Have you ever noticed repeating patterns in your love life? Perhaps you always seem to be more involved than your partner. Or maybe you have always desired to be in a relationship, but once things get emotionally intimate, you immediately back off.
If you’re wondering why some people are aloof and unattached in their relationships while others are clingy and need constant validation, this could be due to our different attachment styles. Attachment theory was first developed by psychologist Mary Ainsworth and psychiatrist John Bowlby in the 1950s.
What is the attachment theory?
According to attachment theory, our relationship with our primary caregivers during childhood plays a major overarching influence on our intimate relationships as adults.
In other words, how you grew up with your primary caregivers (usually one’s parents or parental figures) will set the stage for how you build relationships as an adult. This is because the behaviour of the primary caregivers contributes to and forms the way a child perceives close relationships.
As a very general example, if a child feels safe with their parents and is able to consistently rely on them to fulfil their needs growing up, they’re likely to develop a secure attachment style. On the other hand, if they grew up with parental figures who are less attuned to their needs, they’re likely to develop insecure attachments.
How does attachment styles affect our relationships?
Attachment styles include the way one responds emotionally to others, how one interacts with their partner in a relationship, as well as how one behaves when it comes to relationships in general.
There are four attachment styles, with each having its typical traits and characteristics. It’s important to note, however, that each person does not necessarily fit veritably into a single category. As there are only four broad categories, one might not identify with all the characteristics in their attachment style.
The four attachment styles are anxious (also referred to as preoccupied), avoidant (also referred to as dismissive), disorganised (also referred to as fearful-avoidant), and secure.