There’s joy to be found in learning about yourself, whether that be your love language, your astrological chart and its meaning, or your personality type. We’re in the age of self-improvement, and not only is it satisfying to go on your own self-discovery journey, but it can help completely change the way your future maps out. For me, attachment theory has been the most enlightening form self-discovery I’ve come across. It’s the idea that your psychological make-up and experiences influence the way in which you approach every relationship, be that romantic, familiar, platonic or professional.
Discovering what your attachment style is can have so many positive implications in your life. Gaining more of an understanding of the theory as a whole can help you appreciate your partners’ and peers’ attachment styles, so you can start approaching relationships more holistically and with a broader mind about differences you may face. When you start evaluating your attachment pattern, you begin to connect the dots between all of the pits and downfalls of your past relationships, making it so much easier to explain your own romantic behaviour and that of your previous partners.
Your attachment style starts developing as early as your infant years, and it’s powerful enough to influence your relationships for the rest of your life. Of course, with insecure attachments styles, you can heal your way to secure attachment the more you embrace the difficulties your attachment type brings. Acknowledging them as you go means you can gradually let the irrational thoughts that come with certain attachment types fade. Since embarking on this self-discovery journey, I’ve been met with the realisation that whilst I’m someone with an anxious preoccupied attachment type, and still healing from past relationships, it’s important for me to aim for attachment compatibility in my future relationships. Whilst your attachment type still follows an insecure pattern, it can be super healthy to be with someone who is securely attached – to help you build your own security and reaffirm your faith in relationships in general.
In learning what my previous partners’ attachment styles have been, I was able to understand things they might have done or not done that hurt me at the time. Although an attachment style doesn’t excuse mistakes people can make in relationships, it can definitely explain a person’s behaviour and the way they approach relationships entirely. It can be difficult to comprehend someone’s actions, especially if you’ve got an opposing attachment style to your partner, so a little understanding about it can go a long way in your healing process. I’m personally practising recognising the irrational thoughts my attachment style brings, and challenging my intuitions to promote securer attachment. There are four attachment types you can fall under:
With this type, you’re able to smoothly form attachments to others, with effective emotional communication. Securely attached types can maintain independence from their partners, but also feel comfortable getting close to others, being vulnerable with them and having them depend on you. Typically this style is developed in a childhood with parents who were encouraging, open and responsive to your needs, which means you tend to mirror that behaviour with your own partner.
Insecure Avoidant Attachment
Insecure avoidants will act distant or unphased to shield themselves from any potential pain. It’s difficult for you to trust people with your deepest thoughts and emotions, which can make you closed off to intimate commitments. Your tough exterior is built up because you’re the most afraid of love and all it entails, which means you crave space and freedom. Being tied down is not on your agenda, so often casual sex or open-relationships really appeal to you.
Anxious Preoccupied Attachment
These are the over-thinkers of relationships. If the idea of polyamory makes you panic, this could be you. In relationships, the anxious preoccupied can sometimes lose their sense of identity because they are so wrapped up in placing the needs of their partner above their own. You crave intimacy, approval and reassurance from your partner and come become too dependant. More than anything, you want to be desired, so space from your partner can just make you feel unloved. Arguably, you have too much love to give.
Fearful Avoidant Attachment
This attachment is the hybrid of the anxious preoccupied and insecure avoidant styles – you’ve adopted the insecurities of both types. Fearful avoidants can have a pattern of push-pull behaviour, where one moment they’re super keen, and the next they’re afraid and try to back away. This attachment type is sometimes misconstrued as displaying ‘toxic’ behaviours, when really they just have trouble processing their feelings about relationships which can make operating them securely quite challenging. You long for intimate connection, but you also fear it.
These attachment styles can apply to all kinds of relationships, so figuring out yours will harness you with the tools to confront the insecurities each attachment style brings.
If you’re not completely confident that you’ve identified yourself right, the easiest way to figure out your own attachment type, and that of your partners, is just by taking a test. My personal tried and tested favourite – and the one I think is the most accurate – is the Personal Development School’s one. You’ll get a free report of your results, and access to tons of education about personal growth.