How Attachment Theory Defines How You Act In Dating And Relationships
I’ve always loved learning about what makes people act the way they do. There has to be some kind of explanation for this asshole’s terrible attitude, right? Or why your girlfriend is suddenly acting distant when things are going SO well?
So I started doing some digging. After hours and hours searching and exploring, I finally came across something that explained so much – attachment theory.
I wanted to learn as much as I could about attachment theory before telling all of you about it, because it’s not the most simple concept.
Attachment theory stems from how you were raised and how the relationship between you and your caregiver directly affects how you relate to others in intimate relationships. (This can also affect your life outside of dating but my blog is about dating so let’s stay on track here.)
There are technically four different attachment styles. They are secure, anxious-preoccupied, dismissive-avoidant, fearful-avoidant/disorganized attachment. But the three main styles are the first three on the list.
John Bowlby, a psychoanalyst discovered attachment styles by conducting an experiment about the separation between infants and their parents. The experiment noticed the different reaction of infants when their caregivers left the room, or “abandoned” the infants. The behaviors were noted and the three main styles reacted like so (provided by positivepsychologyprogram.com):
- Secure attachment – Infants showed distress upon separation but sought comfort and were easily comforted when the parent(s) returned.
- Anxious-preoccupied – Infants experienced greater levels of distress, and upon reuniting with the parent(s), seemed to both seek comfort and attempt to”punish” the parent(s) for leaving.
- Dismissive-avoidant – Infants showed no stress or minimal stress upon separation from the parent(s) and either ignored the parent(s) upon reuniting, or actively avoided the parent(s).
So how does this affect your relationships? Well turns out, how you reacted as an infant, also determines how you’ll likely react to your partner.
These people tend to not display any jealous or possessive behavior. They have a life outside of their relationship, and they don’t feel the need to constantly check on their partner by calling or texting every second. They feel confident in themselves and their relationship.
These people tend to be more insecure in their relationships. They tend to be anxious and worried. They are hyper-sensitive towards any sign of rejection and will blame themselves if something in the relationship goes wrong. Thoughts like “I’m not good enough, or why does x even like me?” are normal thoughts the anxious type will have. In more extreme cases, the anxious-preoccupied can be controlling and needy. They always keep tabs on their partner and don’t feel trust in the relationship because they don’t understand why their partner is with them in the first place.
This attachment style is incredibly difficult to maintain a relationship with, if you can even get them in one at all. They find it almost impossible to even be intimate in a relationship. Dismissive-avoidants idolize previous relationships (even if their current relationship is better). They can end up sleeping in separate beds or thinking that random sex is better than sex with a monogamous partner. Any kind of normal relationship behavior will seem needy to the dismissive-avoidant, and they are known for self-sabotaging behaviors.
This one to me is the most interesting to learn about. This attachment style often displays mixed messages that tend to say “come here, go away.” People with this style crave and desire the closeness of a relationship, but they feel trapped or uncomfortable when it happens. This is why it can seem like dating this attachment style has a lot of ups and downs. Trust in this style is low and they believe that people are out to get them, using them or just aren’t as trustworthy as a secure attachment would believe. Overall, their mixed emotions tend to feel erratic for their partners, making a relationship difficult to maintain.
So what happens when different attachment styles date each other? Can you move from a certain attachment style to another? Which attachment styles tend to attract another? All this on my next post!
Take this quiz to find out your attachment style.