Pretty much everyone falls into one of three main categories of attachment styles that reflect their tendencies toward anxiety, avoidance, or security within a romantic relationship. Not surprisingly, the three categories are Anxious, Avoidant, and Secure Attachment Styles. Knowing what style you and your partner have can help tremendously in understanding the patterns you may feel stuck in and offer a clear road map to communicating more effectively and getting your needs met.
Have you ever noticed when your partner seems to be pulling away from you or isn’t being as responsive as they usually are, you totally freak out and have the urge to call, text, email, facebook message, and snap chat them 1,000 times until they respond? If so, you’re not crazy! Seriously! You may have an Anxious Attachment Style that shows up and takes over your otherwise very rational, mature brain when the safety of your relationship is threatened.
Having an anxious attachment style is actually like having a super power because you’re incredibly in tune with any tiny bump in the road of your relationship and you can easily pick up on a change in tone or shift in closeness with your partner. You’re also adept at picking up cues on things your partner wants more of or less of, and you’re typically pretty willing to do what it takes to promote the health and happiness of your relationship. However, what I like to call your “anxiety monster” may take the reigns when it picks up on a change in the winds in your relationship that may be totally benign and run full speed with it! Leading your partner to question your sanity and potentially feel a bit smothered or freaked out and pull away….which leads you to feel more afraid of them leaving, which leads to more actions of freaking out. You can see what a vicious cycle this quickly becomes.
In therapy, I enjoy helping clients understand their own patterns and reactions so they can be in charge of how they respond and act within their relationships. With greater awareness and understanding of your own patterns and behaviors, you will have greater control of your super powers within your attachment style and you will be able to manage your own emotions and reactions and communicate your needs effectively without pushing your partner away.
Avoidant Attachment Style
After an intimate evening with lots of connection and closeness, do you feel an overwhelming urge to run the other direction? Maybe your partner just told you she loves you, and your mind went blank, eyes glazed over deer-in-headlights style, and you suddenly needed to take a long walk by yourself….to your car and drive far far away and fast! You’re not a robot devoid of loving feelings, and you’re not incapable of having an adult relationship that lasts longer than a month. You may have an Avoidant Attachment Style that puts the brakes on closeness as a knee-jerk reaction.
People with an avoidant attachment style are wired for connection just like all human beings, but for one reason or another, develop the skill of cutting off the longing for closeness in favor of increased self-reliance. You recover more quickly from break-ups than other attachment styles because of this skill. However, the emphasis on self-reliance and avoidance of connection leads to loneliness and isolation.
In therapy, we’ll explore your particular patterns and resistance to vulnerability, while maintaining your sense of independence and autonomy. With awareness of your attachment style, you’ll be able to maintain connection within relationships without feeling taken over or smothered because you’ll be able to communicate your needs for solidarity without pushing your partner away.
Secure Attachment Style
When you have secure attachment style, you’re not immune to relationship issues or life difficulties, but you are able to handle them when they arise without them taking over your sense of self. When people with anxious or avoidant attachment styles pair up with people with secure attachment, the anxious or avoidant folks tend to heal and adopt more secure tendencies.
If you are secure and in relationship with someone of a different attachment style, it’s important to understand your partner’s reactions and needs and act with compassion and empathy. Anxious partners may need more reassurance of the security of the relationship than you do. Avoidant partners may need more space than you do. And that’s ok! You can handle reassuring and giving space and can communicate what you need, all while feeling safe and secure in your relationship.
In therapy, we will work on communication tools and developing a deeper understanding of yourself and your partner’s patterns and needs to foster a healthy, secure relationship.
For more information on attachment styles and to determine what style you have and your partner has, follow this link. I highly recommend reading the book Attached to understand yourself and your partner better. I’m also leading a group for women with anxious attachment style. For more information, go to the Group Counseling page.