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How do attachment styles influence your relationships?

Why are relationships so hard?

Romantic partnerships are designed to challenge you. They are growthful relationships by nature. But, why is this? Shouldn’t they be easy? You and I both wish that they were. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

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Attachment theory offers insight as to why intimate relationships are so difficult

The theory posits that you have an attachment style or a manner by which you connect with others. This style of relating is formed based on your relationship with your caregivers during your early years. Your caregivers maybe your parents, relatives, foster parents, or other parental figures.

If you think that your relationship difficulties can be traced back to your attachment style, reach out to Sequim Counseling today to schedule an appointment

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What is attachment theory?

Our relationship with our caregivers forms templates of how we relate with others and how we expect others to relate with us. There are four distinct attachment styles: secure, anxious-ambivalent, anxious-avoidant, or disorganized.

Secure attachment

Secure attachment is characterized by having safe, consistent, and loving interactions with your caregivers. If your experience as a baby was that your parents responded promptly, consistently, and competently to your needs, then you likely have a secure attachment style, which carries into adulthood. This means that you believe that others are safe, care about you, and will respond to your needs. This is optimal.

Anxious-ambivalent attachment

Anxious-ambivalent attachment is created when your caregivers inconsistently respond to your needs. There is a sense that maybe they’ll come to help you, or maybe not. This carries forward into adult relationships, where you come to expect people to not regularly meet your needs, and even seek out partners that inconsistently respond to your emotional needs for connection. And, you may tend towards pushing to get your needs met in your relationship and sometimes find it difficult to take in moments of connection with your partner because it is hard for you to trust it to happen again in the future.

Anxious-avoidant attachment

Anxious-avoidant attachment happens when caregivers routinely avoid or neglect your needs as a baby. You learn that your needs are very unlikely to be met by others, and may form a belief that relationships with others will likely not meet your needs. You are then more likely to not respond to other people’s bids for connection later in life because you don’t have a deeply felt sense of what it feels like for your needs to actually be met by another person.

Disorganized attachment

Disorganized attachment looks like a combination of anxious-ambivalent and anxious-avoidant, but has another component. The additional aspect of disorganized attachment is that there is an element of perceived danger when you are a child relating to your caregivers. You may have an experience of simultaneously wanting to be close to them for love while being afraid to go near them due to fear of harm. Needless to say, this is deeply confusing, especially for a child. A result is that sometimes love is paired with fear/danger. People who select mates who harm them may indicate this kind of attachment.

With the exception of the secure attachment style, there are built-in challenges that we need to confront in our relationships. These challenges are why relationships are so tough. Our partners trigger some of our deepest, most painful wounds that were formed during childhood.

These triggers can help us grow individually and as a couple.

If you and/or your partner do not have a secure attachment, there is hope for you

Individuals and couples can heal wounds from their attachment styles to create more secure attachments in their lives. You can too! Counseling is a process that can help you do just that.

Reach out today

We have a wide range of therapists who specialize in many different modalities to fit your unique needs and therapy goals. In-person therapy is available in Sequim and online therapy is available to all Washington State residents.

Reach out today to schedule an appointment.

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