Ever wondered why you act a certain way in every single relationship? And then keep making the same mistakes? It’s probably down to your attachment style, which can be linked back to your childhood. Attachment styles are something that many of us are seemingly unaware of, even though they dictate how healthy our relationships are. If you feel insecure in your relationships in your adult relationships, keep wanting to check in on a partner or starting arguments about where they’ve been, identifying your attachment style could help you change your behaviour and keep your relationship more healthy.
To put it in the simplest terms, the attachment theory which was first developed in the 1960s by psychologists Mary Ainsowrth and John Bowlby states that the way your caregivers interact with you during your childhood significantly influences your social and emotional development. Then, during adulthood, those learned behaviours and expectations (also known as your attachment style) inform how you relate to and interact with others.
“Your attachment style is usually formed in childhood when relating to your parents and family,” Brianna Rader, relationship and sex educator and founder of the Juice box Sex & Relationship App, says. “Knowing your attachment style can help you be more self-aware and recognise your strengths and weaknesses when dating and forming relationships.”
A relationship counsellor by the name of Barbara Honey, says, “It’s very helpful for people to identify their attachment style, even if they’re not seeing a counsellor. It ought to come up in relationship education at school, because if people did start thinking about it at quite a young age, and recognised they had a bit of a problem, they could do something about it before it all starts going pear-shaped.” By couples talking to each other about their own experiences of attachment, Barbara says couples can make sense of each other’s personal situations and understand their behaviours better because of it.
Barbara also stated that she believes that identifying your own style will allow you to figure out exactly if you’re compatible with your partner or not, explaining that, “Different attachment styles will fit differently together as well. If you’re both on the ‘anxious’ end of the spectrum,it will cause you a lot of difficulties.” Unfortunately, we often don’t know another person’s attachment style until we’re in a relationship with them. “People who end up being very possessive and controlling often start by being very charming and loving!” she adds. “It’s easy to be fooled by the charm and the love, and then get trapped in a very controlling relationship.”
Psychiatrist John Bowlby developed another attachment theory back in the 60s and relationship counsellors and therapists have been using his work as reference ever since. Bowlby was the first professional to realise just how importance a child’s relationship with their caregiver was, and how that impacted their “social, emotional and cognitive development” and is still to this day recognised for his efforts. Bowlby studied many children and their attachments to their caregivers. From their behaviour, he was able to draw different styles of attachment and understand the behaviours that came with each style, once the child entered into adult relationships.
“Imagine a spectrum where at one end, the child is confident that if the caregiver disappears, they’ll be back any minute,” Barbara explained. “At the other end, you’ve got total detachment from a caregiver, where a person grows up and then finds it very difficult to even make relationships, because they have no trust. All these behaviours get played out as we’re making relationships. Quite simply, our history of attachment with our primary caregivers will get played out, and it’s likely to repeat itself as we get older.”