In psychology, “attachment styles” describe how people bond to each other. It originally came from research on how a mother and infant were attached to each other. When mothers are reliable, stable and show love and affection towards their babies, they create a secure attachment with their children. This leads to children to becoming more confident, warm and loving as they grow up. When mothers are distant, flakey and unreliable, it creates an insecure to their child. Researchers have found over the years that similar attachment styles are paralleled in adult relationships. There’s a secure attachment style and then there are two insecure attachment styles, avoidant and anxious. Below are the characteristics of each attachment style:
Secure attachments make up the majority of people, about 50%, and show warm, loving and confident behaviors in relationships. They tend to be people who effectively communicate within their relationships and don’t jump to conclusions about decisions that their partner is making. When you have a secure attachment style, you feel (you guessed it) secure in the relationship. Although this does not apply to everyone, you can feel secure in a relationship even if you have an insecure attachment style.
Anxious attachments make up about 25% of people and are an attachment style where the person is typically anxious about their partner and / or finding love. They have thoughts that their partner is mad at them if they don’t respond right away, will jump to conclusions and go to worst case scenario and tend to become defensive when faced with confrontation. Anxious partners tend to get very close to their partners right away, play games to keep their partner’s interest, can have difficulty explaining when something is bothering them and tends to be constantly preoccupied with the relationship.
Avoidant attachments also make up about 25% of the population and are people who tend to pull back when people get too close to them. This is an attachment style that will find flaws in their partner, retreats during conflict and will typically try to get space and someone who can shut down when faced with serious commitment. Avoidant partners tend to send mixed signals when they’re in a relationship, have unrealistic expectations about finding “the one”, uses distancing strategies (both emotionally and physically) and do not make their intentions clear with their partner.
What does it mean if you’re an insecure attachment style? First off, don’t worry. Half the population has insecure attachment styles. Are there ways to combat it? First off, by recognizing your insecure attachment style, you can communicate it clearly to your partner. If your partner is secure and you are anxious, you can figure out a communication style that will help ease the anxiety. If your partner is secure and you are avoidant, you can figure out a way to deal with conflict that does not involve you pulling away or your partner feeling like they are overpowering you. If you and your partner both have insecure attachment styles, you can still make it work. You just both have to be conscious of what makes the other person anxious or avoidant and find solutions to them. Clearly communicating your needs can help in this scenario. You can read more about attachment styles in relationships in Attached and check out the book review here.