The Attachment theory is a set of ideas formulated by psychologists in the 1960s. It states that our style of attachment has a considerable affect on our relationships. Starting from our partner selection, to how well the relationship progresses, and how, in some cases, the relationship ends. The theory outlines 3 major types of Attachment Styles and gives an efficient guide on how to manage our behavior and conduct in relationships.
If we know, beforehand, what kind of an attachment style we have; and the kinds of problems and issues that can arise because of it; we will be more prepared and mindful of our behavior and will be able to have a strong and joyous companionship.
The Attachment Styles Questionnaire
One of the greatest questionnaires in the history of 20th century psychology had a modest start in the pages of a local Colorado newspaper: The Rocky Mountain news, in July 1985. The work of 2 University of Denver psychologists Cindy Hazan and Phillip Shaver, the questionnaire asks the readers to identify which of the three statements most closely reflect to how they are in love. Questionnaires in the newspapers are rarely of much use; but Hazan’s and Shaver’s is the momentous exception.
To hugely improve our chances of thriving in relationships, we should dare to take the same test.
I find it relatively easy to get close to others and I’m comfortable depending on them and having them depend on me. I don’t worry about being abandoned or about someone getting too close to me
I find that others are reluctant to get as close as I would like; often worrying that my partner doesn’t really love me or wouldn’t want to stay with me. I want to get very close to my partner and this sometimes scares people away.
I am somewhat uncomfortable being close to others. I find it difficult to trust them completely; difficult to allow myself to depend on them. I am nervous when anyone gets to close and often others want me to be more intimate than I feel comfortable being.
Which of these options applies to you A, B or C?
Basically, the options refer to the three main styles of relating to other people first identified by the English psychologist John Bowlby, the inventor of Attachment Theory in the 1950 and 60s.
Option A signals what is known as a Secure Pattern of Attachment; whereby love and trust come easily.
Option B refers to what’s known as the Anxious Pattern of Attachment; where one longs to be intimate with others but is continuously scared of let-downs and often precipitates crisis in relationships through counterproductively aggressive behavior
Option C is what is known as the Avoidant Pattern of Attachment; where it feels much easier to avoid the dangers of intimacy through solitary activities and emotional withdrawal.
Managing Relationships And Styles of Attachment
If there is one thing we should do to improve our relationships; it is to know ahead of time which of the three categories we predominantly belong to: A, B or C. And to deploy the knowledge in love so as to warn ourselves and others of the traps we might fall into.
We then need a little training because half of us, at least, are not secure in love; but belong in the camps of either the avoidant or the anxious; and we have, to complicate matters, an above average propensity to fall in love with someone from the other damaged side, thereby aggravating our insecurities and defenses in the process.
Here is a brief list of what avoidance and anxious types should keep in mind in their relationships:
Avoidant With An Anxious Partner
If you are an avoidant with someone anxiously attached, recognize the extent to which you back out, emotionally, when things are intense; particularly when there is an offer of closeness. Recognize how you will tend to prefer sex and closeness with strangers and how nervous you will be around cuddles and kissing. You probably didn’t want to keep the light on either.
Watch how you might undermine long-term intimacy; and understand that you might be afraid of what you really want. Think back to how in your past, closeness would have been frightening because people let you down; and observe how you adopted a strategy of removal to protect yourself. You are simply hurt; not hopeless.
Remind yourself that the present is different from the past and that you might ruin the present by bringing to it the fear-laden dynamics that don’t belong here. It may feel like your partner is being a little aggressive and ill tempered with you for no reason; but they, at heart, might just be upset and unable to express their needs in any other way. They want you and that’s why they are behaving as they are. Look beneath their persistence and their constant worrying and believe in their underlying goodwill. When they rush towards you, see their longing for love.
Do that very frightening thing: extend reassurance and explain calmly the appeal of the cave.
Anxious With An Avoidant Partner
If you are an anxious person with an avoidant partner, there are some other things to bear in mind. Things are not necessarily as bad as they seem. The other person’s silence might just be a quiet and not a lack of love. Their distance isn’t meanness; but it’s their way of maintaining equilibrium. On the other hand, you are not irrational or needy to want more; but your way of dealing with what you legitimately need may be aggravating things hugely. You might be triggering your partner by asking for intimacy too directly and also probably too intensely.
Realize that you need to tread lightly and to be a little reserved in requesting closeness. Your partner isn’t peculiar or unpleasant; merely hurt and injured; and so might you be too. And that’s very normal. A full 40% of the population is either insecurity attached or anxiously attached.
Knowing whether we can be classed as secure, avoidant or anxious in love should be a basic fact we grasp about ourselves. The next step is to accept with grace that if we are either avoidant or anxious we might need considerable emotional schooling and self-assurance to get out of scratchy patterns; and stand a chance of building up a good enough relationship.