Romantic relationships are not always calm and steady but when you have a mismatched attachment style then it’s very likely that your relationship will be unstable and perpetually on the brink of catastrophe.

So what is Attachment Style?

As babies and children, our survival depends on a caregiver to provide safety, security and protection. Consequently our childhood attachment of being “secure” or “insecure” would impact our expectation of how love should be and how we would cope with stressful situations in relationships later on in life.

In adult relationships, your attachment system gets triggered easily by your romantic partners because you constantly wonder about their availability to meet your physical and emotional needs.    

  • Is my partner neglectful? always there for me? or inconsistent?
  • Can I go to or rely on him/her when I have a problem?
  • Can I be fully vulnerable without feeling judged or rejected by my partner?

Your internal attachment styles – “secure” or “insecure”, will influence how you behave toward real or imagined problems with your partners. Research showed that up to 70% of people seeking couples’ therapy will exhibit either the “anxious” or the “avoidant” style of behaviour. Very often, couples will contain one avoidant and an anxious one. Conflict arises, when couples are placed under stressful conditions, they trigger each other’s underlying feelings.

People perceive and respond differently to intimacy based on their attachment styles with issues such as:

  • Outlook on intimacy and togetherness
  • Ways of dealing with conflict
  • Attitude toward sex
  • Style of communication 
  • Expectations from their partner and the relationship.

Secure attachment (50%) 

Secure people feel comfortable with intimacy and are usually warm and loving. They are more resilient to the ups and downs of emotional stress and manage social situations well. They are mostly happy and can let go of bad feelings. They are adaptable, decisive and can accept the consequences of their actions.

Example – “It’s easy for me to become emotionally close to others. I’m comfortable depending on others and having others depend on me. I don’t worry about being alone or having others not accept me.”

Insecure attachment style (45%)

People get overwhelmed by fear and negative emotions and can’t manage their feelings and actions. There are two types of insecure attachment behaviours:

Anxious (20%) – these individuals crave intimacy, are often preoccupied with their relationships and tend to worry about their partner’s ability to love them back. They find it difficult to trust their partner and act needy at times, pursue, and behave aggressively to get a response from their partner.

Example – “He/she’ll let me down. They always do. Why can’t he/she just be more attentive – then I wouldn’t get so mad.”

The underlying feeling is that anxiously attached people want to feel emotionally close with others but they often find that others are reluctant to get as close as they would like. 

Avoidant (25%)these individuals equate intimacy with a loss of independence and constantly try to minimise closeness. They typically label themselves as very independent, they develop the belief that no one is there to meet their needs.

Example – “I’m a bit of an island; nothing touches me. I just shut down when things get too much.”

The underlying feeling is that “avoidant” attached people are not comfortable with close emotional relationships. It’s important for them to feel independent and self-sufficient and they prefer not to depend on others or have others depend on them.

Anxious & Ambivalent (5%) is less common and mostly applies to a very traumatic childhood where the child grew up in an inconsistent and chaotic environment.

What happens when attachment styles are mismatched?

Mismatched attachment styles can lead to a great deal of unhappiness in romantic relationships even if people are very much in love with each other because not everyone experiences the same level of intimacy. Therefore when people feel anxious and insecure about their relationship, they tend to react quickly and automatically to threats by attacking, avoiding or surrendering in order to survive.

For the anxious, conflict can trigger very basic concerns about their partner’s responsiveness to their needs and about rejection or “abandonment”.

  • They experience many negative thoughts and react almost aggressively in order to get their partner’s attention.
  • They make strong accusations, cry or give their partner the silent treatment.
  • They are fearful that their partner is not paying attention to their needs and their reaction is often dramatic but is usually ineffective.

People with avoidant attachment style are also threatened by the possibility that:

  • Their partner won’t really be there for them when needed.
  • They suppress their need for intimacy by shutting down emotionally and adopting a defensive air of independence.
  • The more personal the conflict becomes, the stronger their urge to distance themselves from the situation.
  • They find fault with their partner to feel less close to him/her.

Don't Confuse Your Attachment Triggers For "Chemistry" or Love!

Be careful, don’t get hooked on the highs and lows and don’t let emotional unavailability turn you on because you are reliving in similar relationship dynamics and environments that you experienced as a child.

In summary, don’t let the perfect partner pass you by because you misinterpret calmness  and steady with boredom and indifference, and conclude that this person can’t be “the one” because there are no fireworks going off .

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