When I work with a new client, one of the first things I help them determine is their attachment style. Your attachment style is determined by your relationship with your early caregivers, and it affects your relationships as an adult. In particular, your attachment style affects your love relationships and dating style. Knowing your attachment style is priceless when it comes to making changes in how you approach dating and relationships.
Your attachment style is not something that you consciously choose, rather it’s how you adapt to your childhood. Attachment Styles is a huge area of research, but I’ll do my best to give a brief summary here:
If your caregivers were consistently available for you, you most likely have a Secure Attachment Style. Those who were lucky enough to develop Secure Attachment find it easy to give and receive love. You may need some help getting clear on what you want in a partner, or recovering from a past relationship, or maybe you need help developing your dating skills. Once you find someone who is a good match, you will be able to have clear boundaries balanced by an open heart.
If your caregivers were inconsistent in their availability, you might have developed an Ambivalent/Anxious Attachment Style. Those with an Ambivalent/Anxious Attachment Style find it hard to trust that love will stick around, and can be chronically dissatisfied in relationships. You may find yourself dating unavailable partners over and over again, getting stuck in a loop of longing and disappointment. It is easy for you to really want someone and to focus all your energy on them very quickly. It’s important for you to keep your options open until the relationship is clearly moving forward, to set good boundaries with your dates, and to learn to allow potential partners who are actually available into your life.
If your caregivers were emotionally unavailable or insensitive, you may have developed an Avoidant Attachment Style. Those who have an Avoidant Attachment Style find it hard to feel their emotions and connect with others. When it comes to dating, you may find that it’s hard to hold on to your desire to have a partner, and it’s probably a challenge to consistently put energy into dating. You may feel smothered and fearful when someone tries to get ‘too close’ or wants to move ‘too fast’ in the relationship.
If your caregivers were a source of fear growing up, you may have developed a Disorganized Attachment Style. Those with a Disorganized Attachment Style have a hard time solving problems or feeling empowered to make change in their own lives. Your relationships may be fraught with confusion and lack of clarity. You probably feel both the desire to be close and a deep fear of intimacy. In the dating world, you may find yourself with lots of drama and confusion about what the agreements are with your partners and dates. For you, learning to communicate clearly is essential, as is finding a partner who you can really trust.
You may already have an idea of your attachment style from reading the descriptions above. If you want to dive deeper into this topic, I’ve got 2 great resources to recommend:
1) Therapist and trainer Diane Poole-Heller has developed a short quiz on attachment styles. You can take it for free on her website by following this link: http://dianepooleheller.com/attachment-quiz/
2) I recommend this book to both clients and friends, and everyone comes back and raves about it. It’s called Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find-And Keep-Love. They also have a quiz on their website, and quizzes in the book: http://www.attachedthebook.com/
Whatever you learn about yourself and your attachment style, don’t despair! We are always growing and changing, and you are not doomed to stay stuck in old patterns. You can change your attachment style with healthy adult relationships - with close friends, a good therapist, or a healthy partnership. All secure attachments are going to help you develop new ways of being in relationship, and you can increase your ability to thrive and relax into loving partnership (if that is your goal).
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