Adult Attachment

Our adult attachment styles influence our intimate relationships. Adults are either secure or insecure in their attachment. We don’t choose our attachment styles, they are a product of biology and the environment. However, we can learn to manage our attachment behaviors so that we have healthier relationships.

Insecure Attachment

Adults who have insecure attachments may be anxious or avoidant.

An anxiously attached adult desires closeness, intimacy and a clearly defined relationship.  They are very sensitive to any sign of rejection. Anxiously attached adults have difficulty expressing their needs or talking about what is bothering them. Instead, they might use “protest behaviors” such as: seeking contact excessively, withdrawing as punishment, acting hostile, threatening to leave, manipulating, or trying to make their partner jealous.

Adults with avoidant-attachment have opposite needs and desires to those with anxious attachment. They want to maintain emotional and/or physical distances. They send mixed signals that can be interpreted as rejection. They are unable to read verbal and nonverbal cues and feel it is not their responsibility to do so.  They might put down their partner to gain distance. An adult who is avoidant may prefer to keep their partner guessing about the status of the relationship.

In relationships, each partner seeks to meet their attachment needs. It is helpful to understand what drives each partner’s anxiety in the relationship so that they can adapt their behaviors and become more securely attached. In couples therapy, each partner takes an honest assessment of the intimate relationship and their own attachment styles. The focus of therapy is on identifying feelings and needs and learning how to effectively communicate them.

Anxiously attached adults and avoidant adults tend to have very troubled relationships. This makes sense since each partner has opposing needs and goals for the relationship. Some signs that you might be in an Anxious-Avoidant relationship are:

1 Being on an emotional roller-coaster throughout the relationship,

2. The more needy and incapable the anxious partner feels the more independent and powerful the avoidant partner feels,

3. Stay together for a long time but without ever feeling truly satisfied with the relationship,

4. Fighting about minor issues all the time, and

5. Knowing that the relationship is not right for you but feeling too connected to your partner to leave.

In couples therapy, the first step in this situation is to help each partner define what they want and need from the relationship. If those wants and needs are compatible, at least to a reasonable extent, the focus will be on creating enough intimacy between the partners to keep each of them satisfied. Again, the best way to achieve this is by learning how to communicate honestly and effectively.

Secure Attachment

Adults with secure attachment styles naturally expect their partners to be loving and responsive. They rarely worry about losing their partner’s love.  They are very comfortable with intimacy and closeness. Securely attached adults can communicate their needs and respond to the needs of their partners. What’s more, they can balance their emotions and they are less sensitive to negative cues.

However, anyone can create a secure base for their partner with some work. Some steps to take are: be emotionally available, refrain from interfering in their partner’s endeavors while providing support, and encourage and accept their partner’s personal growth.

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