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How Do Attachment styles from Childhood Affect my Relationships Today?

Mariah (Dantzler) McFetridge

Human chain paper with light and shadow on wood tableYou may not know that every person has a certain attachment style and it is often developed early on in life based on the relationships with your parents or caretakers.

Knowing the effects of these attachment styles can help you prepare and address issues in your current relationships as an adult and predict the type of attachment you may have with any future children.

The Two Types of Attachment

It is important to know that there are two categories of secure and insecure.

Secure attachment explained

This type of attachment occurs when the balance of independence, trust, exploration, and comfort is established between a child and their parent(s).

Parents that help a child to develop secure attachments can balance comforting their child while also allowing the child to create his or her own experiences by allowing freedom. An example of this could look like a toddler wanting to explore the playground by themselves with a parent close by but then coming to the parent for comfort when they fall off the swing.

An adult that has a secure attachment style in a relationship will be vulnerable and trusting, giving their partner space and having confidence that they will return to them. They can openly express their emotions and feelings with their partner without fear that it will distant them and without the intention of manipulation.

Typically, people who are in these types of relationships are also confident with having friendships and time outside of the relationship as well.

Insecure attachment explained

With insecure attachment, there are two subtypes: preoccupied and avoidant.

Preoccupied insecure attachment

Adults with this type of attachment style had parents that had the ability to show love, comfort, and trust but only on the parents’ terms. The parents could sometimes come across as cold, distant, or at times abusive and neglectful. Children with preoccupied attachment learn to be hypervigilant around their parents as they are always awaiting a moment of love and security, while they also maintain distance to protect themselves from getting hurt again and not getting their needs met.

In adulthood, preoccupied individuals act jealous and clingy with their significant others. They can appear smothering and intrusive and often test boundaries, constantly looking for affirmations. Since their parents love was often unpredictable they end up trying to control their partner in order to secure trust, which results in an overwhelmingly amount of distrust on both ends. The cycle typically continues and they sometimes push partners away and then become more anxious.

Avoidant insecure attachment

Children with this attachment style learn early on that their parents cannot be depended on for emotional support at all. These children often become independent at an early age and learn that it is unsafe to rely on anyone else for support. They typically close others off and become distant to people who want to support them.

As adults, those with avoidant attachment have great difficulty with expressing need or vulnerability. In these types of relationships there is often fear of commitment or infidelity because the adult with this attachment style does not believe that they can rely on anyone to get their needs met. If their partner gets too close to them emotionally, they can pull away and make a destructive choice that will cause the partner to end the relationship.

What to do if You’re Insecure in Your Attachment Style

It’s important to note that most parents did not mean to give their children these attachment styles and in no means does it coordinate with how much they actually loved their children. These parents might have gotten their attachment styles from their own parents or could have been struggling with issues of trauma, anxiety, depression, personality disorders, or addiction.

If you discover that your attachment style is something you want to discuss and try to work on, it would be a good idea to seek out a therapist that specializes in attachment to help you on that journey. In addition, the book, Attachment can help you identify your style and ways to navigate it.

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