Identifying Your Attachment Style can Lead to Better Relationships
Are you tired of having an unsuccessful dating life or of eternally looking for Mr. Right? Do you feel frustrated with going from one relationship to another, only to end up with a broken heart? Your attachment style could be the reason for this!
Understanding your attachment style can help you identify the root cause of your relationship woes, and thereby determine the best way to enhance your relationships.
There are three basic attachment styles: anxious, avoidant, and secure. Let’s see how to identify each.
Anxious (or Anxious-Preoccupied)
The anxious, or anxious-preoccupied, are anxiously preoccupied with their partner’s needs, worries, and doubts. They’re constantly worried about what their partner is doing, if their partner is happy, and how they can be better for their partner.
While this “selfless love” seems like a positive thing, the anxious avoid their true feelings and in turn “lose themselves” within their relationships.
An anxious person’s behaviors in a relationship are mainly driven by fear of abandonment. They tend to be needy or clingy, and they’re always craving intimacy and seeking attention from their partner. They’re always concerned about whether or not their partner would love them back.
Avoidant (or Fearful Avoidant)
People with an avoidant or fearful avoidant attachment style are afraid to make commitments and would avoid it at all costs. Being committed would open doors to vulnerability, and the avoidant dislike feeling or being vulnerable.
An avoidant person struggles to be there for you, not because they don’t have feelings for you. In fact, they may love you, but they struggle with feelings of intimacy oftentimes because of a deep-seated fear of not being good enough.
For the avoidant, close relationships make them feel that their independence is being impeded. They tend to pull away from a relationship when it starts becoming intense.
A secure person naturally has a secure sense of self. They have healthy self-esteem, a positive view of themselves and their relationships, and a healthy way of dealing with attachment issues.
At some point, even a secure person deals with anxiousness or avoidance. However, the secure one tends to have healthier coping mechanisms for dealing with inner conflicts.
The secure tend to be more satisfied in relationships because they feel closely connected with their partner while having the freedom to enjoy their own friendships and interests.
A secure person doesn’t struggle with intimacy issues like an avoidant person would. The secure don’t feel jealous or possessive either, because they have confidence in themselves and they feel secure about their relationship.
The secure feel comfortable about being intimate and expressing their feelings, and they seek and keep stable relationships.
So, have you figured out what your attachment style is?
The Importance of Identifying Your Attachment Style
- It helps you understand your own strengths and vulnerabilities in a relationship.
- It gives you a clearer understanding of your partner’s actions and reactions.
- It enables you and your partner to interact better to ensure that both your needs are met.
Simply put, your attachment style can influence practically everything about your relationship – from selecting your partner, to how you behave in romantic relationships, and how your relationship will progress.
Dealing with Jealousy and Insecurity
Are you the jealous type of person?
Find out by answering the following questions with “Yes” or “No.”
- Do you always want to look at your partner’s phone?
- Do you constantly check your partner’s social media pages?
- Do you always want to be alone with your partner?
- Do you feel anxious when your partner goes out with friends?
- Do you compare the amount of time your partner spends with you with the time your partner spends with other people?
- Do you have difficulty concentrating because you’re preoccupied with thoughts of your partner doing something “not good”?
- Do you find it difficult to trust your partner?
If you answer “Yes” to most of these questions, then you’re definitely the jealous type and you may have an anxious-preoccupied attachment style.
Anxiously attached people often struggle with jealousy.
They feel insecure and they’re always worried that they may be abandoned; that’s why they tend to be clingy.
Anxious people have low self-esteem and oftentimes question their worthiness to be loved. They tend to feel that they’re inadequate and that they have to behave in a certain way to earn the affection of others.
Insecurity can manifest as jealousy, suspicion, or excessive preoccupation with our partner; these are like poison that slowly kills a relationship!
If you have constant bouts with insecurity and jealousy, try to analyze the situation and your reactions. Is your partner really giving you valid reasons to have doubts? Are you becoming unreasonably demanding of your partner’s time and attention?
The best way to handle any relationship trouble is by being open and talking about it. Be honest and tell your partner about how you feel. Try to identify what is really causing your fears. Is it something your partner did in the past? Or maybe a bad experience you had from another relationship? Let your love allow you to talk through it.
Some Ways to Help a Partner Asking for Space
I… need… space… These three little words could terrify anyone who hears them from their partner. However, don’t think that your relationship is automatically or necessarily doomed.
If your partner asks for some space in your relationship, it could mean any of the following:
Your partner may be feeling “lost.”
Being closely connected in a relationship is good, but it may come to a point when you feel like you’ve lost who you are. This “space” that your partner needs may mean wanting to have some room to grow as an individual. It could be pursuing new hobbies and interests or spending some time with long lost friends.
This is not a bad thing; and if you both agree to it, this could even bring new life to your relationship and eventually make both of you happy and fulfilled.
Your partner may just need some “alone time.”
Some people tend to need some downtime. They may feel exhausted and want to have a break from everything, and that includes interacting with their partner.
Similar to the first reason, people can be so absorbed into their relationships that they start feeling smothered. Hence, some alone time can enable them to meditate and relax – and hopefully, come back refreshed and ready for a more exciting adventure with their partner.
Your partner may find it difficult to get close to anyone.
If your partner tends to always keep distance and is constantly asking for space, he may be an avoidant person.
An avoidant person, or one with a fearful avoidant attachment style, is afraid of commitments and hence avoids being close in a relationship.
Is Your Partner Avoidant?
There are some things you can do to help your partner become more open to intimacy and communication:
Don’t take it personally.
It is not about you. Avoidant partners create distance as a form of “self-preservation”; they fear losing themselves.
Listening is a powerful tool that is not properly or adequately used in relationships. Be open to listening to your partner’s feelings and concerns. Listen with kindness and compassion. Most importantly, listen not necessarily to fix something, but to understand your partner.
Focus on the positive.
Constant complaining will just drive your partner further away. Talk to your partner about good things in your relationship, especially when your partner does something that pleased you. This will take away negativity from both of you, and it will encourage your partner to feel good about communicating.
Make your partner feel that they can count on you. Always do what you say. Avoidant people feel that they can depend only on themselves; hence, they always expect disappointments from others. Don’t worsen this by making promises you can’t keep.
Accept and respect your differences.
Recognize that your partner may have a different way of expressing affection. That doesn’t necessarily mean that your partner loves you less. Pushing for your way may just push your partner away.
Give your partner space.
As you know, avoidant partners want to keep their distance. So even when you see your partner taking efforts to get close, don’t get too excited and don’t overwhelm the moment. Doing it gently can make your partner feel safe to move closer in your relationship.
Remember, the perfect space in your relationship is a room where you and your partner can comfortably grow…together and as individuals!
A Look at the Anxious/Avoidant Dance and How To Cope with It
Imagine this relationship scenario…
Partner A moves closely to the other person. Partner A wants attention, needs intimacy and feels satisfied only if there is physical and emotional closeness in the relationship.
Partner B moves away from the other person and likes to keep some distance. Partner B is threatened when being pushed in a relationship and often feels overwhelmed by someone like Partner A.
Such is the anxious/avoidant dance, and it can be really draining!
Some Signs of Anxious/Avoidant Relationships
(Note: For the sake of clearer illustration, we will refer to the anxious partner as female and the avoidant partner as male.)
Big Arguments about Small Things
Constant arguments and meaningless fights are not really about the small issues but actually stem from the amount of intimacy between the partners.
When the anxious partner fails to get the intimacy she desires or feels that the avoidant partner is moving away, she tends to pick a fight just to get his attention.
When the avoidant partner starts to feel overwhelmed by the intimacy demands of the anxious partner, he tends to complain about being smothered and uses this to justify why he needs to distance himself. This usually causes friction between the partners and oftentimes leads to fighting.
Sometimes the avoidant partner becomes available and affectionate to the anxious partner, which makes her feel relaxed. However, as they become closer, the avoidant partner feels uncomfortable and starts to withdraw himself.
Such withdrawal further lowers the anxious person’s self-esteem and increases her insecurity – usually pushing her into a stream of negative emotions.
The relationship is never calm, and both partners commonly face discontentment, disappointment, and dissatisfaction.
Need for Space
The avoidant partner tends to create fights just to push his partner away. He demands for more “space” or “alone time.”
The more passionate the anxious partner becomes, especially when it comes to fixing their relationship, the more distant the avoidant partner becomes, until he finds a way to walk away and enjoy the independence that he has been craving.
After the emotional and verbal outburst, the avoidant partner goes away and the anxious partner is left in pain over this loss. She starts regretting the hurtful things she may have said and thinks about the reasons to stay together. Meanwhile, the avoidant is focusing on the negative things and this further reinforces his desire to be away from his partner.
Both partners blame each other for their failed relationship. The anxious partner tends to think: “If only he stayed and assured me, I would have calmed down in a little while.” On the other hand, the avoidant partner tends to think: “If only she calmed down and stopped attacking me, I would have stayed with her.”
Truly, the anxious/avoidant dance can be extremely exhausting. Partners may find themselves always clashing, and this may push them to leave the dance floor and head for the exit door.
Coping in a Relationship With Opposing Attachment Styles
If you are on the anxious side:
Develop a more positive view of yourself. Enhance your self-esteem by broadening your social circle. Spend more time to explore yourself, your interests, and hobbies. Love yourself more to love your partner better.
If you are on the avoidant side:
Embrace the “discomfort” of intimacy and open yourself to affection. Express yourself more and communicate with your partner. Be more optimistic about getting closer; you’ll eventually see that it actually feels good!
For both partners:
Take ownership for your own attachment needs. Be willing to constantly experiment on how to meet both yourself and your partner.
Work together towards growth – both self-growth and relationship growth. You and your partner may need to make some compromises and sacrifices along the way, as you try to make your relationship work. Over time, things can get better and your relationship stronger.
Jessica Baum is a licensed and experienced relationship therapist in Palm Beach County, specializing in codependency and love addiction. To learn more about love addiction or to book an appointment, please feel free to call her at 1-800-274-8106.