How Does Your Attachment Style Affect Your Relationship?

In my last post I shared with you the psychology of how and why we attach to our romantic partners in much the same way we did with our parents.

I also think it would be helpful for you to understand your partner’s attachment style to help make sense of they dynamics in your relationship or the person you are dating…

What Is My Partner’s Style?

Without even knowing it, most people give away all the information you need to determine their attachment style in their day-to-day actions and words.

The trick is to know what to look for, be a keen observer and ardent listener.

Understanding attachment will change the way you perceive new people you meet and give you surprising insight into your partner if you are already in a relationship.

In dating situations, your thinking will shift from “Does he or she like me?” to “Is this someone I should invest in emotionally?” “Is he or she capable of giving me what I need?”

Going forward with a relationship will become about choices you make.

Keep in mind when you are excited about someone, your objectivity is compromised and you tend to create a rosy picture.

However it is important to pay attention to all the messages coming from the other person. This will help you determine if the relationship is right for you and ensure it is going a positive right direction.

If you are currently in a relationship, you probably already have an idea of their attachment style.

Knowing your partner’s attachment style will allow you to better understand the particular challenges you will face as a couple – essential to improve your bond.

The 5 Golden Rules of Attachment

1. Determine whether he/she seeks intimacy and closenesss.
If the answer is no, you can be pretty certain they have a secure or anxious style. However there is no one personality type that is avoidant or anxious.

They might be cocky and self-assured but still crave closenesss. They could be needy and still adverse to closeness.

2. Assess how preoccupied he/she is with the relationship and how sensitive they are to rejection.
Do they get their feelings hurt easily? Worry about your future or that you love them enough? If so, it is likely they are anxious.

3. Don’t rely on one “symptom” – look for a variety of signs.
For instance, not being allowed to meet your partner’s kids can be frustrating, but if he is able to talk about the subject, listen to your frustrations and find other ways to let you into his life, it doesn’t necessarily indicate an inability to get close.

4. Assess his/her reaction to effective communication.
What happens when we are dating is that we censor ourselves because we don’t want to seem to eager or needy or it’s too soon to raise certain topics. However expressing your needs and feelings will be a useful litmus test of the other person’s capacity to meet your needs.

If he/she is secure then they will understand and as best they can to accommodate your needs.

If he/she is anxious, then they’ll welcome the opportunity for more intimacy.

If he/she is avoidant, they will feel very uncomfortable and with the increased intimacy emotional disclosure will bring and may respond…

“You’re too sensitive/demanding/needy.”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Stop over analyzing everything.”
“What do you want from me – I said I was sorry!”

5. Listen and look for what he/she is not saying or doing.
For example, Suzie told her boyfriend, Steve that it bothered her that they never made plans in advance. She would feel more comfortable and secure if she knew ahead of time and had a better sense of their plans. Steve just changed the subject and continued calling at the last minute. She mentioned it again but he ignored her. Eventually Suzie gave up on the relationship.

When Your Relationship Feels Threatened

Our brains monitor and track the safety and availability of the people we are attached to.

If you have an anxious attachment style, you have a heightened sense if the relationship is threatened.

This causes what they call activation, which makes it hard for you to calm down until you get a clear indication from your partner that he/she is truly there for you and the relationship is safe.

Activating Strategies Push You To Seek Closeness

Activating strategies are any thoughts or feelings that compel you to get close, physically and/or emotionally to your partner.

It looks like this…

  • Constantly think about your mate and have trouble concentrating on other things.
  • Focus on their good qualities.
  • Underestimate your talents and abilities and overestimate theirs.
  • Feel anxious until you are in contact with them.
  • Believe this is your only chance for love, “I’m only compatible with very few people.” “It takes years to meet someone new – I’ll be alone.”
  • Even though you are unhappy, you better not let go because, “He’ll change.” “All couple’s have problems.” “She’ll turn into a great partner for someone else.”

If you feel unsettled in a relationship situation, notice that once he/she responds to you in a way to reestablishes security, you can revert back to your calm, normal self.

What Happens If Your Anxious Attachment Gets Activated?

Protest behavior is any action you take that tries to reestablish contact your partner and get their attention.

Excessive Attempts To Reestablish Contact – calling, texting, emailing many times, trying to run into them.

Withdrawing – not speaking or ignoring, acting engrossed in an activity.

Being Distant – waiting for them to make the first “make up” move and acting distant until then.

Acting Hostile – rolling your eyes, looking away, getting up and leaving while they are talking.

Threatening To Leave – “I’m better off without you.” “I don’t think I can do this anymore.” – all the while hoping he/she will stop you from leaving.

Manipulations – acting busy, ignoring calls, saying you have plans when you don’t.

Making Them Jealous – getting together with an ex, going to a singles bar, telling partner someone hit on you.

When Your Partner Leaves

Your protest behavior and strategies can also continue long after your partner is gone.

Your biological make up is programmed to try and win them back.

Even if your rational mind knows you shouldn’t be with this person, your attachment system does not comply.

Studies found people with an anxious style of attachment react more strongly to thoughts of loss and under recruit areas of the brain that down-regulate negative emotions.

What Can You Do?

Understanding how to shift out of this attachment system is crucial if you want to have a happy, fulfilling relationship!

I promise I can help…just click the graphic below and set up a free consultation.