Attachment Styles: We Were All Born To Love
By: Sarah Fader
Updated August 28, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Horn
As human beings, we're born to love our guardians or parents, and depending on our experiences and who we are, different attachment styles develop from the time that we're a child to when we're an adult. If you have loving and caring parents, the hope is that you'll develop a secure attachment style, but that's not always the case. There are different kinds of attachment styles, and we're going to describe them in this article so that you understand what type of attachment style you have and how to improve your relationships. There are four attachment styles: secure, anxious, dismissive or avoidant, and fearful-avoidance. Let's start with secure attachment - the ideal form of attachment.
Attachment theory is fascinating and we can learn a lot from it. Learning about different kinds of attachments can enrich our relationships. We can understand how we connect to others when we learn about attachment styles. In the book Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller, they discuss attachment theory. There are different kinds of attachments that we have to others. Some people are anxiously attached while others are secure. Depending on your attachment to people, you will have trouble maintaining relationships or find it easy to connect with others. Let's go over the different kinds of attachments and see which category you fall under. Learning about attachment theory can help you form and maintain healthy relationships. Remember that your attachment style can change, depending on how you view yourself and if you work on your relationship challenges in therapy.
A secure attachment style happens when a person feels confident in themselves. They have a favorable view of themselves and others. Those that are securely attached are able to form healthy, foundational bonds with people. It's imperative to know that secure attachment is the goal for a healthy dynamic in relationships. Securely attached adults feel satisfied in their relationships with others, and they're independent but enjoy being with others. They don't have a problem venturing out of relationships and doing things by themselves. In a securely attached couple, they feel confident that their partner won't leave them. They don't struggle with feelings of abandonment without reason. They're confident in their relationships and feel secure.
Unlike the secure attachment, the anxious style is seen in people that have a negative sense of self. They may feel afraid of abandonment, and they seek intense, intimate connections because they want to mesh with another person. People that have anxious attachment styles may express themselves in a very emotional way. They may appear to be emotionally dysregulated, and they may be impulsive in relationships because they don't want to be abandoned. They worry about the other person leaving so much that they might have emotional outbursts. Those with an anxious attachment style may struggle with feelings of anxiety or an anxiety disorder. If you notice that you're remarkably fearful of losing a partner, that could be because you have an anxious attachment style. If you find that you're anxiously attached, don't panic! You can work on your anxiety in therapy and find out the root cause. Maybe you have childhood trauma that impacted your ability to connect with others. Perhaps you have an anxiety disorder, and one of the triggers is relationship building. No matter what the issues are you can discuss them in therapy and learn to connect to others in healthy ways.
Avoidant attachment is the opposite of secure. People who have this type of attachment don't seem attached at all. They tend to spend a lot of time by themselves. Typically, people with this attachment style display themselves as being emotionally unavailable. They come off as being insensitive or uncaring in relationships, but that isn't true. Most likely, it's that they're afraid to get hurt. That's why they don't attach; it's out of fear. This could be the product of childhood neglect, and it could be that their parents wanted them to grow up very quickly and fend for themselves at a young age. Therefore, they're avoidant. Avoidant people have difficulty in relationships because they seem cold, but they aren't. It's actually a sign that they're fearful of connecting to others, and they display it through avoidance or seemingly not connecting with their partner.
People who are fearful-avoidant have been through hard experiences in their early lives. These individuals have had severe trauma as children. They may have experienced sexual abuse or other forms of abuse as a young child, and because of that, they're afraid to trust others completely. They're afraid to get close, and they view themselves negatively. They have mixed feelings about others; they want to be with people but are afraid to get close to others because they've been burned. It's difficult because they want to connect but find it challenging to do so due to fear. Trauma can impact us, but the effects don't have to be permanent. You can discuss traumatic events in therapy where it's safe to reveal your feelings.
Attachment Styles and Compatibility
You may be wondering who you are compatible with depending on your attachment style. If you're securely attached you may attract others like you or you might not. Securely attached people gravitate toward other securely attached people, but (as mentioned above) they might attract anxious people or avoidant. That doesn't mean the relationships won't work. However, securely attached people usually want to be with people who are secure with themselves. It's an ideal relationship where the two people are confident in themselves and want to be with someone rather than needing to be in a relationship.
Anxious and Avoidant
Let's talk about a combination that doesn't work. An anxious attachment style with an avoidant attachment style doesn't work. This is because it's a very volatile relationship. It's up and down, and it can also be extremely addictive because the anxious person is trying so hard to get the attention of the avoidant person.
Secure Attachment and Avoidant-Anxious
Someone with secure attachment is very good for someone that's avoidant because the avoidant person isn't scared that the individual with a secure attachment style is going to leave them.
Anxious Attachment and Anxious Attachment
Anxious attachment and anxious attachment can be hard because both individuals are afraid that the other person is going to leave them. This is an extremely anxiety-provoking relationship, although those individuals will find that they're understanding of the other person's anxiety.
How to Foster Secure Attachment in Children
One of the ways to foster secure attachment in children is to empower them to be independent and do things by themselves. Naturally, those activities need to be age appropriate. It can be as simple as allowing your child to ride their bike in the neighborhood when they are old enough to do that by themselves. That fosters a sense of confidence and independence and they know that their parents will be there when they get home. Another important aspect of secure attachment is trusting your children to do the right thing, whatever that means for a given situation. When you allow your child to go out with friends, give them a reasonable time to get home, and trust that they will listen to the rules.
Can You Become Securely Attached? Can your Attachment Style Change?
Everyone wants to be loved. You deserve to receive love, and there are ways to make that goal achievable. One of the ways to get the love you deserve is by working on yourself in therapy. When you talk to a therapist that cares about your wellbeing, you can discuss that you want to be in a loving relationship and the challenges you're facing to get there. You don't have to suffer alone. There are online counselors who understand attachment styles and want to help you turn your relationships from anxious, fearful or avoidant to secure.
Getting Help For Attachment in Online Therapy
Attachment styles start when we are young, but they don't have to remain the same. One thing that can help is to speak about it in therapy. You want to have healthy relationships, and love yourself. These are objectives that you can achieve. The goal is to become confident in love, to be able to trust your partner, and to be securely attached. If you work on yourself in therapy, you'll find that you and your partner can become more securely attached, but remember that focusing on yourself is the most important thing to do here. If you don't feel securely attached, that's okay. It's possible to modify, and it's something that you must work towards so that you can have healthy relationships. One way you can do this is to find a counselor through BetterHelp and start online counseling. The counselors at BetterHelp are great at helping you discover what's going to work for you and how to become more securely attached in your relationship.