In this article I will explain the attachment theory of love, consisting of four attachment styles and I will explain how they are developed in your childhood. The statement quiz will help you identify your attachment style.
The attachment theory of love
‘’The kids who need the most love will ask for it in the most unloving ways’’- Unknown
Understanding early attachment styles could improve your relationship. Healthy relationships involve work, commitment and willingness to understand your partner’s needs, as well as yours.
Recognising your own attachment style will help you better understand your feelings and emotions and how to deal with them.
There are 4 main attachment styles in love. The attachment theory was formulated by psychiatrist and psychoanalyst John Bowlby.
In order to help you determine which attachment style you have, the psychologists Cindy Hazan and Phillip Shaver developed a three statements quiz.
The fearful avoidant attachment style is not included in this quiz, but if you relate to both statements two and three and you find difficult to choose either of them, you are likely to have a fearful avoidant style. In this case, I would strongly recommend therapy as research has found a strong link between this attachment style and childhood trauma.
On the other side, if you have either anxious preoccupied or dismissive avoidant attachment style, therapy is recommended but not necessary. By understanding, recognising and educating yourself you can challenge and change you attachment style.
Read the following statements and identify your attachment style by picking the one you relate to the most.
1. I find it relatively easy to get close to others and I feel comfortable depending on them and having them depending on me. I don’t worry about being abandoned or about someone getting too close to me. (secure)
2. I find that others are reluctant to get as close as I would like. I often worry that my partner doesn’t really love me or won’t want to stay with me. I want to get very close to my partner and this sometimes scares people away. (anxious preoccupied)
3. I am uncomfortable being close to others. I find it difficult to trust them completely. I find it difficult to allow myself to depend on them. I am nervous when anyone gets too close and often others want me to be more intimate than I feel comfortable being. (dismissive avoidant)
The four attachment styles
‘’Let’s heal so we can stop accidentally hurting people we want to love because we are projecting our own wounds on to them’’.- Lori Deschene
1. Secure attachment style
Having a secure attachment style gives you a great advantage in love. If both you and your partner have a secure attachment style you have an open, honest, secure and healthy relationship.
However, even people with secure attachment styles experience bad days and problems in their relationships but they manage to solve these problems and to find rational solutions due to their high emotional intelligence.
They are resilient and face obstacles with self-awareness. They are willing to commit to a long-term relationship and face love and life challenges with an open mind. They connect with and trust others.
They feel fear, but they trust they can deal with the emotions that come with deeper connections. They trust others to see them in vulnerable moments as they don’t fear they will be criticised or abandoned if they show their true emotions.
They are comfortable both working alone and relying on others, as they assess each situation individually. They are comfortable in a relationship, but they are not scared of being single.
They can assess every relationship for what is it without reenacting their past childhood suffering. They keep good relationships and discard the bad ones.
2. Anxious preoccupied attachment style
People with anxious preoccupied attachment style tend to romanticise love as it is easier to fantasise about love than facing reality. They are attracted to partners that they can save or partners that can save them.
They are demanding, obsessive and clingy. They like to over-dramatise and they mistake damaging and turbulent relationships for passion.
They are insecure and they have a low self-esteem. They grew up with no guidance of how healthy relationships should be.
They fear the loss of connection. They tend to make their partner the only reason for their happiness and they fear loneliness. They often jump from a relationship to another and they identify themselves through the relationship.
They show their suffering when the relationship has ended so their partner will pity them and they sometimes threaten to harm themselves if their partner leaves.
They become obsessive with their partner and they tend to be suspicious of their partner. They are pulling their partner away, almost expecting to be abandoned.
This attachment style develops in early childhood, usually by losing their primarily caregiver, either by absence or death.
3. Dismissive avoidant attachment style
People with a dismissive avoidant attachment style are emotionally distant in relationships, they are self-sufficient, independent and they avoid true intimacy at all costs.
They don’t let themselves be vulnerable with their partner. They are very good at shutting their emotions down and pretending they don’t care.
They have very few close relationships with others. They tend to have more superficial friendships and they desire to be completely independent from other people.
They use humour as a self-defensive mechanism when situations might become too emotional. Their fear is hidden behind smile and sarcasm. They tend to shame any display of emotions in others and return to the degree of connection they are comfortable with.
The reasons why people develop this attachment style is found in early childhood. They associate emotions with pain. They usually grew up with present, but emotionally detached parents.
4. Fearful avoidant attachment style
People with fearful avoidant attachment style tend to fear both being too close and too distant from their partner. They combine the most challenging traits of both the anxious and avoidant attachment styles.
They are unpredictable and over-whelmed by their own emotions.They have difficulties trusting their partner. They have a constant inner conflict between wanting intimacy and resisting it when it comes.
They understand that in order to develop a healthy relationship they need to let people close to them. However, when their partner gets too close to them, they often hurt them due to their own fear of being abandoned.
They have very few close relationships with others and they can end up being in abusive relationships. They find ways to sabotage the things they desire the most.
They don’t believe they are worth their partner’s love. They crave the affection but they are uncomfortable with it as they constantly live with the fear of losing it.
The fearful avoidants feel they have no one they can rely on for love, that everyone in their life will eventually hurt them. For them, vulnerability means tremendous amount of pain. When they feel vulnerable, their self-defence mechanisms come up in order to protect them against pain.
They can become abusive and violent when they get close to someone. The fearful avoidant attachment is developing in early childhood and it usually involves a trauma, in form of physical or sexual abuse.
Fortunately, this attachment style affects only a small percentage of the population. However, people with fearful avoidant attachment style need to engage in therapy in order to heal the childhood trauma.
Understanding your emotions and healing past wounds can improve your relationship and your life. Read more about how to master your emotions here.
I hope this article helped you understand how your early childhood can influence your attachment style and the quiz has determined which attachment style you have.
In order to improve your relationship, it is essential to understand your emotions and challenge them. Becoming aware of your attachment style can help you better understand your negative emotions in relationships and take positive steps to change them.
If you have any questions, feel free to leave them below and I will be more than happy to answer them.
All the best,
(Accredited Counsellors, Coaches, Psychotherapists and Hypnotherapists)
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