Confused - Attachment Styles

Do you sometimes question yourself regards your feelings towards your partner. Do you wonder if you really love them? Or is it the opposite – you question if they really love you? Or perhaps they display behaviours that really make you wonder what they feel about you?

The human mind is an extremely powerful organ – designed to protect us psychologically as well as physically. Unfortunately many of its reactions (unconscious protection mechanisms) are unhelpful and at times inappropriate. They are usually the result of our childhood upbringing and are designed to 'protect' us as adults. But often they don't – and in fact can undermine our important relationships.

Attachment Theory
Attachment Theory was first conceptualized by the psychologist John Bowlby in the 1950s and has continued to be studied and developed to this day. It covers many aspects of our development from early childhood through to adulthood – but it is the adult aspect we are interested in as relationship counsellors.

As adults the nature of the relationships we form and experience, and how we feel and behave in them is directly affected by the parenting we experienced as children.

This can manifest itself in many ways. You may:

- love your partner but at times not want to be there

- feel overwhelmed or guilty when they show you unconditional love

- struggle with consistency or repetition

- feel trapped at times due to family commitments or responsibilities

- dream of being an independent or free spirit

- desperately seek continual reinforcement by your partner, or experience jealousy at times

and the list goes on ...

It's important however to understand that this is not about not loving your partner or them not loving you. It's the unconscious mind trying to make sense of your relationship based on childhood experiences & learnings … and 'protect' you in the process.

Attachment Styles
There are many different styles and degrees of attachment, and you can even feel or exhibit combinations of different styles at different times. But the main four that have been identified are:

  • Securely attached adults tend to have positive views of themselves, their partners and their relationships. They feel comfortable with intimacy and independence.
  • Dismissive (avoidant) individuals may desire a higher levels of independence, are can be distant and detached at times, desiring self-sufficiency, and avoidant of attachment.
  • Preoccupied (anxious) individuals may need a lot of reassurance that they are loved by their partner and get frustrated if their partner is not readily available – proximity seeking. 
  • Disorganised (confused) individuals exhibit a contradictory approach a mixture of preoccupied and avoidant behaviour, have thus have mixed feelings about close relationships both desiring and feeling uncomfortable with emotional closeness.

No one style is right and one wrong. We are who we are. But understanding attachment styles in your self and your partner can enable deeper connections, more tolerance and understanding, support for our differences.

However if if this article resonates with you – don't just accept this as you. Change is possible.