Updated: Feb 12, 2019
We all find and look for something to attach to, whether it's healthy or unhealthy. Attachment theories have become more popular among parent/child relationships, but did you know that adults have attachment styles with their partners as well?
February, the month of love is all about relationships and I thought it would be appropriate to dive into a resource book called, "Attached. The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find-and Keep- Love," by Amir Levine and Rachel Hellner.
Let's be real, relationships are hard. They are a lot of work and sometimes they leave you wondering, "what's wrong with me?" or "what's wrong with them?"
This book uses 3 main areas to describe attachment styles for adults - Anxious, Secure, and Avoidant. Anxious styles are, "people who love to be close to their romantic partners, but fear that their partner does not wish to be as close as they would like them to be." Relationships take up a lot of their time and energy and they tend to be sensitive to picking up on their partners change of emotions and actions. At times their partner may say they are, "overly sensitive or reading into things too much." This at times can leave the anxious person feeling like they take things too personally and leave them feeling emotionally raw. Anxious attachment may often bring people to engage in mind-reading or all-or-nothing thinking as a means to find comfort in predicting your partner.
Avoidant attachment styles are, "those who need independence and self-sufficiency and prefer autonomy in relationships." Too much closeness makes avoidant styles feel uncomfortable and they typically don't spend much time worried about the other person or feeling rejected. At times their partner may say their partner is, "emotionally distant." Avoidant behaviors include overgeneralizing, fantasizing about "the one", feeling as though the other person is so needy, and withdrawing mentally or physically.
Secure attachment styles are, "those who enjoy being intimate without becoming overly worried and don't get upset easily over relationship matters." This person is able to effectively communicate needs and feelings as well as when your partner needs you, you are able to be available for them.
In the book there are a couple assessments to help determine what your attachment style is. Once you are able to figure out your attachment style and your partner can figure out theirs, then you can look at how the combination impacts your relationship. If you are dating, then knowing your attachment style can help you figure out dynamics of what you are experiencing in relation to others, and also....what may not be working.
What I love is the emphasis not on obtaining a certain attachment style, but about self awareness on what your attachment style is. Then figuring out what you need given your attachment style and your partners.
Finding your way to your comfort zone (see picture) is a visual image illustrating when to know if you are in the comfort or danger zone. Therefore, your reaction often has to do with your attachment or lack of attachment to your partner. When your attachment system gets the best of you, you may engage in "protest behavior" such as withdrawing (to get attention), keeping score, acting hostile, threatening to leave, and manipulating. All of these are often an attempt to reconnect or feel more secure with your partner, but can often instead drive the person farther away.
I found this resource extremely helpful in bringing language to the dynamics of relationships, and how looking through an attachment theory we find understanding as to why we engage in some of these behaviors. It also helps to then guide our awareness of looking at behaviors and relationships we want and how to establish reconnection in a healthy way through our comfort zone. Relationships are such a confusing dance, often stepping on each other toes, and going in all directions. This guide helps us to embrace the dance.
I'd love to hear what you think or know of your attachment styles and how you can relate to any of this information (or if you have read the book)!