the hope that some contact has been made. They may become possessive and easily feel jealous. The fear of abandonment would be strong, and their coping strategy would be rumination.