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Sex + Relationships

How discovering your attachment style could save your relationship

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Do you ever think about why you attract certain types of people over and over again? Maybe you feel jealous when your partner goes out with their friends without you, or maybe you freak out when your partner keeps acting clingy. 

Last week, when I casually took the attachment quiz linked onto a TikTok, I did not expect to be piecing together my childhood experiences to my subconscious behaviors in my adult relationships, but nevertheless, I proceeded to go down a YouTube rabbit hole, learning all about the importance of knowing your attachment style.

What are attachment styles and how did they even come about?

In the 1950s and ’60s, British psychologist John Bowlby conducted an experiment on children in an attempt to observe the ways in which infants form emotional attachments with their primary caregivers. This experiment was later developed into three attachment types: Secure, Anxious, and Avoidant.

Attachment Types are not only visible in early childhood but are also present in our adulthood and romantic relationships. Ultimately, the way our parents raised us takes a toll on the way that we view ourselves and what we may look for in a relationship. Yikes.

Secure attachment

In summary, those with secure attachments had reliable and good childhood experiences, and now expect to be positively treated by those they love. These lucky ones are capable of empathy and generosity and can communicate with honesty and directness about their needs. About 50% of the population is assumed to be securely attached- which leaves two sets of fascinating deviants to explore.

And what makes things complicated—and extremely combustible—is that these two types of people are frequently drawn to forming couples. 

The insecure attachments

There are so many ways to be unhappy in love, but one kind, which modern psychology has given lots of attention to nowadays, is the relationships between anxious and avoidant attachment styles. 

An anxiously attached person in a relationship will have the feeling of not being properly appreciated or loved. They expect a lot of closeness and emotional intimacy, but their avoidant partner seems too detached from them. The anxiously attached person feels they aren’t loved with as much intensity as they offer, and are really upset by their avoidant partner’s coldness and distance. Anxious types then gradually fall into moods of self-loathing and rejection, where they feel unappreciated and misunderstood, as well as vengeful and resentful. And for a long time, they might keep quiet about their frustrations, until eventually, they blow up (maybe at the worst times). 

A securely attached partner might know how to soothe such fights over, but an avoidant one definitely doesn’t.

An avoidant partner will go cold and disconnect from the situation, which further ramps up their partner’s anxiety. 

They withdraw because they might feel controlled, overwhelmed, and hounded by the other person’s neediness. This is because as a child, they may have been discouraged from expressing feelings, so they are now uncomfortable with emotional intimacy as an adult. 

So what do I do???

The intent of learning about attachment styles isn’t to box relationships up into neat little categories, nor does it mean you’re stuck with one attachment style forever. In fact, it’s important to note that as time goes on, your attachment style can change as you evolve. Reading more about attachment styles has helped me pinpoint patterns in what I seek in my relationships, and address where they came from. If you find yourself resonating with these insecure attachments where it is affecting your day-to-day life, there are tons of mental health resources to help you address and heal from any unhealthy, trauma-driven behaviors.

Information obtained from:

Mahek Nair

McGill '23

Mahek is an International Development student at McGill, hoping to work to increase education access in developing countries. Other than studying or writing, you can find her at a local art gallery, a crystal store, or at home- curled up with a good book.
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