What to Do if Your Partner Has a Disorganized Attachment Style
If you are currently in a relationship with a person who has a disorganized attachment style, it is important to try to be understanding of their sometimes peculiar behavior, be by their side, and help them develop a healthier, more secure attachment style(or encourage them to get help).
Of course, since you can never know for sure all of their inner thoughts and feelings, you might not be 100% sure of the right way to act with them.
Some things you could do are:
- Show up consistently when you said you would.
- Be there for them during times of stress.
- Do your best to communicate in a simple and clear way. Since people with this kind of attachment usually grew up with caregivers who sent them confusing messages and mixed signals, it’s important to be as clear, direct, and honest as possible with them.
- Show them that even though their parents/caregivers were not there for them as a child, things won’t be the same with you.
- Follow through with your promises to them.
- Let them know in a gentle way that their behavior might hurt your relationship and assure them that you are willing to help them work on and change some unhealthy patterns of it.
- Encourage them to do some self-reflection and explore their childhood in order to understand their triggers or seek a professional’s help, without making them feel they’re weird.
The disorganized attachment style is the most complicated and difficult to understand of the human attachment styles. Only 7% of the population fall into this group, whereas 20% of the population tend to be anxious and another 20% avoidant. It might be relatively rare, but 7% of the population means chances are we will connect with people who have this attachment adaptation at some point in our lives.
Those with a disorganized attachment adaptation most likely (though not always) experienced trauma early in their lives. This pattern can develop when someone grows up afraid of their parent or caregiver. There was a marked lack of safety early in life and a confusing level of chaos. Caregivers often set up double binds, with the message being something like this: “come here, go away.”
This mixed message leads to the crossing of wires and two very intrinsic human needs: the need to connect and the need to survive. As adults, this means as we move closer to our loved ones our bodies and hearts remember how dangerous connection can be. This sets off alarm bells that remind us of the message to “go away.”
In a way, someone with a disorganized attachment adaptation faces some of the most difficult challenges faced by both those with an avoidant and those with an anxious attachment style.
This can be an incredibly difficult attachment style to understand and if we are in a relationship with someone with this pattern, we might be left feeling confused and frustrated. Yet, imagine what it would be like to live with two of your most basic drives in conflict with each other? For folks living with this attachment style, love can be the furthest thing from safe and this can lead to a cycle of pain and heartbreak.
When we begin to understand what is beneath how an attachment style shows up in our relationships as adults, we create space for a deeper connection. We welcome in patience, empathy, and love— qualities of connection that we all want and deserve. This is not to say we should stay in relationships that are hurting us, but it might help us to understand what that person might be going through and to remember it is not as much about us as we may be inclined to think.