Can you remember what was going on in your life from birth to about six years old? Probably not, but rest assured you were doing something that affects you deeply to this very day: forming your attachment style. We form our attachment styles early based on the availability and responsiveness of our parents. When we're young, if our needs are met in a warm, loving, stable environment, then we have a better chance of growing into adults who can attach to others in healthy ways. If our need for support and reassurance was not met, it can lead to problems attaching to others and forging healthy relationships later in life.
If this rings a bell, take heart. You're in good company. Many adults breathe a sigh of relieve when they identify their predominant attachment style because so many questions are answered. Oh, that's why I crave affection, or Now I understand why I don't easily trust others! According to noted child development specialist and attachment theory pioneer John Bowlby, there are four styles of attachment:
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- Secure: Most likely to say, "I get along with others well and attach to them easily. It's fine having them depend on me and I feel good about doing the same. " Are You A People Pleaser? How To Tell & What To Do
- Anxious: Most likely to say, "I wonder what they want from me. I wonder if this will work out. Why didn't he call me back? It's probably something I did wrong."
- Dismissive-avoidant: Most likely to say, "I'd rather be alone! Why is he so clingy? I don't want to be bothered."
- Fearful-avoidant: Most likely to say, "I've been down that road and they're all the same! It's best to stick with what you know. People are out to get what they can and will walk all over you if they get the chance. "
Some people will find hints of their personality in more than one of the styles listed above, but in general, we all lead with one primary style. Can Our Marriage Survive An Affair?
In an ideal world, all of us would have the ability to attach securely to others, but we don't live in an ideal world. We grow up in homes were mothers are depressed and detached and may lack parenting skills, and where fathers are emotionally numb. As children we are molded by what we experience.
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The good news is as adults we can reshape, remold, and learn to manage the tendencies associated with our attachment style to maximize our lives and relationships. What's more: as you learn more about your attachment style and needs you are better equipped to select a partner who compliments your personality and style of engagement.
Last year I worked with a woman who was struggling in her relationship. She said, "I just want more affection from him. It would help me to validate his feelings for me. He's only affectionate in the bedroom. I like hugs, kisses, warmth, and holding hands. He says I'm clingy and needy. I disagree. These things are a normal part of a relationship."