Although I no longer date, I am sure that if I did I wouldn’t be choosing based on my attachment type. I am an avoidant-dismissive through and through. I still am even though I have also added being a secure type. Confusing? Not really. It helps me to remember that I can choose others based on my being a secure person.
An understanding of the attachment types is the basis for understanding how we relate to others and how they relate to us.
The attachment type theories have evolved over the years but I will posting about the following: secure–anxious–avoidant-dismissive–and avoidant-fearful.
The best short listing of these that I have found is from The Stoic’s Journal: What is your attachment style?
John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth came up with four attachment styles.
- These are the ‘normal’ ones
- Effective communicators
- They will trust you if you don’t give them any reason not to
- Attuned to their emotions and open about their feelings
- Dating them is a smooth ride
- Anxious about almost everything and anything
- Terrible communicators
- They act out when triggered (might resort to silent treatment)
- Closed off at times
- Dating them can be quite difficult but it’s possible to make things work
- Downplays the importance of relationships
- Extremely self-reliant (don’t believe they need anyone)
- Have strict boundaries
- They are emotionally distant
- They’d rather have casual relationships
- They have conflicting feelings about relationships
- Might come off as clingy and needy due to separation anxiety
- Strongly fears rejection
- Have low self-esteem
- Feel the need to flee when things start to get serious
Each Monday, I will post about one of these types. I don’t know of anything as important to understanding why we make the relationship choices we do as knowing our attachment type.
A quiz to help you determine your style–Attachment Styles and Close Relationships.
One of the hardest lessons that attachment theory teaches us is that we make relationship decisions in a way that validates our understanding of love and attachment, regardless of the healthiness of our approach.
For example, attachment expert Dr. Lisa Firestone elaborates that a person with an anxious attachment style will be attracted to an avoidant personality in order to validate her or his own beliefs that “in order to get close to someone and have your needs met, you need to be with your partner all the time and get reassurance.”
At first, this might not make sense. If you think about it, however, a securely attached person would provide consistent emotional intimacy to their anxious partner, thus invalidating the anxious partner’s belief that they must constantly work for that intimacy. This wouldn’t fit the anxious partner’s mental model of love and attachment.
If unexamined, the discrepancy could cause the anxious partner to exit the relationship because of a belief that it didn’t feel “right”. Of course, what does feel right in this case, isn’t healthy.
The question then becomes, can we get out of our unhealthy attachment patterns?
Dr. Firestone argues that you can. While attachment theory emphasizes that maladaptive attachment styles were learned before we had a say in the matter, we aren’t doomed to repeat the same mistakes.
After all, attachment styles are, at their core, mental models for seeking and keeping intimacy in our lives. They aren’t hardwired into our brains. Once we become aware of the models we are utilizing, we can analyze them, see where they come from, and work our way to better relationship models through therapy and introspection.
We can learn to behave differently, and, as a result, find more fulfilling relationships.