Nov 17 2021
There are plenty of theories that try to explain how, and why, people connect with others through certain patterns of behavior. One of these theories is called the attachment theory. The biggest known idea behind it is that people have different “attachment styles” with their romantic partners. When looking at the four different attachment styles, they each point to different ways people respond to others through behaviors, emotions, and instincts.
The attachment theory was developed in the 1950’s by John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth. They believed that people’s attachment styles come from how caregivers treated us as children. Through those interactions early on in life, we learn how to interact with our romantic partners.
As is well known, parenting does not come with a handbook. Unfortunately, three of the four attachment styles are based on negative interactions with caregivers. There are two main groups of attachment styles: “secure” and “insecure.” Then, there are three different types of insecure attachment.
Below are general descriptions of the four attachment styles:
- “Secure” attachment: This is the style considered the most “healthy.” People with a secure attachment style are more open to expressing emotions with their partner while being independent.
- “Anxious Preoccupied” attachment: The anxious preoccupied style is when someone has lower self-confidence and higher praise for others. Being alone for a long period is a large source of anxiety, and seeking reassurance is common.
- “Fearful Avoidant” attachment’: Fearful Avoidant attachment is when someone hopes for a relationship but has a difficult time trusting or relying on others.
- “Dismissive Avoidant” attachment: This style is when a person may view themselves as better off alone. They see others as a risk of weighing them down.
Almost everyone is a mix of different attachment styles. As humans, we all grow up with unique forms of caregiving. So, according to the theory, it’s normal for people to develop different ways of how they interact with their partner. The significance of knowing there are more types than talked about might help alleviate stress of being misunderstood in a relationship. A lot more people deal with the same emotional, self-looking reflections when with a partner. Knowing that you aren’t alone and having a sense of support could be a good first step towards growing for yourself and better communication with those you love.
Attachment theory brings up a new way to also understand our partner’s behaviors too. We can work with our partners to see how there may be different attachment styles, and different ways of growing up, that bring your relationship to where it is today.
Of course, there is no end-all-be-all answer to why we connect to our partners in the ways that we do. Also, none of this article is meant to be a universal band-aid for any problem in any relationship. But, knowing that theories like the attachment theory exist can help nourish growth in your relationships. Not only could noting attachment theory help with your romantic partner, but it can also help with building a better relationship with your own kids. Paying attention to being a model for them of a loving, secure relationship can help them grow to be comfortable in their future relationships.