By Debbie Rivers. Dating and Relationship Coach and Expert.
Do you wonder why you feel anxious in relationships? Or avoid them altogether? Have you wondered why you behave the way you do when you start dating? The answer could come from your childhood and your attachment style.
Feeling anxious, insecure or jealous can happen because of your attachment style and dating someone whose attachment style isn’t a match.
What is Attachment Style
Attachment theory is the joint work of Psychiatrist John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth and is explained as follows:
As a child, you need to develop an attachment to your caregivers to survive. It’s the primal survival instinct; it happened before you could speak or have conscious memories. You then take those learned, conditioned behaviours and expectations into your adult life and relationships.
Knowing your attachment style helps you build better relationships as you know your needs, strengths and weaknesses. You can also recognise the traits in others that would make a good match for you.
There are 4 Attachment Styles:
In childhood, you had one parent/caregiver who gave you safety and a secure place to explore the world from. Your parent/caregiver was able to meet your needs, so you felt safe.
As an adult, you feel comfortable with intimacy and are warm and loving. As a result, you can create healthy relationships, regulate your emotions, have healthy self-esteem, trust others, and communicate.
You are comfortable getting close to others and can have healthy relationships. The good news is that the majority of people are secure (approximately 50-60%). You experienced a safe relationship as a child that you could rely on. Therefore, you can create healthy relationships as you have experienced one. People with a secure attachment style make the best partners.
In childhood, you had caregivers that weren’t always around when needed. You received unpredictable care/support. So you never knew where they stood, making you feel unsafe.
As an adult, you feel emotional and clingy, seek excessive intimacy and constant reassurance, fear losing the relationship, you depend on others and have a negative view of yourself. You can be needy and clingy in relationships. Approximately 20% are anxious. You can manage your anxious attachment style.
Being aware you have an anxious attachment style helps you manage and change it over time. Learn to value yourself and have boundaries. Having needs doesn’t make you needy; you just need to learn how to communicate your needs, so others can hear them.
As humans, we are wired to look for our partner’s support and keep trying until we achieve closeness. You can become secure when you date someone who can respond to your needs. So choose to date someone who can respond to your needs, ideally someone with a secure attachment style.
In childhood, you grew up with emotionally unavailable or detached caregivers. As a result, you didn’t get the support, comfort or love you needed and learned to take care of yourself.
As an adult, you are self-reliant and avoid or leave during conflict. You see intimacy as losing their independence and limit closeness. You are masters of self-sabotage. You are likely to avoid relationships altogether. If you do date, you will self-sabotage if anyone gets too close to you. Approximately 25% are avoidant.
You can manage your avoidant attachment style. Recognising you are avoidant is the first step to change. You can then do the work it takes to change because suppressing your need for love doesn’t make it go away.
Choosing someone anxious or avoidant will always be a recipe for disaster for you. The best option is to date someone who has a secure attachment style.
Unresolved, Disorganised or Fearful
In childhood, your caregiver who should have kept you safe are the ones who caused harm. As a result, you detach or dissociate from your emotions to cope.
As an adult, you want intimacy but fear it, you expect to be hurt, you have a fear of rejection, a negative view of self, a negative view of others and low self-esteem. You are scared of closeness and intimacy even though you want it. This is because of unresolved emotions and trauma. Approximately 5% are unresolved.
You can manage your unresolved attachment style. If you have never experienced warmth and intimacy as a child, you will not know how to deal with it as an adult. Working on your self-esteem and healing the wounds from your childhood are important. You can still learn how to have a healthy relationship with some work and help from a professional to deal with your trauma.
Changing your Attachment Style
The good news is that you aren’t doomed because of your childhood. Your attachment style can change to be more or less secure based on who you choose to date and be in a relationship with. It can also change through conscious effort.
You can heal childhood wounds and change attachment styles as an adult, but it will take awareness and work. You may even need assistance from a professional.
The quickest way to change your attachment style is to choose to be with someone who has a secure attachment style.
Research has found that when an avoidant or anxious has a long-term relationship with a secure attachment style, they can grow to the level of the secure person over time.
If you want to find out what your attachment style is, you can take this short quiz to find out.
Debbie is a Dating and Relationship Coach and Expert who works with singles and couples. For over a decade she’s been empowering people to be successful in love and is obsessed with having bigger conversations about dating and relationships.