Do you know which attachment style you are? (Picture: Getty)
It goes without saying that our upbringing can shape who we are and what we like.
But it can also have an impact on our romantic relationships, too.
This is because there are four different attachment styles that we tend to form during childhood – and these can impact how we interact, trust and love other people.
Recognising which of these attachment styles (anxious, avoidant, anxious-avoidant and secure) can help us have more mature and meaningful connections – and can also assist us with understanding other people.
So which category do you fall into? And how can you harness this knowledge to your advantage?
Experts have outlined the characteristics of each style – and what this looks like in a relationship.
What are the four different attachment types?
‘You fear being abandoned or rejected, to the point where you ignore your own feelings and needs. You fully expect to be abandoned and your needs for closeness and connection make you anxious,’ says relationship psychotherapist Heather Garbutt.
This can mean that, in relationships, you’re sometimes criticised for being needy and constantly seeking reassurance that you are loved and valued.
‘It’s likely that you need to know where your partner is, who they’re with and what they’re doing at all times which can often drive them away,’ Heather adds.
‘You might assume that others don’t really like you or value you and have trouble setting personal boundaries, which can be very damaging.’
However, if you recognise this pattern – and pay more attention to your own feelings and needs – then you can enjoy a more adult-centred relationship.
People with the avoidant attachment style retreat into themselves (Picture: Getty)
If you’re terrified of allowing yourself to be vulnerable or feel dependent on your partner, then it’s likely you have an avoidant attachment style.
Heather says: ‘You’ll often push them away if they ask too much closeness and intimacy from you. You’re proud of your ability to be self-reliant and in times where conflict arises or you need comfort, you’ll retreat into yourself where you believe it’s safe.’
It’s important to address these trust issues and learn how to be more emotionally open in order to enjoy a secure and loving relationship.
‘Some people demonstrate a combination of the above two attachment styles, beginning and ending a number of relationships when the partner proves to be disappointing or is too emotionally demanding,’ Heather adds.
This means you often have an unstable view of yourself and others – and it can be as a result of having an unpredictable or frightening caregiver as a child.
‘Someone who is anxious-avoidant is likely to be unhappy expressing affection and will be uncomfortable with emotional closeness. Their emotions may be unpredictable,’ says relationship expert and psychotherapist Dr Neil Wilkie.
‘Another impact is that if we had a difficult childhood and are fearful or anxious, we may feel a victim from our childhood and might seek a rescuer who can give us the love and security that we didn’t get in childhood.
‘This may become an unbalanced and unsustainable relationship unless we are able to move out of victimhood.’
Those with a secure attachment style will normally have more satisfying and longer-lasting relationships than those who fall into the other three camps. This because they have a positive view of themselves, their attachments and relationships.
‘A great deal of thought will be given prior to entering into the relationship, rather than launching into it headfirst out of desperate need,’ adds Heather.
‘You’ll come from a place of self-confidence, self-respect and assuredness, expecting your partner to have the same mindset and treat you the same way.’
As a result, arguments are settled in a calm way and both parties value one another.
Heather continues: ‘If you are disappointed or hurt, you will respond in an adult way – perhaps reaching out to try and work together to repair the rift in your relationship if possible through reflection, analysis and discussion rather than ending it on a sour note and taking emotional baggage onto the next relationship.’
Simply put, if this applies to you – your relationship should be a bit more plain sailing.
How knowing your attachment style can help in a relationship
Ultimately, self-awareness can help a couple avoid unnecessary conflict and develop a secure and mature relationship.
Neil says: ‘To have a great relationship we need to truly understand ourselves as well as to understand our partner and their map of the world. Understanding our upbringing and that of our partner, or prospective partner, is really important as that may have a big impact on who are.’
He adds that while it’s important to recognise where we fall, it’s only helpful if we do something with that knowledge to improve our relationships in the future.
‘If we know each other’s stories and understand their maps of the world then we will be much better equipped,’ he continues.
‘We will be able to understand why they respond to situations in the way they do as well as our impact on them.’
It’s also worth pointing out that we can change our type. For example, if you are currently resonating with the anxious attachment style, you can work on that with the support of a therapist and shift to a more secure attachment style.
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