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Attachment Style Dance

Attachment Style Dance

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a person who cares a lot about healthy relationships and wants to learn more and grow.  To do that, one of the best starting points is to learn about your individual attachment style, which I discuss in detail in Chapter 7 of my book, Living an Orgasmic Life.

To summarize here, the main types of attachment style are Secure, Anxious, Avoidant, and Disorganized (sometimes called Anxious Avoidant).  

Secure Attachment Style

A person who has a secure attachment style was probably raised by a primary caregiver who was consistently responsive and sensitive to the child’s needs.  A securely attached person trusts that their needs will usually be met, and they are generally secure, explorative, and happy in relationship.  

Anxious Attachment Style

A person who experiences anxious attachment style was likely parented by someone who responded inconsistently to them. The caregiver was sometimes sensitive, sometimes neglectful.  This left the child feeling unsure if their needs would be met. Later, as an adult, they are likely to feel anxious and insecure in their relationships.  Anxious-attached people often show up in relationship as clingy, needy, and untrusting.

Avoidant Attachment Style

Someone with an avoidant attachment style was probably raised by someone who was distant, often uncaring, and disengaged.  As children, avoidant-attached people came to understand that their needs probably wouldn’t be met, so they learned to self-regulate.   Out of a need to survive, they learned to be very self-sufficient, and this self-sufficiency can interfere with their ability to connect well with others and experience the emotional vulnerability needed to have intimacy with a partner.  As adults, these people are emotionally distant.

Disorganized (Anxious-Avoidant) Attachment Style

People with this attachment style were likely raised by a caregiver who was abusive or neglectful, or who responded to them in frightening ways.  When you have this attachment style, your behavior flips back and forth between anxious and avoidant.  If someone wants to be close to you, you push them away.  If they go away, you start to worry.  This type of attachment style is one I’m familiar with, because I’ve experienced it myself.  The good news, though, is that it’s a pattern that can be healed.

Is This All About Blaming our Mothers?

In many cases, the root of our attachment style is our caregiver’s level of responsiveness to us, but in other cases, it can stem from a traumatic relationship experience.  So, no, it’s not all your mom’s fault.  

How Do I Learn My Attachment Style?

There are some useful online quizzes that can help you determine your attachment style.  I like this one because it gives you percentages of each style.  

What’s The Point of Knowing Your Attachment Style?

Knowing your attachment style matters because it helps us understand why you respond in the ways you do to your partner.  If you’re feeling upset that your partner isn’t responding to your texts in a reasonable period of time, is it really about your partner?  Or is it about your attachment styles?  

This is why it’s helpful to learn your partner’s attachment style as well, because attachment styles cause a kind of “dance” between partners.  If one person is more avoidant, it can cause a normally-secure partner show up as anxious.  Similarly, an avoidant person’s “distance” can cause their partner to be more anxious.  And even if you’re normally securely attached, if you connect with someone who is avoidant, their pattern can cause you to show up as anxious.

Your own attachment style can change over time with different experiences, and if you’re anxious or avoidant or disorganized, you can learn to address these issues and become more securely-attached, which will result in far greater relationship success.  Sometimes, just understanding the attachment-style dance you’re doing can help you relate to your partner better.  This can help you shift out of blame and back into working together as a team.

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