Man And Woman Laying Down Head To Head Holding Hands - Why Attachment Styles Matter to Your Relationship - Sandra Harewood Counselling

Why Attachment Styles Matter To Your Relationship

Have you ever wondered why your partner always seems to want to escape when you argue? 

Or perhaps why you always seem to be the one trying to get them to stay in the room and make things better.

It might all be down to attachment styles.

Your attachment style matters because how you move towards and stay connected to someone is shaped by it.  Knowing more about your attachment style gives you an understanding not only of who you are and how you operate in relationships, but importantly, a better understanding of your partner.

Early Attachment

Above all, we all need to feel attached.  It’s part of our humanness.  Life begins in the womb with you being connected to your mother by the umbilical cord.

Your attachment story begins here and takes shape in the childhood years that follow. 

Buried memories of how your primary caregiver(s) responded to your needs, determine your attachment style.  Or to put it another way how safe and secure you feel in adult relationships in some way reflects how safe and secure you felt as a child.  

You may not be consciously aware of them, but the feelings you felt as a child remains with you into adult life.

3 Types of Attachment Styles

There are three main attachment styles:

  1. Secure
  2. Avoidant
  3. Ambivalent

Research has shown that most people, nearly 60%, have a secure attachment style.

But what does that mean?  

For the most part adults with a secure attachment style develop strong emotional bonds, have lasting and trusting relationships, are comfortable sharing feelings and are not anxious about the relationship. 

We tend to be familiar with one style based on our childhood experience. But you can find yourself behaving in other ways, depending on your partner’s style.

Please Don’t Leave Me

Picture this. You’ve had a great evening out.  All of a sudden a remark made leads to an unexpected argument with your partner.  Here are some common reactions from each attachment style.

Secure Attachment Styles:

You’re hurt, and you can see your partner is unhappy too.  You go home.  You’re still hurt, but you trust that it’s not that big a problem.  You know that you have a good relationship.  And like all relationships, it will have its ups and downs.

The next day, you talk about it.   You tell your partner how you felt about what was said and you, in turn, listen to what they have to say.  You work it out, make amends and get on with your day.  

Avoidant Attachment Styles:

You become guarded close down and have nothing more to say.  You want to be left alone.  The situation feels overwhelming, and you’re beginning to feel engulfed. The energy drains from your body, and you can’t think.  You might leave your partner sitting in the restaurant.  If you decide to say, you’re silent. 

The following evening you’re still annoyed.  Although part of you wants to, you think twice about reaching out to your partner, and you’re most certainly not going to apologise.  If your partner attempts to talk to you, you’re dismissive. 

Ambivalent Attachment Styles:

You go into panic mode.  You’re scared that the argument means it’s the end; he’s going to leave you.  

You start talking, perhaps too much, trying to stop your partner from leaving, even though they’ve told you their just popping outside for two minutes for some fresh air.  Then you start imagining the worse thinking he’s checking his ex’s social media profile, and you’re tempted to follow him outside.

You only begin to feel calm when your partner reassures you and tells you everything is okay.

A Childhood Story of Closeness or Distance

John Bowlby, an early pioneer of attachment theory, believed that early experiences in childhood are essential for influencing development and behaviour later in life.  Your early attachment style is established in childhood through your relationship between you and your parent or another significant caregiver.

So what do these attachment styles look like?  See what resonates with you.

Secure Attachment Styles

  • You’re comfortable alone or with others.
  • You know what it is like to depend on someone but can also take care of yourself.  This is because you had a warm, secure, and consistent relationship with your caregivers.
  • For secure adults, mutuality in a relationship is essential.
  • In adult relationships, a secure person offers support when their partner feels distressed and reach out to their partner for comfort when they feel troubled.
  • Your relationship tends, to be honest, open, and equal, with both people feeling independent, yet loving towards each other.

Avoidant Attachment Styles:

  • Your parents might not have been that relational, showing little care or nurturing.  One parent might have had a self-esteem problem or cared about themselves and what other people thought over and above you.
  • To be loved, you learnt to set aside your needs for that of the caregiver.
  • You struggle with intimacy because they are petrified of showing their authentic self.  Consequently, you can feel trapped if your partner gets too close.
  • Paradoxically, you have a real fear of being abandoned.  This anxiety can result in turbulent relationships

Ambivalent Attachment Styles:

  • You had some experience of a warm and secure connection with caregivers; the problem is that it wasn’t consistent. Sometimes when they wanted attention, they were turned away.  This mixed experience led to confusion; sometimes, you felt seen and sometimes not.
  • You tend to be insecure in the relationships, never entirely trusting their partner’s feelings towards them.
  • You can act in ways which only exacerbate the problem, e.g. becoming clingy, jealous or possessive.

Why Your Attachment Styles Matters.

While it’s not guaranteed that early attachment styles match adult romantic attachment, studies show that those early attachment styles can help predict patterns of behaviour in adulthood.  As a result, you can be curious about how and why you and your partner relate to each other.

Controlling relationships are not secure.

For one thing, typically they are characterised by anxiety and fear.

Generally speaking, controlling people fall either in the avoidant or ambivalent style. Even though the control might show up in different ways, underneath it all is the feeling of not being good enough for someone to sustain a relationship with them.

Understanding your attachment style helps you begin to appreciate how you behave in relationships and recognise why you are repeatedly attracted to certain people.  By the same token, it also allows you to start to challenge your insecurities and fears about yourself and relationships.  

If you want more information on attachment styles and relationships, a great book is Your Brain on Love by Stan Tatkin

Over to You

Are feeling controlled?  Perhaps you find you find yourself panicking and anxious following an argument and then rushing in to make things better.  If you want a safe space to understand, talk, figure out your feelings and understand your attachment style and how it impacts your relationship get in touch and book your first counselling appointment.

Or call me today on 07535 864836.

Leave a comment below; I’d love to hear from you.


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© Sandra Harewood 2019

About Sandra

Soul Centred couples counsellor Sandra Harewood specialises in working with couples and women with childhood wounding that impacts their adult relationships. Sandra provides a soulful space for her clients to explore and discover creative solutions to their difficulties and create a great relationship.