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  • Writer's pictureMartha Witkowski

Attachment Styles: What's going on in your relationship?

Updated: Apr 15

We develop our attachment styles in early childhood- these are formed through our early emotional experiences, and most importantly, our dynamic between our primary caregivers. These attachment styles directly influence the behaviors, emotions, interactions and dynamics with our romantic partners. In this blog post, we'll delve into the four primary attachment styles—secure, anxious, avoidant, and anxious-avoidant. We'll explore what each attachment style entails, how it impacts relationships, and the specific struggles individuals with each style may encounter.


Attachment disorders (insecure attachment styles) are nearly always a symptom of C-PTSD. To learn more about C-PTSD, you can check out more blogs here or our website here.

Secure Attachment

Individuals with a secure attachment style typically feel comfortable with intimacy and are able to trust their partners. They have a positive view of themselves and others, which fosters healthy, balanced relationships. These individuals have relationships that are fulfilling, stable and have excellent communication, mutual respect and balanced support between partners. They are comfortable expressing their needs and emotions and know their emotional needs will be met with understanding. Securely attached individuals generally have much less difficulty in relationships, but, in the event that they find themselves in a relationship with someone who has an insecure attachment style, they may encounter some challenges. This may include needed to provide more regular support and reassurance to their partner to help them feel more secure, which can be overwhelming.

 

An example of how a healthy conflict may happen in a securely attached relationship might look something like this: You forget to call your partner when you say you are going to. When you do talk to them next, they remind you that you said you would call them, and they let you know they felt unimportant when you forgot. You respond with understanding and empathy, and apologize for the forgetfulness whilst letting your partner know that you value them and your relationship with them. Your partner accepts the apology and understands you were busy and accepts the apology and explanation. You work together to communicate about how to prevent something like this from happening again.

 


Anxious Attachment

Individuals with an anxious attachment style often fear abandonment and seek constant validation from their partners. They tend to be overly sensitive to relationship dynamics and may exhibit behavior that comes across as clingy or needy. When their partner is unavailable they become anxious or distressed and crave regular closeness. These individuals experience intense highs and lows in relationships.

 

The biggest challenge for an anxiously attached individual is managing anxiety and insecurity. This usually manifests as trust issues, jealousy, feeling inadequate and all these factors can lead to regular conflict in the relationship. Anxiously attached individuals may find they feel obsessed with their partner or relationship and are unable to stop thinking about them. This unhealthy pattern can lead them to neglect themselves and their own needs and focus entirely on the relationship. It can come across and obsessive or possessive. These relationships can feel draining or overwhelming to the other partner, who may find themselves needing to provide near constant reassurance or attention, or, working through regular bouts of conflict.

 

In the example given above, when you forget to call your anxiously attached partner, they may respond by calling you nonstop until you answer. When you do answer, your partner questions you about your whereabouts and tells you they are sure you don’t love them anymore or are uninterested in the relationship. Despite your best efforts, this interaction leads to an argument that ends with one partner being unable to be reassured, and the other partner feeling overwhelmed and drained.

 

Avoidant Attachment

Individuals with an avoidant attachment style often prioritize independence and self-reliance over emotional intimacy. They may downplay the importance of relationships and prefer to keep their emotions guarded. This is your person who says they are always happy being single and they feel better when they are alone. They may say “I don’t need anyone!” When faced with a situation that may require emotional vulnerability, they can become uncomfortable and find ways to avoid the interaction or conversation. They may come across as being more interested in meeting their own needs over the needs of their partner or the health of the relationship. They are very protective of their own autonomy and tend to view relationships as being a threat to their autonomy.

 

These individuals usually find it difficult to establish and maintain deep emotional connections with others. They usually struggle with intimacy and can become withdrawn or defensive when their partners seek closeness. This can lead to an emotionally strained and distant relationship with the avoidant individual being unable to meet the emotional needs of their partner, and the partner feeling as though their partner is uninterested in them or the relationship. These individuals may have a difficult time maintain a long-term relationship, or may even seek out short-term relationships or long-distance ones.

 

In these relationships, we usually see something like this: You didn’t call your partner when you said you would, and they feel neglected. In fact, you often don’t call when you say you will. This leads to your partner wanting to have a deep talk about the relationship dynamics. You reject the idea that anything is wrong with the relationship and also say there is no need for a talk, or, entirely avoid having the conversation in general.



Anxious-avoidant attachment

Individuals with anxious-avoidant attachment style often experience conflicting desires for intimacy and independence. They usually waver between seeking emotional closeness to their partner and pushing their partner away due to underlying fear of rejection of abandonment. These relationships are usually unpredictable, chaotic and involve a lot of conflict. Intense highs and lows are usually seen in these relationships, going from intense emotional connection and periods of distance.

 

The biggest relationship struggle for these individuals is learning to balance their desire for closeness and their fear of vulnerability. These relationships may involve sabotaging behavior that ultimately leads to conflict. The back and forth between high emotional intensity and radio silence distance can be difficult for the other partner and ultimately lead to an unhealthy, toxic or abusive relationship, or one that ends entirely. On/off relationships, toxic relationships, or relationships that involve abuse are sometimes seen in this category.

 

The most common scenario in these types of relationships is this: You find a partner and are so excited to be with them. There is a honeymoon phase that occurs, but, once your partner starts to show a desire for deepening emotional intimacy, you feel overwhelmed by the thought of it, and starts to emotionally withdrawal. Eventually, the emotional withdrawal leads to the other partner questioning the status of the relationship. Sometimes this can lead to a return of anxious attachment behavior and a rekindling of the honeymoon phase, followed by sabotaging behavior, such as looking for conflict or reasons for emotional distance. We often see on/off relationship dynamics here.


If you’re interested in learning more about attachment styles, or taking our quiz to find out what your attachment style is, you can do so here.

Attachment styles and C-PTSD influence the direction and dynamics of relationships in more ways than one would think. Regardless of what happened in your childhood and what your attachment style is, it is possible to work towards having a healthier and more secure attachment style so that your relationships can be fulfilling. Therapy that delves into childhood issues to figure out the roots of attachment issues can be what is needed to begin challenging some of the patterns that are present for an individual.

 


 

At Root Counseling, we specialize in C-PTSD and attachment issues. We can help you learn more about your tendencies in relationships. To read more about our therapists, you can do so here.

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