Do you feel that you are involved in difficult relationships on a regular base? That you match up with the wrong people and despite it looks and feels good at the beginning the relationship finally falls apart? Do you have a desperate need to be appreciated by the people you are close to? Do you have a fear of intimacy and of letting people get close to you? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of those questions then you have what is known as “attachment issues” which makes it difficult to be in a happy relationship.
What does attachment mean? Attachment means the way you were cared for by your parents and how loved and secure, or not, you felt when you were little. There are several types of “attachment styles”, the secure one which enables people to form satisfying relationships, and the less secure ones which can cause trouble in forming relationships.
However an avoidant, anxious or disorganised attachment style is creating trouble when it comes to relationships.
The British psychologist, John Bowlby, the founder of the attachment theory, described it as an ‘emotional bond’, which affects the way we behave in relationships ‘from the cradle to the grave’. He explained that the way in which we are treated by our parents and primary caregivers in our infancy and childhood provides us with a blueprint for building relationships later in life. When we experience our parents or primary care givers as not reliable, nurturing and loving the emotional bond is not stable and our ability to trust others becomes impaired. For example if, as a child, you experienced abandonment, neglect, emotional or physical abuse, chaotic and unpredictable behaviour from your parents, then it’s very likely that you have not a good template for secure relationships. Anxiety and the feeling that the world is not necessarily a safe place and people can’t be trusted might come up quite regularly which causes you to have a more anxious or avoidant attachment style. The coping strategy to the neglect, abuse or uncertainty in early childhood is to continually seek attention and approval from others. This means we constantly focus on other people and their demands and needs instead of our own. This can cause all sorts of issues like the feeling of being disconnected from oneself, people pleasing, being “needy“, clingy and anxious when your demands/ needs are not meet by others. You worry a lot whether your partner, friends or family are truly committed and available to you. You might feel that you have a constant and continually unmet need for love and intimacy no matter how committed your partner is. Even temporary separation feels quite upsetting, and if you ever pick up that a friend or partner wishes to withdraw or separate from you, you become very angry.
On the other hand if you have an avoidant attachment style, you tend to be self sufficient and avoid to form close and intimate relationships despite of your longing to actually have a secure and loving relationship. So in fact your behaviour says the opposite and people respond accordingly. This is because you fear attachment (because of your childhood wound of not being met) and unconsciously seek ways to sabotage any relationships you are in.
How can you change your attachment style?
The good news is that we are not victims of our childhood. We can learn to make better choices by recognising your attachment style. On reflecting what in your past caused you to form this survival strategy and how this impacts your actual relationships is the first step.
As with many patterns that we carry from the past, bringing it to awareness and realising the problem is half the battle. If you become aware of your individual attachment style, you can then challenge your outdated blueprints from the past. The next step is to let go of the outdated stuff and to begin to develop a new style of attachment to achieve satisfying, loving and lasting relationships.