It’s crazy that the first 12 months of our lives, a time that as adults, we often have zero conscious memory of, can be one of the most determining time in shaping how we function in romantic relationships. That’s because our basic attachment styles are formed within our first 12 months.
It’s mind-blogging when you think about it in that straight forward of a way. We’re brought into this world blind, at the mercy of the type of environment our parents bring us up in. We were cared for? Did our parents respond promptly to our cries as babies? Or were we neglected? Were our parents absent in our lives from a young age? All of these factors are things that determine and shape our attachment type.
Now when we talk about attachment style in relationships, we’re referring to how you function within an intimate and emotional relationship, or what are your innate tendencies are in the wake of dealing with intimate and emotional prospects. Everyone will have different ways of operating and dealing with relationships.
We are all genetically different, we all had vastly different upbringings and childhoods, and so no two people are the same. But determining your attachment type, or at least investigating what yours might be, will potentially give you insight into why you act the way you do in a romantic relationship.
So what are the major attachment types?
The most common attachment type is a Secure Attachment.
Dr. Phillip Shaver and Dr. Cindy Hazen found through extensive research, that about 60 percent of people have a secure attachment.
Individuals with secure attachment types are the ones who grow up in loving homes, with parents who cared for them and showed them love on a consistent basis. These kids had a secure base that brought them into the world, a place that would ground them and help them to feel secure early on. It was this secure base that allowed these kids to venture into the world, screw up, make mistakes, try new things and experiment, all the while knowing they had a supportive home-base that would be there to support them and offer encouragement if they got knocked down.
As adults, these secure attachment types translate into individuals who have the ability to flourish in romantic relationships. They can engage in loving and intimate relationships seamlessly, while still growing and thriving as individuals. They have confidence in themselves and are most often secure in the feelings of their romantic partners. They are able to offer support to their partner when they’re distressed and often have received the same in return. These attachment types, generally, are more satisfied in romantic relationships, having an easier time feeling connected and aligned with their partners, resulting in a romantic repertoire of honest, open and equal relationships.
The next two attachment types are Anxious and Avoidant. These two attachment types encompass the rest of the 40 percent, an even 20/20, according to Dr. Phillip Shaver and Dr. Cindy Hazen.
According to psychology expert, Lisa Firestone, anxious attachment types are formed when a child’s needs were inconsistently met. As children they learned that the best way to get their needs met was to stay focused on their caregiver, remaining in their proximity, and eventually their needs will be met.
Now as adults, what does this behaviour remind you of?
Anxious attachment types are girls or guys who we see as too clingy. They’re what I like to call “smothering lovers” or “starfish lovers” (and not in the sexual starfish sense). They grew up starving for attention, so when they find someone who wants them or will pay attention to them, they stick to them.
These are the types of people who are generally insecure in relationships. They have a hard time being secure and content on their own, so they use relationships as a tactic to try to rescue them from themselves, or complete them and make them feel whole in some way, because they have never learned how to feel whole on their own.
The difficulty for anxious attachment types is they’re starving with emotional hunger, yet they don’t know how to effectively satiate that hunger. They crave security, comfort and consistency in a partner (often things they were neglected growing up) so they smother them, but this results in them pushing their partners away. Their own behaviouir further accentuates their own fears — they’re insecure their partner is cheating on them, doesn’t love them as much as they do, or they’re going to break-up with them and reject them, so they begin to act a little crazy or desperate which pushes their partners away even more. So it’s their very own erratic and overbearing behaviour that causes their loved one to flee or close off from them, the very thing they’re most afraid of. This creates a vicious cycle of misery and insecurity for anxious attachments.
Another common thing for an anxious attachment type to do is build a fantasy bond or a false allusion of a relationship. This makes anxious types something I call “nesters”, or the ones who will play house and dive head first into a romantic union without a seatbelt. They create fantasies and get swept away by “feelings of love”, instead of actual love.
Myself, personally, I’ve dated a few of these girls in the past. They always seemed to move on so quickly after break-ups, or were always in a relationship. This goes back to the fear of being alone — Instead of taking time apart for themselves, to replenish themselves emotionally; they just transfer the loss and emotional emptiness onto the next guy who can refill them. It’s as if you just become this temporary prop for their happiness, the current pillar to hold them in place as the waves crash against them.
Now the final attachment type is Avoidant, which come in two parts.
The first is Dismissive Avoidant.
According to psychology expert, Lisa Firestone, avoidant attachments developed behavioural patterns in a complete opposite way to anxious types. While anxious types got attention from their caregivers by exaggerating their feelings, avoidant attachments learned the best way to get their needs met was to pretend they didn’t have any in the first place.
As you can imagine, avoidant attachment types can often be stemmed from situations of broken homes, toxic family lives, or upbringings where parents and caregivers were not readily present in the child’s life. They didn’t have the support they desperately desired early on, so they learned to become pseudo-independent from an early age.
Now as adults, you can imagine who these relationship types are…
Those who you would say have “intimacy issues”.
While anxious attachment types deal with breakups by getting into another relationship, avoidant attachment types deal with breakups by diving into a string of non-committed sexual forays.
They were neglected that early caregiver contact, which resulted in a discomfort and disconnection with emotional security and intimacy. So it’s easy for them to become distant in romantic relationships, potentially shutting down emotionally during arguments. They’ll distance themselves when things get tough in the relationship, closing themselves off and pretending they don’t care, while becoming hyper-independent as they resort back to old patterns.
An avoidant attachment type is also the type of person who will want you when they can’t have you. That way they can’t get hurt. They’re the types of people who will find you more attractive when you’re with someone else, but then when you’re available to them, they lose interest. These attachment types relish in game playing and have a hard time being straightforward and honest with someone. They are the classic “hot and cold” people in the dating scene. That’s because they’re always holding things back, finding new inventive ways to protect themselves.
If any of you have seen Amy Schumer’s new movie ‘Trainwreck’, then you would have seen an avoidant attachment type in action on the big screen. Her string of flings and meaningless and random sexual escapades were a way for her to avoid emotion. In fact, she was so emotionally disconnected she didn’t even know how to understand or process her emotions, and any time she experienced them, she would run right into the cuddly arms of alcohol. But then she meets Bill Hader — the “nice guy” doctor who actually likes her and wants to be with her — she’s scared to death and almost ruins it because she’s not used to actually being wanted by someone.
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Now the second Avoidant Attachment type is Fearful Avoidant.
According to clinical psychologist Lisa Firestone, fearful avoidant attachment types are the most likely out of the all the attachment types to be involved in an abusive, dramatic, or toxic relationship.
They live in an idle state of being afraid of being alone, but also being afraid of getting too close to anyone. These attachment types know that deep down they crave intimacy and closeness with someone, as they become depressed when isolated and alone, but yet they feel trapped when they get too close to someone. In turn, they live in a world of emotional confusion and unpredictable mood swings because they’re stuck in this paralyzing dichotomy.
So how does our attachment style affect how we act in a relationship exactly?
Well, clearly secure attachment types have more successful relationships. They have an easier time trusting people, taking their guard down and allowing themselves to be vulnerable. Also, when dealing with rejection they will rebound much faster as they have enough confidence in themselves that they know they’re worthwhile and there will be someone down the road who will appreciate them. They’re often secure when they’re single, as well as when they’re in a relationship. Secure attachment types not only have more successful romantic relationships, but they have an easier time making friends and connecting with people throughout their lives.
Anxious attachment types desperately seek attention and want to be wanted. This need for constant assurance, often will lead them into a lot of the wrong relationships because they were so desperate for it, they virtually bypassed the questions, “Is this person right for me? Are they good for me?” They’re starving for this attention, which means they have a difficult time reading their feelings and acting accordingly. Anxious attachment types don’t do single very well and would much rather be in a closely bound relationship. They also have a more difficult time rebounding from rejection, and will often deal with their heartbreak or rejection by immediately getting involved with someone else.
Avoidant attachment types tend to have a harder time getting involved in serious relationships, as well as sticking around once they do get into one. Apparently avoidant attachment types are the most dominant attachment type in the above 30 dating pool because of this very reason. At the first sign of resistance and trouble, they’re far more likely to throw in the towel and give up before things get too difficult or they get hurt. Thus, they end up being single later in life because they’ve been too guarded or afraid of being hurt to put their heart all the way out there. Avoidant attachment types do single a little too well, and while they want to be intimate with someone, they have a hard time bringing themselves to that place.
In breakups and heartbreaks, avoidant attachment types are likely to delve further and further into their protective shells, in turn becoming less trusting towards romantic partners.
As you can imagine, the most ideal relationships come together when two securely attached individuals start dating. The most troublesome union is when an anxious and an avoidant start dating or engage in relationship because their own tendencies directly conflict with each other.
So for those with insecure attachment types, this brings about the important question, can your attachment type be changed or improved?
Yes it can.
Numerous psychologists have written that the best way to improve or change your attachment style is to engage in relationships with securely attached individuals. Their behaviour and healthy emotional habits will help to make the insecurely attached individual to feel more secure, and over time, help to strengthen their attachment type to become more of a secure attachment.
It’s crazy that the first 12 months of our lives, a time that as adults, we often have zero conscious memory of, can be one of the most determining times in shaping how we function in romantic relationships. Looking at your own habits and patterns in relationships might be a difficult self-examination process, and they may be hard to identify, but you may find out things about yourself you’ve been neglecting to look at. And being weary of your romantic prospects’ attachment type; will likely help you to understand them better and help them to feel more secure.
And for those secure attachment types, I guess now you know to thank your parents, for, in some way, being the reason why you don’t act like a crazy person in a relationship.