Attachment and Adult Relationships

I notice there seems to be a lot of talk and articles posted about attachment styles in children and how we parent our children affects attachment. This is great. As a parent I have leaned towards this information to help me feel confident in my parenting approach. However, I notice that I don’t see as much information about adult attachment. I find this interesting because adult attachment styles is just as important to understand as it is in children. Our attachment style as an adult affects our relationships with our partners, family, friends, coworkers, and children.  It not only determines how we seek or run from connection, but also how we parent our children. How can we raise securely attached children if we ourselves are an insecurely attached adult? We can’t. Only securely attached adults raise securely attached children. This isn’t talked about in the attachment articles I have read. These articles talk about what we should and shouldn’t do  to our children, but it doesn’t tell us that if you had an abusive mother you are more likely to have an anxious or avoidant attachment style as an adult. Which makes attuning to your child’s needs a little more challenging because you will either parent from fear, or from a place of having your child meet your needs, or from a place of being resentful or distant when your child seeks connection.

The interesting thing about attachment is that adult’s attachment style is determined by how his or her caregiver responded and connected to him/her as a baby.  So how our parents emotionally attuned to our feelings and responded to our daily needs determines how we as adults seek connection and behave in relationships. The science of adult attachment predicts, with a great deal of accuracy, how people will behave in romantic relationships and whether they will be well matched—on the basis of their attachment style.

Here is a short description of the three main types of attachment styles: Anxious, Avoidant or Secure.. This is not a complete list, but it’s a place to start.

  •  People with a Secure attachment style (just over 50% of the population) are warm and loving, and relationships come naturally to them. They are great at communicating their needs and feelings.
  •  People with an Anxious attachment style (about 21% of the population) love to be very close to their partner and have the capacity for a lot of intimacy. However, they often fear that their partner does not want to be as close as they would like and can be very sensitive to small fluctuations in their partner’s moods.
  •  People with an Avoidant attachment style (25%) feel the need to maintain their independence. Even though they want to be in a relationship, they tend to keep their partner at arm’s length.

What research has found is that a person with an anxious attachment style is usually attracted to a person with an avoidant style. Most often securely attached people date and marry securely attached people. Occasionally an anxious person will marry a securely attached person. This is helpful to know because based on your attachment style you can find out how compatible you are with your partner and how successful the relationship will be.

Do you see yourself in any of the styles listed above?  Are you not sure?  Here is an attachment quiz you can take. Just know that attachment style is not static. Like most things, it can change over time. What it takes is finding a partner who has a secure attachment style. This is important because in order to change your style from anxious or avoidant you need a relationship that will rock your belief system about love. A relationship that will show you how to emotionally connect instead of run away when it gets tough. A relationship that will be supportive and loving no matter what. One in four adults change their attachment style, so be optimistic if your style is not what you want it to be.

If you want to delve deeper into adult attachment styles and how it impacts your life, your health and your relationships you must read Attached.