A Lifelong Bond? Attachment styles and Adult Relationships

Apps, Likes and Matches can try to put numbers to the dating game, but is there really an algorithm behind affairs and affection? Probably not. But attachment theory is pretty damn close. The science behind attachment has been heavily studied by psychologists Bowlby and Ainsworth- who discovered that the degree to which infants get their emotional and physical needs met by their parents significantly influenced their attachment pattern across their lifetime. Early experiences with infants, especially during times of distress could be powerful in shaping their expectations of how future partners could react to their times of need. Serial dater? Single? Or Satisfied? Scroll down to find out which one, and why.

Secure Attachment
Living by an open book and open door policy, secure individuals are not fearful to commit a hundred percent. They have a balanced out ego, and are not afraid to reach out to their partners in times of need. However, they will also readily offer an umbrella to help their partner weather any storm. As a result, their relationships usually promote equality, mutually shared care and affection- but also the space for each individual to be their own entity. Back in their childhood, securely attached individuals have seen their parents as a stable and dependable base from which to secure affection, yet to be their own person and
take risks in the world. Parents of secure individuals are attuned to their needs, empathize with their experiences and confront and repair ruptures in their relationships with their child. Thus these individuals expect and actively create the same emotional experience for themselves as adults!

Anxious Attachment
Always hungry and never satiated, anxiously attached people tend to always seek new forms of validation and acceptance. They are never really satisfied with the care that their partner shows them, because they have a deep-seated belief of not being good enough. Feeling incomplete on their own feet, they look to their partner to make them feel whole, and more often than not- they turn clingy and subconsciously take steps that push their partner further away from them. They often misinterpret their partner’s actions as a confirmation of their own insecurities and often think and behave irrationally.Their childhood was likely filled with experiences where their key caregivers were unpredictable in responses to their
distress. At some times their caregivers may have been able to provide a nurturing experience, while at others they may have been insensitive or emotionally unavailable. Anxiously attached individuals have come to learn that the best way to gain affection is to cling to key figures- and thus their resulting behavior in relationships!

Insecure-Ambivalent Attachment
Commitment phobes and emotionally enigmatic. Ironically, ambivalently attached individuals are afraid of emotional distance just as much as emotional proximity. Though they long for an emotional connection, they will actively elope from any situation that requires them to commit. Their view of relationships is that they need to be close to get their emotional needs met, but are afraid of getting burnt in the feelings fire if they get too close. Although they look to their partner when they feel a sense of rejection, they also feel
claustrophobic with intimacy, and thus relate in a disorganized fashion to their partners. Early experiences ambivalently-attached types have shared with caregivers tend to have been unpredictable. Thus they crave a sense of predictability, which they fulfill by rejecting before they get rejected!

Insecure- Avoidant Attachment
No man is an island, but insecurely-avoidant individuals sure pretend like it. These individuals will emotionally distance themselves from their partner, and have an illusion that they don’t depend on anyone to satisfy their emotional needs. They hide under work and other tasks to create an emotional distance between themselves and loved ones and essentially put up a false pretense of not caring. Rather than reaching out to loved ones when the tide is high- they would rather rely on unhealthy soothing patterns that might sometimes include substances or food. As children, insecurely-avoidant individuals have consistently not gotten their needs met by their caregivers, and consciously shutting down has been an effective strategy to avoid getting hurt when these needs are not fulfilled.

Suggestive, but not set in stone
Although early attachment styles do often predict your way of relating to your near and dear in your adult life, this is certainly not set in stone. For one, looking at your attachment styles with a self-compassionate lens can help you be aware of why you react to people and situations the way you do. And that’s a pretty good start! Once revealed, you can work on your defenses and attitudes either independently or with the support of a therapist to rewire how you relate!