Healing Your Attachment Style
We had a client who had an anxious attachment style. As an only child, she had to go through a lot of upheaval in her childhood. She didn’t always feel supported or understood by her parents. The conclusion of her last relationship left her feeling more anxious than ever. Her ex cheated on her, and she can’t get over it. She’s been insecure, clingy, and worried about being abandoned. She wanted to learn to feel strong and confident inside.
Have you noticed that there seems to be one thing leading to another in your relationships that trigger past wounds? Does your attachment issue stop you from getting close to your partner? Do your partner’s attachment issues prevent you from getting close to them?
If so, you’re not alone. This article will walk you through how to heal your attachment issues so you can create healthier relationships.
Listen to our introduction show “Attachment Theory and Relationships.“
Here is what we are going cover in this article:
|Understand Your Relationship Attachment Style|
|The 4 attachment styles|
|Why do attachment issues matter?|
|How to heal your attachment issues|
Attachment issues are also called attachment wounds. They are challenges that a person has with forming secure attachments in relationships, sometimes referred to as your attachment style. Your attachment style is how you hold onto relationships in your mind; it’s your mind’s template for how safe you feel when forming attachments in relationships or otherwise holding onto people or things without letting go.
Your attachment style forms while growing up and has been with you all your life. It’s not something you choose consciously. Attachment comes from how you are brought up. If your mom or dad always paid attention to you, made you feel safe and loved, and offered a lot of support, that’s the style you became familiar with and adopted.
Your attachment style in childhood is often apparent when you’re an adult. Given your history, your attachment style in adulthood will be most noticeable in intimate relationships.
Your attachment wounds are exposed in close relationships, and your tendency to trust and be vulnerable amplifies. That’s why someone you’re close with can trigger those wounds, whereas someone you interact with less often probably doesn’t get deep enough under your skin.
Understand Your Relationship Attachment Style
To help you understand your attachment issues, it’s essential to know what type of attachment style you have. Some people will have just one kind, while others may have a mix. Some people may identify with more than one ~ but the key is to find out what that is to help change things up and heal any blockages or deep wounds.
It’s natural to feel that some styles of attachment might be more substantial than others. With that in mind, it’s okay to create a “blended” attachment description. Let’s say you feel like your style is primarily secure with an anxious aspect – it’d be acceptable to say something like 80% secure, 20% anxious.
The goal here is to learn more about yourself and your partner so that you can help each other become even better people who bring out the best in one another. You do not want just to label your partner or yourself.
The 4 attachment styles.
There are four main types of relationship attachment styles. They are secure, anxious, avoidant, and ambivalent.
Secure: People with secure attachment styles tend to be more healthy and open with their feelings. They’re comfortable singles without being too overly emotional and are confident when they are in relationships.
Anxious: This attachment style is characterized by general anxiety about the thought of living without your partner. People with an anxious attachment style are often highly committed to their partners and usually have a negative self-image. One important thing to keep in mind is that people with an anxious attachment style find themselves seeking approval from and appreciating a partner who can provide them with emotional support. Pieces of advice for successful relationships with these people include being attentive and responsive, which can help calm this anxiety. When people have an anxiety disorder stemming from fear of abandonment, they usually experience intense emotions. These feelings are typically triggered by the idea that their partner is no longer interested in the relationship as much as they once were.
Avoidant: People with avoidant attachment styles often put themselves on the sidelines. They also think they’re fiercely independent and self-sufficient, or sometimes as lone wolves. This attachment style can make for a lot of happy individuals. These people don’t view themselves as incomplete or needing their partner to center them in any way. People with avoidant attachment styles would instead act as if no one depends on them and show reluctance when opening up emotionally. This attachment style is characterized by a tendency to keep people at arm’s length and offering little emotional display. People with this attachment style aren’t good at being in relationships. They like to do things on their own and prefer solitude. When they are in a relationship, it can sometimes be hard to make the relationship work because they don’t want to admit how much commitment means to them.
Ambivalent: Disorganized attachment is also known as fearful-avoidant attachment. People with this attachment style often go back and forth between enjoying & fearing relationships. They might show behavior that makes it difficult for people around them to understand precisely what they want. This might be more true of adults who have a disorganized attachment style when it comes to relationships. People with intimacy issues often search for closeness and companionship from others but always fear getting hurt. This habit of seeking intimacy while keeping their distance might lead to some unpredictable behavior. In an anxious attachment style, you might be feeling closer to your partner and also terrified of losing them.
Why do attachment issues matter?
Emotional attachment wounds tend to be triggered when a person is stressed out, so there may be many occasions when you go back to unhealthy behaviors related to attachment wounds. Some personality styles will have a better time than others. That’s because those wounds that one person has been exasperated by the wounds that another person has.
For example, someone who has a need to attach and connect can find themselves feeling overstimulated by an avoidant partner. Although healing is possible in any relationship, they should be careful when looking for love as it could make recovery far more challenging.
The good news is, you can have a different attachment style. If you don’t have a secure attachment style, it wouldn’t be hard to learn some new skills and alter your relationship dynamics. And if you’re in a relationship, positive shifts will happen when both people put effort into changing their behaviors.
How to heal your attachment issues.
You can do this exercise on your own or with a trusted partner. If you do it with a partner, they’ll complete the steps as well. Then, when you’re done, discuss what you uncovered and come up with an action plan together that outlines how to achieve your goals.
- Get to know your attachment style.
Whether you find out your attachment style online or in therapy, there are several things you can do to get to know it. And if you have a mixed or blended attachment style, it helps to identify what aspect this is so that it’s not just blended. The key to healing your attachment wounds is becoming aware of your attachment style.
- Discover your partner’s attachment style.
If you’re in a relationship, It can be very helpful to know your partner’s attachment style and how that might impact your relationship. If your partner is interested in doing the work, you can undoubtedly try healing with them to make the most of both your lives and the relationship. If your spouse isn’t interested, knowing their attachment style can be a valuable tool for understanding them better.
Self-reflection is a powerful tool for self-improvement. Be as compassionate and nonjudgmental as possible so you can get a deeper understanding.Set aside a little time to write about the 10 positives you feel about your attachment style. Take a break, and then focus on the 10 negatives. For example, somebody with an avoidant style may realize one positive is that they tend not to get their feelings hurt very easily. A person with an avoidant style may come to realize that a negative is they feel very alone.
- Notice the triggers.A great way to stop negative thoughts is to take note of your triggers in relationships. If you’re not in one, sometimes remembering the history of previous relationships is helpful too. If you are in a relationship, be on the lookout for triggers that make you feel more upset. Keeping a journal can be beneficial because it allows you to track your attachment wounds without emotionally wearing yourself out.The goal isn’t to judge or blame anyone (including yourself); the goal is simply to become more aware of your attachment wounds. For example, you might write:”When my partner stops showing me affection, it frustrates me.”
“I get triggered when my partner gets clingy.”
“I get angry when my partner and I are emotionally distant, and I don’t feel connected, but they want sex.”
“Sometimes I get lonely and need my partner to pay more attention to me.”
The more you notice triggers and work through them, the more healed your sensitive inner wounds will be.
- Identify your wounds.Reflect on the triggers you’re working with when investigating the different themes; you may start to notice certain patterns emerge.These patterns will help you figure out your core attachment wounds. For example, you may have a fear of intimacy — a fear of losing someone’s love. You may have an underlying worry about rejection.Let’s say you notice a theme of feeling triggered when your partner doesn’t show enough love. This would help you understand what one of your oldest core wounds is- not getting enough attention and connection.
Another example of how you might use the journal to see patterns is to realize when you criticize your partner and a fight starts. You might see that one of your core wounds is not knowing how to connect in loving, intimate ways.
The goal is to be compassionate and identify where you’re making mistakes with your partner so that things can change for the better.
- Know what your needs are.As you identify your wounds, you’ll learn that you can become more empowered by being honest with yourself and expressing your needs.If you want to save your relationship, you must be proactive when something starts to worry you by using ‘I’ messages and being transparent about what is bothering you. It should help your partner understand precisely how they’re making you feel.For example, you might say to a partner, “It makes me feel hurt that you multitask while I’m talking to you. It makes me feel loved and connected when you are focused on me during conversations.” This clear & mindful “I-feel-I-need” template allows your partner to care about your attachment wounds.
- Set and hold your boundaries.Ideally, your partner responds empathically when you ask for help and does what they can to meet your needs. The more they do this in a thoughtful way that’s reflective of their caring, the closer you’ll both become. The most loving thing you can do for your partner is to treat them as they deserve to be treated. Your partner’s wounds will heal when they know that they are loved and cared for by you in a non-judgemental and compassionate way.Sometimes people don’t respond well to changes in a relationship or even manipulate their partner by hurting them. In some cases, a person may not even know they are doing it. Relationships can also hurt you even if two people have your best interests at heart.If your partner re-activates old wounds even after you’ve told them about it, make sure to reiterate your position and be clear on what you need from them. Sadly, sometimes a partner doesn’t want to move forward at all; in those cases, it’s often wise to seek professional assistance.
- Openly Discuss Overcoming Your WoundsIt’s crucial to continue discussing deeper issues behind your relationships as you move forward. This includes discussing childhood patterns and family issues so that you and your partner can understand each other better. Being reactive, placing blame, and being defensive will naturally decrease when both partners start to take responsibility for their own needs.Conscious, loving forms of attunement can be constructive in repairing past wounds and strengthen relationships. It’s important to note that both partners are compassionate when supporting each other to heal their pain and suffering.
A few takeaways
You may have an attachment style that you don’t like, but fortunately, it can change. You just need to work on your self-development to get there! Your attachment style is, after all, the major influence on your feelings and behavior in personal relationships.
If you have attachment issues that run very deep, consider making an appointment with a trained psychotherapist for more help and support.
You need to feel safe, secure, and loved. We want you to know that this is your space, and you are always welcome here.