Do you remember in science class when you learned about how different molecules attract and attach to each other to create new elements? People are kind of like these different elements that can attach to each other to create something new, but for that to happen, the right chemistry is needed! Each person has their own attachment style, and when you understand your style and that of your partner, you can build stronger relationships. I often talk to couples about attachment styles during couples counseling sessions, and many people find it beneficial to understand the way their partner views attachment in order to feel a little more stable in their relationship.
What is an Attachment Style?
An attachment style is, simply, the way an individual recognizes their needs and how they get them met. There are many different types of attachment styles, and each of us brings individual experiences with attachment (that start all the way back in childhood) with us into each new relationship. There are three main attachment styles as described below:
- Secure – people with a secure attachment style have high levels of self-awareness and emotional intelligence, and they are capable of constructively discussing their needs with a partner in an appropriate manner. They are able to both accept and express intimacy, and they are capable of setting and protecting healthy boundaries.
- Anxious – typically feel more nervous about relationships, especially those that are romantic in nature. May express the stress and anxiety they experience in relationships as jealousy, possessiveness, mood swings, and heightened sensitivity. They need continuous reassurance and expressions of support from their partner, but they may not always express affection as readily. They have difficulty being alone, and often have a history of difficult or dramatic relationships.
- Avoidant – there are actually two types of avoidant attachment styles. The first is the dismissive-avoidant. This style is highly self-directed, so these individuals prefer to be on their own. They may have many acquaintances, but they are reticent to develop deeper social or romantic relationships. In relationships, they prize autonomy. The second type of avoidant attachment style is the fearful-avoidant. This style may stem from a desire for closer relationships that is limited by fear of being hurt or abandoned. These conflicting emotions often stem from negative past experiences, and those with this attachment style may have backgrounds that include trauma, grief, or abandonment.
What is Your Attachment Style?
Do any of these styles sound like you? Most people recognize themselves pretty quickly, but if you’re still not sure, there are many online quizzes that could help you take a closer look into the different attachment styles. Some questions to consider include:
- How easily do you give and receive expressions of affection?
- How likely are you to express your needs and emotions to your partner?
- How do you express your needs and emotions to your partner?
- Do you and your partner have healthy boundaries?
- Do you and your partner rely on each other for support, but also feel capable of completing tasks independently?
- Do you have a mostly positive or mostly negative opinion of relationships?
- Does conflict with your partner derail your whole day or do you take it in stride?
- How resilient are you after a fight or breakup?
Does Your Partner Have a Similar or Different Attachment Style?
Now that you’ve considered your own attachment style, think about how your partner might answer the questions above. Better yet, talk to your partner about their attachment style and how they would respond to these questions. You don’t necessarily need to find someone with the same attachment style. In fact, this can be problematic. Imagine two fearful-avoidant people trying to build a relationship. It would be very difficult. Not impossible, but it would, likely, take a lot of work from both parties.
How Does Understanding Attachment Styles Benefit Relationships?
When we better understand ourselves and our partners, it can really make maintaining a fulfilling relationship easier, and by taking the time to explore attachment styles with your partner, you may feel a little more secure in your relationship, even if your natural attachment style is anxious or avoidant. You can also discuss how your attachment styles translate into actions that may leave your partner feeling hurt or worried. Simply understanding the intention behind certain behaviors can make a big difference in your relationship.
Can Couples Counseling Help You Keep Your Relationship Healthy?
If you and your partner are struggling to connect, working with me or one of the knowledgeable counselors at Central Arkansas Group Counseling in Benton or North Little Rock can help you find some common ground to start building a healthy, fulfilling relationship. We’d love to hear from you, so don’t hesitate to call or use our online request form to get started working with our team.