by Melisse Ogilvie, Social Worker
We often discuss the not so good qualities and habits of the opposite sex and sometimes we even make fun of character traits that show up in relationships.
Unbeknownst to many of us, these character traits have an origin and are defence mechanisms. It may be because of our connections; our attachment styles. Our attachment styles mirror the dynamics of the relationship we had with our primary caregivers as children.
The care and attention we receive as babies not only help in brain development but also in our emotional development. That nurturing fosters a connection that affects us as children and into adulthood. This connection determines how our relationships develop and how they end.
Our attachment styles cause us to have patterns of thinking and beliefs that impact our communication, behaviour, and ultimately, our emotional response. In our relationships, we see this manifesting in how we relate to friends, children, parents and partners.
Thais Gibson in her recently published book on relationships, described the 4 attachment styles as the following: The fearful avoidant person easily switches between hot and cold. Sometimes they are confused by what they feel and present with unpredictable moods. These people tend to be in relationships that are rocky, consistently moving between on and off. Those intimate relationships are often referred to as “situationships.”
An anxious preoccupier wants to be with their partner all the time. They believe that their loved ones pull away from them. They might be the ones to have unrealistic expectations of people, such as those believing that when in a relationship, you will be complete. They often come across as being desperate and insecure.
The dismissive avoidant person might be generally dismissive and fear commitment. They pursue space and freedom, which looks like independence but it is not. In relationships, they may be emotionally distant and have the ability to shut down easily when in an emotionally heightened situation. These are the people who may seem not affected by a relationship ending and appear to move on easily.
A person with a secure attachment is able to effectively communicate their needs, and is willing to be vulnerable in their relationships. They are also able to meet the emotional needs of the people they are in relationship with. They are the ones who are more secure in their relationships and are in relationships that are open, honest and mutually supportive.
The goal is for all of us to be secure individuals. Although this provides an explanation for some of the habits and behaviours we see, we need to understand that people could display different styles in different circumstances.
Understanding our attachment style would help us to understand our strengths and vulnerabilities. It gives us some explanation to why our relationships have failed or succeeded. This should help guide us in choosing partners and resolving the conflicts in relationships.
We were designed to thrive in healthy environments where there is healthy connection. The challenge for healthy, flourishing relationships is to recognise the unhealthy behaviour and make a change or get help to address it. Additionally, parents also need to understand how their relationship and their parenting styles impact their children’s emotional development and how they function later in adulthood.
Let’s strive to be emotionally healthy people, one connection at a time.
Source: Gibson, T. (2020). Attachment Theory: A Guide to Strengthening the Relationships in your life. Rockbridge Press.
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