Q&A - What are the attachment styles?

Published: November 12, 2021,  
Posted in: ,  

Today’s question is about the importance of attachment styles in a relationship.

What are the attachment styles?

Today's question is about attachment styles, and why they are important in relationships. We develop attachment styles early in childhood. There are four primarily attachment styles that determine our style of connecting with others, depending upon our experience and personality.

Age zero to seven, we are completely dependent upon our primary caregiver for our survival. Intrinsically we know this on a deep level, even preverbally. We start to develop a response or a reaction to whatever is happening in our emotional environment, in order to get this need for attachment met. Depending upon the emotional and social maturity of the caregiver, we will begin to develop one of these four attachment styles. 

The only other time throughout our life cycle that we are as vulnerable to the attachment and approval of another person, is when we want to develop an adult intimate relationship. We may function quite differently in this one domain, relative to the other relationships in our life. Adult intimate relationships are uniquely different from friendships, colleagues, and family members in that we long for a deeper approval and attachment. In a sense, we tend to revisit unresolved issues of trust and attachment in this one domain. 

The four predominant styles of attachment are secure, avoidant, anxious, and disorganized. Conflict is an especially important area of our relationships, and our ability to have constructive conflict determines growth.

Secure attachment, as the name suggests, means you tend to feel secure and confident in a relationship. You can self-soothe, you have emotional self-awareness, and you feel as though you can also receive comfort and reassurance from your partner. If there is a conflict, you ultimately resolve issues in a positive or constructive way. 

In an avoidant attachment style relationship, conflict is often avoided entirely. The rose colored glasses of an avoidant style attachment person, does not allow curiosity about differences to lead to new insights. Suppression of authentic feelings, avoidance of relationships in general, or the growth within a relationship ultimately lead to secondary issues.

Anxious attachment is typically characterized by repetitive cycles of conflict that lack resolution. 

As the name suggests, emotions are funneled into an uneasy anxious climate in the relationship. The culture of the relationship overall is anxious, thereby actually creating the cycles of repetitive, unresolved, disharmony. It's very difficult to trust, not necessarily the individual, but the concept of relationships and in general.

Disorganized attachment style relationships are often sabotaged by high highs and low lows. The most volatile conflict style of the four attachment styles, disorganized attachment sometimes will seek connection and reassurance through “make up” gestures following a huge argument. Without addressing any issues, the recovery from the volatility provides a comfort, thereby negatively reinforcing this way of attaching. 

If you are wondering how counseling can help you, refer to our article on 4 Ways To Get The Most Benefit From Couples Therapy.

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