Stu’s Clues # 2 Learning how Attachment Styles Affect your Relationships

Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2018 and the first (well, second) official Stu’s Clues. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to turn the page from 2017. One thing that tends to come up around this time of year is New Years Resolutions. We know the typical resolutions; eat better, exercise 3 times a week, read more, etc. Well I have another resolution for you, improve the quality of your relationships. I know it sounds like a tough one, but let’s face it, you’re not making it to the gym anyway. It’s way too cold out there!

So I’ve given you the resolution, now the real question is will I give you some tips to help make it happen? Yea duh, the blog is called Stu’s Clues people, get with it. So the first task I have for you is to do a little introspection. I know that sounds boring, so how about an online quiz instead? That sounds more fun. Without online quizzes, how would I know I’m a Hufflepuff?

There are several attachment style quizzes available online. I recommend this one that was developed by Chris Fraley from the University of Illinois


So whats an attachment style? Well if you want a comprehensive look I recommend reading Attached by Amir Levine M.D. and Rachel S. F. Heller M.A. It’s a wonderful book that explains in detail A) What an attachment style is and B) how to function best with your particular attachment style.

For those of you that don’t have the time to read Attached I will give you a quick overview of the four attachment styles, along with some tips for each style.

Attachment Styles

The four styles are Secure, Anxious, Avoidant, and Anxious Avoidant.

Secure people excel at intimacy and tend to be caring partners.

Anxious people worry about the state of their relationship constantly and often times doubt the sincerity of their partners commitment.

Avoidant people feel that becoming intimate with another person robs them of their independence they are constantly trying to keep space between themselves and their partner.

Anxious Avoidant people encompass aspects of both the anxious and avoidant attachment style. This style only accounts for roughly 2 percent of the population.

How do People Develop an Attachment Style?

The origin of attachment styles is hard to pin down. Some studies contend that the attachment styles forms while we’re infants and that the nature of the attachment between the infant and parent creates a pattern that will recur throughout the lifetime. Other studies suggest that genetics play a large part in determining one’s attachment style. I’d contend that both factors play a role.

The Secure Attachment Style

The majority of people have a secure attachment style. Secure people are rarely portrayed in a romantic comedy because their relationships are fairly straightforward. They feel comfortable with intimacy and our good at calming down their partner when issues arise. Secure people don’t suffer from the same jealous tendencies as say an anxious style because they expect their partners to be loving and committed. Secure people are good matches for those with anxious styles because they are good at diffusing their partner before their attachment system gets over activated.

The Anxious Attachment Style

The Anxious attachment style is a very sensitive attachment system. A slight hint of an issue will activate your attachment system and you will continue to have an elevated attachment system until your partner lets you know that everything is alright. For example, if your partner doesn’t respond to a text after a reasonable amount of time, you start to worry and create negative scenarios in your head as to the reasons they’re not responding. Often time you start to wonder if you’ve done something wrong that might have pushed your partner away. Anxious attachment styles are actually more perceptive of changes in their partner’s emotions, but they often time misinterpret the change. Anxious people also have a hard time leaving dysfunctional relationships and tend to overestimate their partner’s talents and underestimate their own. Anxious attachment styles are often times attracted to avoidant attachment styles.

The Avoidant Attachment Style

As an avoidant you are constantly trying to manage the relationships in your life so that everyone stays at a safe distance. Complete intimacy equates to a lack of independence for you. Common ways of keeping relationships at a distance include: feeling your current partner is a good match, but that there could be someone better, recalling past single times as better than they actually were, and being overly picky with what you want in a partner. Another telltale sign of an avoidant is someone who constantly longs for their ex. They often build the memories of  a past relationship to be better than it was in reality making it impossible for any new relationship to live up to it.

The Attraction between Anxious and Avoidant Styles

Avoidant and Anxious people are often times attracted to one another, but why is this? It could be because the attachment styles reaffirm the others beliefs about relationships. Avoidants reaffirm that they are strong and independent, while anxious types confirm their belief that they want more intimacy than their partner can provide. Issues arise when anxious people date avoidants because they are looking for different things in the relationship. Anxious types want intimacy; avoidant types want independence. Anxious types often times have trouble expressing what’s really bothering them; avoidants are poor at interpreting clues in their partner’s behavior. Anxious types need to be reassured and feel love whereas avoidant types tend to put their partner down as a means to create distance.

Stu’s Clues:

  • Often times the best thing to do if you’re an anxious or avoidant attachment style is to find yourself a secure partner. The stress is considerably less and the secure partner can help to slowly turn you into a more secure attachment style over time.
  • Effectively communicate with your partner. Don’t keep things to yourself out of fear of what your partner will think or do. It’s best to be yourself and put your fears on the table so that your partner has an opportunity to address them. If they’re not comfortable with how you feel they may not be the best fit for you.
  • Effectively address conflicts when they arise. When addressing conflicts be sure to show concern for the other party and also try to keep the conflict to the subject at hand don’t generalize to broader topics in an attempt to hurt your partner or cut down their credibility. At the end of the day you’re on the same team and conflicts should be seen as an opportunity to learn more about your partner.

Wrap Up:

Relationships are hard. Human beings are complex creatures that have truly distinct personalities and backgrounds, so the idea of someone being the perfect complement seems farfetched. Truth be told it is a bit far fetched. We as people are imperfect, so our relationships will be imperfect. At the end of the day, even the most independent of people yearns to have a committed partner to support them and provide quality company.

I hope that by taking some time to look inward and become aware of some of the obstacles that lie in your way, you can work through some of the snags that may have been holding you back from finding that quality partner or truly connecting with the partner you already have. For me personally, discovering that I have an anxious attachment style was like a weight lifted because it let me know that A) I’m not alone with some of my flaws and B) that there’s concrete measures I can take to try to improve myself and my relationships. For instance my anxiety over the gap between sent and returned texts has gone down considerably. I now also realize that chemistry does not always equate to a happy relationship. I try to challenge myself to learn about the other person on a date and focus on how we might fit together as opposed to just solely whether attraction exists.

Lastly I want to reiterate that if you are interested in Attachment styles take a few days and read Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel S.F. Heller. Several of the summaries above come from the book, and it also has a number of case study examples, which clearly show how these principles play out in real life.

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