Jun 24, 2024

Attachment: How Childhood Bonding Patterns Show-Up in Future Romantic Relationships

Everybody’s first influence of attachment style takes place in infancy – the way a baby attaches to its primary caregiver(s). Attachment theory describes how these early relationships with a primary caregiver, most commonly a parent, creates our expectation for how love should be/look/feel.  Our view of ourselves and others is molded by how well these caregivers were available and responsive to meet our physical and emotional needs. In our adult relationships, our attachment system is triggered by our romantic partners.

Have you ever been in a relationship with someone who was emotionally unavailable? What about someone who was emotionally exhausting?  People give up on finding “the one” after experiencing a relationship or two with someone who has either style. Self-doubt sets in and you might say to yourself, “Something must be wrong with me.”

The Attachment Alarm

How are we triggered? Think about the availability of your primary caregiver.

  • Were they neglectful, always there for you, or inconsistent?
  • Who did you go to when you had a problem?
  • Was there someone there you could really count on?

Your attachment style influences the success of your relationship, so it is important to identify your own attachment style. Learn the four main patterns of attachment in adults and how they commonly affect couples in their relationships.

According to attachment theory, you have a secure attachment style if a caregiver was responsive and available to you as a child, making you feel safe and secure. Creating a secure attachment is important for dating to create a healthy relationship. In a secure relationship, your partner is there for you and has your back. If you possess an insecure attachment style (and you choose someone with an insecure style), you will continually be triggered and never feel safe or secure in your relationship.

Insecure attachment patterns

If your caregiver was unresponsive, you form an insecure attachment pattern. An insecure attachment style manifests in three main ways.

Anxious Attachment: Develops when a caregiver has been inconsistent in their responsiveness and availability, confusing the child about what to expect. As an adult, this person acts clingy at times and finds it difficult to trust their partner.

Avoidant Attachment: Develops when a caregiver is neglectful. These are the children that play by themselves and develop the belief that no one is there to meet their needs. As adults, they typically label themselves as very independent.

Disorganized Attachment: Develops from abuse, trauma, or chaos in the home. A child learns to fear the caregiver and has no real “secure base.”

All of these styles influence the way you behave in your romantic relationships and how you find a romantic partner.

So, this begs the question, can one change their attachment style to a more secure way of relating?

Can You Change Your Attachment Style?

The answer is yes, but it takes hard work. Therapy can be incredibly helpful, not only for an individual, but also for couples. When each partner in a relationship is aware of his/her attachment style, it can help to facilitate more effective communication, as each person understands the other person’s triggers. A quality therapist will help you uncover the essence of your attachment style, and will guide your development of the awareness necessary to discern how to best communicate and connect with your partner.