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It's Time to Face the Facts: Your Attachment Styles Don’t Fit

*This is a guest post, written by Susie Patrick. See her full bio at the end of this article.*

If you’re a person struggling to figure out why you’re not in a relationship, or why you haven’t been able to have a “successful” relationship, this article is for you. It’s tough navigating the ins and outs of relationships: what you like, what you don’t like, and all the in-betweens of how a real relationship works. 



And it’s even tougher when a relationship ends.

You keep asking yourself, “What went wrong? Was it the way I [insert countless examples of you thinking you’re anything less than awesome]? I liked he/she so much, why didn’t they like me back?” We’ve all been there: rejection sucks. 

However, I would bet that if you’ve recently asked yourself any of these questions, you haven’t learned what attachment theory is. According to Dr. John Bowlby (1969), attachment theory is used to explain the bonds formed (or not formed) by a child and his/her primary caregiver. Your attachments formed in childhood impact how you form attachments to friends, family, and romantic partners later in life. You can read more about infant attachment and how it is formed HERE and more about adult attachment HERE. The four adult attachment styles are labeled as secure attachment, anxious-preoccupied attachment, dismissive attachment, and fearful-avoidant attachment. Here's a breakdown of each adult attachment style:

·     Secure Attachment individuals:
o  Have low avoidance and low anxiety
o  Are comfortable with intimacy and do not fear rejection
o  Are confident in themselves and have high self-esteem
o  Do not play games in relationships
o  Forgive their partners quickly
o  Communicate effectively with their partners

·     Anxious-Preoccupied Attachment individuals:
o  Have low avoidance and high anxiety
o  Need closeness and intimacy to feel secure in a relationship
o  Often worry that their partner will leave them
o  Can become obsessive of their partner when in a relationship
o  Need constant reassurance from their partner
o  Have a low opinion of themselves, but view others on a pedestal

·     Dismissive Attachment individuals:
o  Have high avoidance and low anxiety
o  Avoid closeness and intimacy with others
o  Crave independence and claim to not need a relationship
o  Have a high opinion of themselves, but view others negatively when they’re needy

·     Fearful-Avoidant Attachment individuals:
o  Have high avoidance and high anxiety
o  Long for a great relationship, but fear losing their independence and abandonment
o  Have a low opinion of themselves and of others
o  Mistrusting of relationships
o  Have a tough time sharing their emotions with others

Now, you might be wondering, how the hell does my relationship with my parent as an infant have anything to do with my future relationships? Well, actually, even if you’ve had a completely secure relationship with your primary caregiver(s), other relationships throughout your life can impact your attachment (Fraley, 2010). Does knowing this ring a bell?

After evaluating yourself from the four attachment styles listed above, are you able to notice what yours is? And then, can you identify the attachment style of partners you’ve chosen to get involved with in the past? For me, it clicked immediately. 




Though I wasn’t completely fearful-avoidant in relationships, I had tendencies towards this attachment style. And weirdly enough, I noticed a pattern of partners I had chosen in the past who were clearly dismissive. All of the sudden, everything made sense to me: my so-called “failed” relationships didn’t work because our attachment styles were incompatible. I was avoidant of intimacy but anxious of being abandoned, and I was choosing people who avoided intimacy all together.

I found relief after realizing this fact about myself and my pattern of partners. It also pushed me to figure out why I was so insecurely attached, and how to fix it. To me, the main problem associated with every insecure attachment style was insecurity and lack of or too high of self-esteem. Being that I was fearful-avoidant, I knew I needed to work on increasing my self-esteem.

After reframing my mindset through cognitive behavioral therapy techniques, I slowly began to feel good about myself and about my previous ended relationships. I even started taking a survey for further research on attachment every month, to track how I was doing (not going to lie, it felt good to see the trackers move towards the secure attachment “box” each month). Those questions similar to “what did I do wrong” started to dissipate, and I began feeling more comfortable and confident in my own skin.

It is my hope that you can feel this way too! The first step, as I mentioned, is awareness. Being able to recognize your attachment style is very important, otherwise, how will you know what to do next? But the second step is even more important: changing. Focusing on building your self-esteem through things like academics, exercise, volunteer work, or other activities that give you a sense of purpose will help you become the best version of yourself for when you do find a securely attached person. 






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