Attachment styles and your relationships? What is your attachment style in your relationship?
John Bowlby (British) and later Mary Ainsworth (Canadian ) pioneering research in developmental psychology, known for their work in early work in attachment. Ainsworth research in attachment styles explored how a mother’s (ie. caretakers) and infants bond to each other. She described 3 types of attachment styles in infants. Secure, Ambivalent and Avoidant attachment style. Suggesting that these early attachment styles are learned from our primary care giver)s) in our early years. We internalize them as road maps to then later repeat as adults in our adult relationships.
Secure attachment style is of course the most stable style, yet only about 50% of population is able to create a secure attachment style. This can create less than stable relationships and over all difficulty in long term relationships or marriage, if we do not fall into a secure attachment style. Secure attachment It is stable, honest, intimate and manifests as a willing commitment to the other and to the relationship in the long run, even in hard times.
New research shows that attachment styles are both environmental meaning they can be learned by modeling and some speculate, some part might be inherent to us when we are born, as well. Also attachment styles are now considered more fluid than before, where they were considered unable to change. The new research shows that if some one can model a secure attachment style in a relationship or marriage to an ambivalent or avoidant that is anxiously attached, this person might in four or more years have a chance at being able to change their style to a more secure attachment style. How ever this is not a given and there are many other factors.
Ambivalent or Anxious attachments manifest with an inherent need to get a lot of affection and attentions, sometimes it never seems to be sufficient. They are often insecure about themselves and need a lot of affirmation form others. They have a fear that their partner will some how or abandon them, because they are not worthy or they have a fear that their partner will cheat on them. Worry seems to over ride trust, and they seem to pursue the other more. They are usually uncomfortable alone and seek to be in a relationship at all costs even if it is not a healthy relationship. Sometimes anxious attachment can manifest as a high need for control, or neediness vacillating with anger if unable to get needs met.. Having said that, all manifestations of control attempts of one partner over the other are not always just anxious attachment issues.
An Avoidantly attached person will feel suffocated with real intimacy or too much closeness and have the need for alot of alone time, a high need for privacy and possibly even stray to have other relationships. They might find a securely attached person too regular and too boring. Avoidantly attached individuals, like change and excitement they are not very emotionally vested in a relationship, and will be quick to end and restart another relationship without too much time in between. Their focus is more on themselves and their work. They will be less interested in sharing intimate feelings/ Avoidant often will often leave their relationships when times get difficult and they feel stressed. Avoidant have difficulty establishing a sense of “we” identity.
Newer research from Mary Main now points to fourth attachment style, the Disorganized Attachment style. This is created when the parent has unresolved abuse, trauma or loss, and disorientates the child growing up. Parents are frightening or frightened and struggle with emotional regulation, the world is an unsafe place. Disorganized attachment style is full of mixed messages, creating a very unstable environment for the child and later in adult their relationships. Often manifesting as a difficulty in managing stress and self regulation, poor social skills and trust issues. The adult them will have difficulty with later parenting or in relationships over all. People with disorganized attachment styles are less likely to feel they need help or to seek help. These styles can be explored in therapy as to how they impact the couple or the individual.
Once you are able to better make sense of what attachment style you developed as a child and how this map is still guiding your life today, you will be able to gain insight and learn new skills. Most people can learn to develop a secure attachment style with time and therapy or a securely attached partner. This information might be useful to know about yourself and your loved one when dating or when looking for a life partner.