At what stage in a romantic relationship is it OK to evaluate the attachment style of your partner?
Knowing how you and a romantic partner form attachments can be beneficial in all stages of relationships, and especially in the beginning of a relationship. Think about it as interviewing somebody for probably the most important role of your life, so you want to be in touch with all the cues and listen to see if there is going to be good compatibility between the two of you.
Tip: Know what you stand for and don’t compromise on your strongest values
If you discover your romantic partner has an attachment style that you were not seeking or even trying to avoid, can you salvage the relationship or is it better to move on?
People who have anxious and avoidant attachment styles and get together does not mean they are not going to love each other; it does not mean they can’t have very happy moments together. But it also means there is going to be some incompatibility that they are going to have to deal with. That is a big part of what I do in my private. Note: Check in with your own value system. Ask yourself what do I believe in, hold dear and what do I stand for? You will always have challenges in a relationship if your internal set of rules do not align and there are major gaps.
What impact does the dominance of digital technology—social media, texting, and messenger apps—have on our attachment styles and romantic relationships?
Social media can be helpful in relationships because it is another tool of engaging or connecting or disconnecting. We feel safe through our connections with other people and through their availability. So, if we know how to use texting and social media in a way that helps the other person feel connected to us, we can use it to our advantage. It is less awkward than before when you would have to call someone on the phone and talk. Now, you can connect in a text very quickly and maintain that connection until the next time you see or talk with them. Note: Effective verbal F2F Communication is a fading skill so be very “mindful” no technology will or can replace effective verbal F2F communication. Effective verbal communication can lead to one of a human’s primary needs, which is physical touch, physical touch releases all the feel-good hormones. Whilst technology has its place in intimate relationships, just make sure its not the primary place.
TIP: Technology also has a way of jumping the cue for example if you were waiting in line to be served and the customer service person kept taking orders over the phone, how would you feel?
PUT DOWN your phone when you are with loved ones and be present or they will feel like they are not your priority, leading to resentment.
Secure Attachment Style
Those with a strong Secure Attachment Style manifest at least a number of the following traits on a regular basis:
- Higher emotional intelligence. Capable of conveying emotions appropriately and constructively.
- Capable of sending, and receiving healthy expressions of intimacy.
- Capable of drawing healthy, appropriate, and reasonable boundaries when required.
- Feel secure being alone as well as with a companion.
- Tend to have a positive view of relationships and personal interactions.
- More likely to handle interpersonal difficulties in stride. Discuss issues to solve problems, rather than to attack a person.
- Resiliency in the face relational dissolution. Capable of grieving, learning, and moving on.
People with the Secure Attachment Style are not perfect. They too have ups and downs like everyone else, and can become upset if provoked. Having said this, their overall mature approach to relationships makes this the healthiest of the four adult attachment styles.
Anxious-Preoccupied Attachment Style
Those with a strong Anxious-Preoccupied Attachment Style tend to manifest at least several of the following traits on a regular basis:
- Inclined to feel more nervous and less secure about relationships in general, and romantic relationships in particular.
- Inclined to have many stressors in relationships based on both real and imagined happenings. These stressors can manifest themselves through a variety of possible issues such as neediness, possessiveness, jealousy, control, mood swings, oversensitivity, obsessiveness, etc.
- Reluctant to give people the benefit of the doubt, tendency for automatic negative thinking when interpreting others’ intentions, words, and actions.
- Requires constant stroking of love and validation to feel secure and accepted. Responds negatively when not provided with regular positive reinforcement.
- Drama oriented. Constantly working on (sometimes inventing) relationship issues in order to seek validation, reassurance, and acceptance. Some feel more comfortable with stormy relationships than calm and peaceful ones.
- Dislike being without company. Struggle being by oneself.
- History of emotionally turbulent relationships.
Dismissive-Avoidant Attachment Style
Those with a strong Dismissive-Avoidant Attachment Style tend to manifest at least several of the following traits on a regular basis:
- Highly self-directed and self-sufficient. Independent behaviourally and emotionally.
- Avoid true intimacy which makes one vulnerable, and may subject the Dismissive-Avoidant to emotional obligations.
- Desire freedom physically and emotionally (“No one puts a collar on me.” Pushes away those who get too close (“I need room to breathe.”)
- Other priorities in life often supersede a romantic relationship, such as work, social life, personal projects and passions, travel, fun, etc. In these situations, the partner is frequently excluded, or holds only a marginal presence.
- Many have commitment issues. Some prefer to be single than to settle down. Even in committed relationships, they prize autonomy above much else.
- May have many acquaintances, but few truly close relationships.
- Some may be passive-aggressive and/or n
Fearful-Avoidant Attachment Style
Those with a strong Fearful-Avoidant Attachment Style tend to manifest at least several of the following traits on a regular basis:
- Often associated with highly challenging life experiences such as grief, abandonment, and abuse.
- Desire but simultaneously resist intimacy. Much inner conflict.
- Struggle with having confidence in and relying on others.
- Fear annihilation, physically and/or emotionally in loving, intimate situations.
- Similar to the Anxious-Preoccupied Style, suspicious of others’ intentions, words, and actions.
- Similar to the Dismissive-Avoidant Style, pushes people away and have few genuinely close relationships.
As mentioned earlier, most people have various degrees of the four attachment styles, which may change over time.
Although those who are predominantly the Secure Attachment Style tend to make strong partners, it is also possible for those who are predominantly the other three styles to be in successful relationships. Self-awareness, mutual-support, mutual willingness to grow, and courage to seek professional help when needed are some of the crucial elements to positive relational development. The absence of these elements, however, may generate issues of incompatibility in relationship.
(1) Bartholomew, K., Horowitz, L.M. Attachment Styles Among Young Adults: a Test of a Four-Category Model. J Pers Soc Psychol. (1991)
(2) Pietromonaco P.R., Barrett L.F. Working Models of Attachment and Daily Social Interactions. J Pers Soc Psychol. (1997)
(3) Preston Ni M.S.B.A.