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What is your Attachment Style?

How our adult relationships are shaped by our early caregivers.

What patterns have you noticed in your love life? How do you deal with conflict? Do you feel safe in your emotional bonds? Or do you just prefer to be alone?

The beliefs we hold around intimacy today are in fact formed in our childhood. The way our parents or primary caregivers responded to our emotional needs as children shaped whether or not we developed secure or insecure attachment styles. Adult attachment theory defines four patterns of behaviour: secure, anxious, avoidant and fearful-avoidant.

The model pattern – adults with secure attachment are able to form and maintain healthy intimate connections through their ability to openly trust, communicate and share vulnerability. They have a positive view of themselves and others – the result of children who were taught that it is safe to consistently rely on their caregivers. The secure are attuned to their emotions and feel comfortable in their relationships and independence. Studies show that around 66% of the US population is securely attached.

Anxious (ambivalent/preoccupied)
Adults who are anxiously attached highly value their loved ones but are driven by the belief that they are not good enough. Deeply self critical, they believe that their partner does not love them as much as they do. They constantly worry about rejection, seek frequent reassurance, have difficulty setting boundaries and tend to romanticize relationships. Their mood is turbulent and dependent on the acceptance of others. Anxious attachment is rooted in the fear of abandonment. It is the result of an inconsistent parenting pattern.

Avoidant (Dismissive)
“Lone wolves” – the avoidant believes intimate relationships are not a priority. Although they may believe this is a preference, it is a defense mechanism. They are highly independent which stems from a fear of relying on others and being relied upon. Expressing emotions feels deeply challenging – which should be understood not as the absence of care but the incapacity to share it. Avoidants fear disappointing their partner and/or their partner disappointing them. This is the result of an unavailable or rejecting parent.

Fearful-Avoidant (Disorganized)
“Come here, go away” – Adults who strongly desire but also fear intimacy are fearful-avoidants. This pattern develops in children who experience caregivers with unpredictable behaviour. It creates fears around trust, rejection and abandonment. The adult is somewhat detached from their emotions, struggles to communicate their needs yet also craves closeness.

Attachment styles are not fixed. It is also important to understand that a caregiver’s behaviour is not always intentional. Often, attachment styles are passed on through generations. With active reflection and communication, we can work through trust wounds and heal our patterns over time. Identifying recurring fears or actions can be a liberating step to creating healthier relationships with ourselves and others.