Staying Connected: How Attachment Styles in Relationships Affect Your Well-Being
Do you struggle to feel safe in your relationships? Do you worry about being hurt or abandoned by others? Is it challenging for you to be vulnerable or allow people to support you?
No connection is perfect, but attachment styles in relationships can significantly influence how we think and behave with others. These interactive patterns are often unconscious, but understanding their role in your life is important. Here’s what you need to know.
What Are Attachment Styles?
Attachment refers to how we connect with others. It also entails the level of safety and trust we experience within our relationships.
Research shows that attachment bonds form during infancy. Your primary caregiver played a crucial role in shaping how you felt supported and understood. If they attuned to your needs appropriately, you likely have a secure attachment style. If they didn’t, you might have an insecure attachment style.
Children are dependent on their caregivers for meeting their physical and emotional needs. When a caregiver attends to these needs consistently and effectively, the child generally feels safe and loved.
As an adult, secure attachment often looks like:
- Knowing your own needs and asserting them appropriately
- Feeling comfortable alone and with others
- Navigating conflict appropriately
- Setting healthy boundaries in relationships
- Having resilience despite inherent obstacles
Inconsistent parenting can be confusing for children. They may not know whether their caregiver will be responsive, engaged, or annoyed. As a result, children in this dynamic may feel anxious or uncertain about whether they can trust people.
As an adult, ambivalent/anxious-preoccupied attachment looks like:
- Feeling overly clingy or scared about losing people in relationships
- Trusting other people too quickly
- Feeling anxious or jealous when you don’t receive attention
- Struggling to set boundaries (or respect other people’s boundaries)
- Needing continuous reassurance or attention from others
Some caregivers are emotionally or physically unavailable for their children. This can lead children feeling rejected or unimportant. Therefore, they may lack the ability to trust people or self-soothe when they feel emotionally heightened.
As an adult, avoidant-dismissive attachment looks like:
- Fearing intimacy or closeness with most or all people
- Withdrawing when conflict arises
- Concealing your emotions or needs altogether
- Opting for shallow, casual relationships instead of more vulnerable ones
Chaotic parenting often stems from caregivers struggling with their own unresolved trauma. In some cases, these caregivers become the source of comfort and pain. This leads to children feeling disoriented and scared. They may feel lost, neglected, and ashamed.
As an adult, disorganized attachment looks like:
- Alternating between extreme closeness or distance from others
- Struggling to take personal accountability over your actions
- Feeling terrified of connection while simultaneously craving it
- Becoming explosive or erratic in your relationships
Coping With Insecure Attachment Styles in Relationships
If you identify as having an insecure attachment style, it doesn’t mean your situation is hopeless. It also doesn’t mean that you change your communication and improve your dynamic with loved ones. Here are some tips to keep in mind.
Boost Your Self-Esteem
Insecure attachment comes from a profound fear of loss, abandonment, and rejection. This fear is valid, but it can override how you trust and affirm yourself.
Loving others starts with yourself. Think about the small ways you can increase your self-esteem. Remember that even tiny actions can yield significant results.
Some helpful strategies include:
- Practicing positive affirmations when you feel insecure
- Focusing on gratitude when you feel anxious or depressed
- Asking directly for what you need
- Looking after your physical health by eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep
- Prioritizing the passions that make you feel fulfilled
- Limiting or avoiding activities that drain your energy
Remember that building your self-esteem is a continuous process. Therefore, the work is never truly complete. But the more you honor your needs and believe in yourself, the more you will value having healthy relationships with others.
Connect With People With Secure Attachment Styles
Research shows that approximately 66% of people have a secure attachment style. Ideally, you should surround yourself with these people- they have high self-esteem and value having healthy, meaningful relationships.
Keep in mind these relationships may not be as easy as they seem. If you’re used to volatile emotions, poor boundaries, or other toxic behavior, secure attachment may seem unnerving. But sticking with these people (and learning from them) is one of the best ways to heal from unhealthy patterns.
Seek Professional Support
Changing how you relate to others isn’t easy. Furthermore, choosing to confide in or trust others isn’t as simple as merely wanting to do it.
It’s no surprise that trauma and early childhood experiences can profoundly impact attachment styles in relationships. If you’re struggling with these issues, therapy can make a meaningful difference.
At Willow Counseling, we are here to help you understand and enjoy your relationships. We are here to support you in your healing journey. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation.
Willow Counseling, PLLC – Nashville, TN
Willow Counseling, PLLC exists to provide quality trauma-informed mental health counseling to the Nashville community, recognizing the interconnectedness of our emotional, spiritual and physical selves. We work together to alleviate symptoms, learn better coping skills, relieve burdens, remove the pain of trauma, and so much more. However, our greatest desire is for you to know what it means to feel purpose and joy again and to recognize the strength and worth you have to offer the world.