Have you ever wondered, “Why do I feel so insecure in my relationship? Why do I obsess and overanalyze everything my partner says? Why do I get jealous so easily?”
Or maybe you’ve wondered, “Why do I push people away so quickly? Why do I get uncomfortable when other people show emotion? Why do I get uncomfortable when I have to show emotion?”
Or maybe you’ve wondered, “Why do I jump into vulnerability and oversharing so fast, just to turn and push my partner away just as quickly?”
Each of these sets of questions connect to an insecure attachment style, and they just might help you understand yourself a little bit better.
Welcome to The Love Brain podcast. I’m your host, Camilla Rees. I’m so excited to get started today on our very first episode and I’m so thankful for you all joining me. I know you’ve all been waiting for this podcast for a really long time, and I’ve been planning it for months now, so I’m beyond excited. I think this is the perfect direction for The Love Brain community.
Today’s episode takes us into attachment styles. There are 4 attachment styles; 1 is secure attachment, and 3 are insecure attachment styles. The first is anxious attachment, the next is dismissive avoidant attachment, then there’s fearful avoidant attachment.
So, how are these attachments formed and why do we tend to adopt one style over another? Our attachment styles have to do with our personality type and our relationship with our caregivers in childhood. It runs really deep, and that’s what we’re going to be unpacking today.
Before I get into the 4 attachment styles, I want to be clear that any couple can have a secure attachment. You just have to put in the work. You’re not doomed to an insecure attachment for the rest of your life just because you had a bad upbringing or bad past relationship. It just takes the right person, some self-awareness and a lot intentional practice.
Anxious Attachment Style
Let’s start with the first insecure attachment style, anxious attachment. Five behaviors that signal an anxious attachment are:
- Low self-esteem
- Strong fear of abandonment, criticism, or rejection
- Worrying, obsessing, or overanalyzing over your partner’s behavior
- Constant need for approval and attention
- Betraying your needs or values to please your partner
If this sounds like you, then you might lean toward an anxious attachment style. An anxious attachment style reflects the belief that others are trustworthy, but you are unlovable. In other words, you believe that being loved is 100% dependent on your actions and that’s why you try so hard to please your partner.
Where does this belief come from?
It often forms in childhood with helicopter parents or inconsistent parents. If you had a helicopter parent, you may have felt very loved by them and very trusting of them. But because they always solved your problems for you, you were left feeling incapable or inferior with a sort of “mother knows best” mentality and never really allowing yourself to trust your own instincts.
If you had an inconsistent parent, you might have felt like you constantly had to read their mixed signals. Sometimes they were emotionally available and sometimes they weren’t, and because of you’re personality type, you internalized it as a reflection of your worth instead of reflection of your parents inability to be there for you.
Before we move forward, I want to clarify that everyone has a complicated story of how they formed their attachment style. These are just a few examples to better help you understand yourself and your upbringing.
Dismissive Avoidant Attachment Style
Let’s move onto the dismissive avoidant attachment style. Five behaviors that signal a dismissive avoidant attachment style are:
- Avoiding vulnerability and intimacy
- Being conditioned to show little emotion and appear in control and confident
- Not trusting others to meet your needs or be there for you
- Needing lots of space
- Feeling uncomfortable or angry when others show emotion
If you have a dismissive avoidant attachment style, you most likely formed this style as a child coping with a strict or emotionally unavailable parent. At the very least, they taught you to be self-sufficient, but they also taught you that you shouldn’t trust anyone who says they love you, because they only taught you “tough love”.
It’s possible that if you had a different personality type, you formed an anxious attachment style with this kind of parent. But the connection between the dismissive avoidant attachment style and strict or emotionally unavailable parents is more common.
The dismissive avoidant attachment style reflects a belief that you are lovable, but that others are untrustworthy. It’s pretty much the opposite of an anxious attachment style.
Anxious attachment: Relying on others to meet your needs because you don’t believe you’re lovable and need someone to constantly reassure you.
Dismissive avoidant attachment: Relying only on yourself to get your needs met because you’ve never felt like you could trust anyone else to.
Fearful Avoidant Attachment Style
The next attachment style is called the fearful avoidant attachment style. This style is the most disorganized of all the attachment styles. It reflects a belief that you are not lovable and you can’t trust anybody. This belief shows up in behaviors like:
- Saying contradictory things like “I never want to see you again” and then flipping to “I can’t live without you”
- Becoming clingy and emotionally needy, then flipping to being emotionally distant, even mean-spirited just to push your partner away because of your lack of trust.
- Developing personality disorders (specifically borderline personality disorder)
- Struggling to regulate emotions and control impulses, like it’s out of instinct
Living in a world where you have no worth and you can’t trust anyone is a scary world to live in. That’s what it feels like for someone with a fearful avoidant attachment style. People who develop this attachment style most likely experienced trauma from neglect or physical, sexual, or psychological abuse as a child by their caregivers. As a child, they felt very unsafe and unlovable.
Imagine how it would feel if you couldn’t trust yourself or anyone. It’s very disorganized, it’s very confusing, and it’s a very dark place to be. In romantic relationships, their reality is so different that they perceive virtually everything their partner does as a threat of abandonment or an insult to their character.
This is why abuse and neglect is so damaging. It creates a world for a child (that follows them into adulthood) that’s completely different from that other’s see. They almost always see other’s actions as a threat to their survival. That’s why they have such intense reactions.
If you have a fearful avoidant attachment style, please don’t feel like you can’t move to a secure attachment. It’s completely possible. It takes therapy, effort and time, but know it’s possible for you and you’re not alone.
Okay, so we’ve unpacked the 3 insecure attachment styles and how those are formed. Now let’s talk about secure attachment. This is the goal. A secure attachment is when:
- You feel like your partner has your back
- You’re not afraid to ask for your needs to be met
- You’re not afraid to engage in conflict with them
- You fee like you can be yourself
- You know that your partner is always going to be there, and they’re always going to love you
What makes a secure attachment?
Researchers have a consensus that being accessible, responsive, and engaged are the 3 things that make a secure attachment.
Accessibility looks like:
- Texting and calling back
- You communicate where you’re going and when you’ll be home
- You’re generally accessible to each other. You don’t have to wonder when you’ll see or speak with each other again
- Responding to each other with care and concern.
- This could be talking with your partner when they’ve had a bad day at work or giving them a hug when they’ve had a bad day.
- Responses have to be warm, positive and supportive
Being engaged means that you make the most of the time you have together. The time you spend is quality time. So, phones are put away and your full attention is on each other.
When both partners are accessible, responsive and engaged, couples can let their guard down. They feel safe, secure, supported and loved by their partner so they’re not afraid to be vulnerable with each other and emotionally connect. They don’t feel the need to distance themselves or constantly prove themselves to each other. It’s a secure connection that feels warm and safe, most of all.
Secure Attachments are Possible for Everyone
A secure attachment takes time and effort, especially if you lean toward an insecure attachment style. You have to work hard to challenge your anxious or untrusting thoughts. Remind yourself that your partner will be there for you because they’ve shown you that. You also have to show your partner that you’ll be there for them. It takes two people to make a secure connection with each other.
Ultimately, a secure attachment reflects a belief that you are lovable and you can trust your partner. A secure attachment allows you to grow in ways that you never thought were possible. It empowers you to take risks and weather the storm of the world because know you can come home to someone who supports you and loves you no matter what.
The secure attachment is what makes relationships worth it, it’s what makes them meaningful. There’s no point of being in a relationship where you feel like you constantly have to prove yourself or you can’t trust your partner. The whole point is to have someone you can rely on, serve, and who you can work together with to improve yourselves. Partners in a secure attachment work to improve themselves, and they give each other space to grow.
So, we’ve just gone over the behaviors and beliefs that connect with each attachment style. We’ve also talked about where those attachment styles can come from. In the coming months, I’m going to do a podcast about each insecure attachment style, and how you can go from that attachment style to a secure attachment.
Make sure to subscribe to The Love Brain podcast so you can be notified when those episode come out. Also, if you have any questions for me about attachment styles, you can DM me on The Love Brain Instagram hub. If you loved this episode, please leave a 5 star review or share it with a friend so I can keep sharing this relationship guidance with you this medium. Thank you so much for joining me!