Relationships may seem mysterious, but when we inspect them more closely we are likely to find patterns related to our attachment styles. That’s a term psychologists use to describe basic orientations that we form starting in our infancy and early childhood years.
The three main attachment styles are secure, anxious, and avoidant:
* Secure attachment helps us to feel confident and enjoy healthy, close relationships. People with secure attachment styles are comfortable with their emotions and are more trusting of their partners. They are happy with themselves and their relationships.
· Anxious attachment may lead to pushing people away by being too sensitive to the possibility of rejection. People with anxious attachment styles often feel jealous, needy, and worried and generally have a hard time trusting romantic partners. Ironically, they tend to attract the very partners who enhance their anxious feelings.
· Avoidant attachment is associated with being isolated and emotionally distant. People with avoidant attachment styles basically turn off their need for any emotional or intimate attachment. They may come across as agreeable and sweet, but whenever their partners express any emotion, the avoidant person becomes angry and dismissive. Because of these tendencies, those with an avoidant attachment style make the worst partners for people with anxious attachment. This category of attachment style includes narcissists, as well as the garden-variety love avoidant.
The good news is that you can change your attachment style if you think it would have a positive impact on your relationships, especially if you lean towards an anxious attachment style. People who fall into this category typically have a bigger interest in self-reflection and making changes to enhance their self-esteem and their role in relationships. Following are some steps you can take to welcome more healthy closeness into your life.
Steps to Take with Yourself
1. Conduct an inventory. Take a good look at yourself. Do you avoid getting close to people? Do you worry about being left out? Once you accept yourself as you are, you can work towards becoming the person you want to be.
2. Develop your self-esteem. Secure attachment styles are grounded in a healthy sense of self-worth. Encourage yourself with positive self-talk. Acknowledge your accomplishments. Remember that you’re worthy of love!
3. Manage stress. Anxiety can express itself in many ways. When you feel more at ease, you’ll naturally project more confidence. Listen to soothing music, partake in daily prayer, or practice meditation.
4. Widen your circle. Relying exclusively on one person creates a heavy burden for any individual. Develop a broader support network of people with whom you can share your thoughts and feelings. Having more people to count on is a wise decision.
5. Step outside your comfort zone. Adjusting your attachment style will require some effort. Motivate yourself to take risks by envisioning all that you have to gain. In addition to enriching your romantic life, you may get along better with family, friends, and co-workers.
6. Seek counseling. It may help to talk with a professional if you see troubling patterns in your relationships or you have childhood issues that you want to sort out. Ask your doctor or a trusted friend for a referral. Some psychologists specialize in couples counseling or relationship issues.
Steps to Take with Your Partner
1. Know each other’s attachment style. Relationships thrive when you accurately assess each other’s strengths and weaknesses. You’ll be less likely to make false assumptions or take things personally. Even if you both feel secure, there may be areas you want to work on.
2. Communicate openly. Openly communicating and disclosing deeper truths allows people to get to know each other on a profound level. Be respectful and honest. Give your loved ones your full attention and compassion. However, keep in mind that if your partner has an avoidant attachment style, they likely will not be open to healthy, reciprocal communication. If they are unwilling to change and refuse to go to counseling, it may be time to consider leaving the relationship because there is no chance for improvement without intervention.
3. Take things gradually. It’s easy to get carried away in the early stages of infatuation. Make a deliberate effort to slow down and be objective. It will help you see beyond your feelings and notice if you’re heading for a disappointment or starting to form more constructive habits. A good rule of thumb is to not get engaged, married, or move in together before one year’s time. This gives you the chance to see how a potential long-term partner will behave through the four seasons, as well as during family gatherings, holidays, and special occasions.
4. Assess your compatibility. While you’re working on the quality of your relationship, take into account where the other person stands. You may be in a marriage where you’re both determined to work through all obstacles. On the other hand, you may have a more casual connection where you can still be a good influence on each other.
Most of us have a mixture of attachment styles. Once you know your tendencies, you can understand yourself better and make positive changes that will help you enjoy more satisfying relationships.
Make sure you set healthy boundaries with your free 'Setting Healthy Boundaries' worksheets below!
Get your boundaries worksheets and start living a more empowered life TODAY!
Kim Saeed is a recognized relationship and new life educator specializing in helping narcissistic abuse survivors to heal, rebuild, find purpose, and live joyfully after No Contact. In 2013, she founded Let Me Reach, a life transformation company that teaches people to flourish after toxic relationships.