Our attachment styles impact many areas of our love lives, from who we choose as a partner to the health of our relationships and even divorce. Recognizing your attachment style may enable you to better understand your behaviors and feelings in relationships. If you are like many others out there who have never given much thought to what your attachment style is, you may find this quite enlightening!
What is attachment theory?
Attachment theory began in the 1960s when John Bowlby observed interactions between children and their primary caregivers. Bowlby found that these interactions in childhood form the foundation of our attachment styles, by developing our beliefs about whether we are worthy of love and whether others are trusting and supportive. Although formed at a young age, these attachment styles are assumed to remain stable throughout our life and influence our relationships.
In the 1980s, Hazan and Shaver extended this theory to romantic love, by finding that an individual’s attachment style influenced their experience of romantic relationships. From their research, they categorized three attachment styles, explaining three different ways people can experience love. They termed these; Secure, Anxious, and Avoidant.
From their research they found that 56% of individuals fell into the “secure” category, 25% were classified as “avoidant” and 19% were “anxious”. If you are interested in understanding which category you may fall into, take a read of the styles below and learn how they can influence your love life.
Those who are securely attached find it easy to get close to their partners; they are happy to trust and depend on others. Secure individuals have been found to be the happiest and most fulfilled in their relationships. They are the most likely to be in a relationship, with their relationships not only lasting longer but also being higher in happiness, commitment, and trust than anxious and avoidant individuals.
Individuals who fall into this category may find themselves becoming slightly clingy to their romantic partners. They tend to get nervous and find themselves questioning their partner’s intentions and hence, often require reassurance that they are loved.
According to research, anxiously attached individuals often experience jealousy and can find it hard to trust others. As a result, they may experience relationships with emotional extremes. They can become besotted with their partners and may experience an unfulfilled need for affection and support. Consequently, they are often found to be the most likely to commit infidelity.
Avoidant individuals are highly independent. They are happy being single and find it uncomfortable to get close to others as they can struggle to build trust. They are known as the ‘commitment-phobes’.
Non-surprisingly, as these individuals are often reluctant to enter a committed relationship, they have been found to be the least likely to have experienced love. However, when they do enter relationships, they’re found to experience healthier relationships than anxious individuals, as they are more likely to withdraw when things get tough.
Too much psychobabble?
Let’s bring it to life a little… Remember Bridget Jones Diary? Not only is it hilarious and entertaining, but it is also an accurate representation of the three attachment styles and how they can interplay with one another. When watching the film, most of us will see “a nice lady, who falls for the bad guy and ends up with the good man”. However, those looking through the lens of attachment theory may see “anxious woman falls for an avoidant man and finds joy with a secure partner.”
Can attachment styles change?
Although our attachment styles are assumed to remain stable over time, research has demonstrated that they can in fact change. For instance, insecure individuals have been found to become more secure by being around someone who is consistently loving and supportive.
If you worry your attachment style may be impacting your relationships or dating success, book in a complimentary consultation with our relationship psychologist Madeleine, who may be able to provide further insight.