Contributed by: Austin Raines

February is a month that, for better or worse, operates as a reminder of relationships and how they impact our lives. With Valentine’s Day falling on February 14th, traditionally romantic relationships are at the forefront of people’s minds during this month. Throughout this time of evaluating relationships, many questions can pop up that can leave people feeling many different emotions. Whether feeling excited, confused, angry, or hurt, it can be incredibly helpful to do some investigating and figure out why people operate the way they do within the scope of a relationship. One of the best ways to make sense of these questions is to explore attachment styles.

Attachment styles have a profound impact on the dynamics of connection, which can affect every form of a relationship. Before we dive deeper into how attachment styles impact relationships, let’s review the main forms of attachment styles. There are four different forms of attachment style: secure, anxious, dismissive, and disorganized. Secure attachment styles are highlighted by an individual having trust in relationships, the ability to express themselves, and having healthy boundaries. Anxious attachment style individuals express needy behaviors, depend on their partners for validation, and lack trust in relationships. Avoidant attachment styles usually involve someone who has difficulty developing and maintaining relationships and struggle expressing their feelings. These individuals are often strong in high pressure situations and prefer time alone. Disorganized attachment style is characterized by an individual who is anxious and avoidant at the same time and has difficulty trusting and forming relationships typically due to past trauma.

All attachment styles originate from the relationship between a child and their primary caregiver.  That original parent-child relationship affects the way people form relationships in adulthood. As a child, if you experienced feelings of safety and felt heard and understood then you most likely developed a secure attachment style. On the other hand, if you were regularly frightened, confused and had an inconsistent relationship with your primary caregiver you most likely developed an insecure or anxious attachment style. Traditionally, individuals who operate from a secure attachment style base are better suited to make and sustain healthy connections with others, while people with an insecure attachment style could find themselves struggling to form strong interpersonal relationships.

As we grow older, the way we react within our intimate relationships is a direct reflection of our attachment style. Attachment styles are most commonly demonstrated through communication styles, expectations of relationships, vulnerability, perception of emotional intimacy, and conflict resolution. Understanding what aspects of a relationship are impacted by attachment style can help make sense of both current and past relationships. What worked? What didn’t work?

As the self-reflection process naturally begins to happen, please remember that no relationship is perfect, and no caregiver can be fully attentive to their child at all hours of the day. It can be so easy for our internal critic to hop in and begin to judge our performances from the past and present. What matters is you are here now, showing interest and trying to understand the complexities of attachment styles.

If you are feeling some confusing emotions based on the attachment style you think you are here comes the good news…. Your attachment style can become more secure! Humans have the innate ability to change, and this change is sparked through self-awareness. The first step is gaining the knowledge of your own attachment style. After you have a firm grasp on how this style impacts your relationships it can be very helpful to begin gauging your partner or your child’s attachment style. Once again, this can spark some confusing emotions based on the results that are discovered. If your partner or child has a differing attachment style than what you were hoping for, it doesn’t mean that the relationship can’t flourish. It doesn’t mean that you can’t experience happiness and joy through the relationship. What it does mean is some challenges and difficulties may come up that are a result of this discovery. You may realize these challenges have always been present and this newfound knowledge has now provided you with an explanation as to why these challenges are taking place.

For noticeable change to take place within the scope of your relationships or attachment style there are two forms of assistance that can be helpful. The first is to seek out Attachment Based Family Therapy, which is a form of therapy that is offered here at Queen City! The second step is to try and surround yourself with individuals who have a secure attachment style. Please remember that your attachment style isn’t your fault. Try to heal the shame surrounding your attachment style and practice self-acceptance and acceptance of others.

It’s important to identify which attachment style you have and how it might be affecting your relationships. Once you’ve done that, you can start to work on developing strategies to help you form healthier, more secure relationships. This could involve understanding your own needs and boundaries, communicating your needs to your partner and children, and learning to be more emotionally available. Clink the link below to take the most commonly used test to determine your attachment style!