Two to “tangle”: What your attachment style says about you

My attachment styles have always ever been a reflection of where I was in my life. When I was young and naive, I would get attached rather quickly, fall much harder, and change who I was to make my partner’s happy. When I got a little older, I put up emotional walls, never letting my partners know how I really felt, trying desperately to create a distance in order to protect myself. Today, I border between secure and dismissive: I thrive on my independence, and don’t really care whether I am in a relationship or not. When someone new comes into my life, I adopt a “take-it-or-leave-it” attitude: They can take me as I am, or not at all.

So what does this say about me? That I’m annoyingly complex and goddamn stubborn and cynical, at least on the surface. But that’s just scratching the surface. Years of studying human behavior has taught me to dig deep to uncover the motivations behind people’s actions. At the core of it, my attitude and actions are a reflection of a number of issues, like the fear of rejection or of not being good enough. Here is what else our research on attachment styles has revealed:

(Note: Attachment styles defined by insecurity tend to share characteristics, so some traits described below may be repetitive. In cases where a characteristic is exclusive to the type, I’ve identified it with a *.).

You’re Anxious-Ambivalent if:

  • You easily develop emotional ties to others.
  • You worry that your partner care less about you than you care about him or her.
  • You disregard your own needs and preferences in order to please others.
  • You cling to your relationships as though your very life depended on them.
  • When you’re in a relationship, you constantly worry about breaking up.
  • You want your partner to need you as much as you need him or her.
  • Your sense of self-worth depends entirely on your partner’s satisfaction with you.
  • You would be devastated if your partner left you. (Upon reading this one, some might be thinking, “Well, wouldn’t everyone be devastated?” Not so according to our study. Only 30% of people who have a secure attachment style agree with this statement.).

“You can only lose what you cling to.”

Buddha

 

Having been in this position before, here’s my best advice:

Boost your self-confidence. There is little a partner can do to make you feel better about yourself. It really needs to start with you. Remind yourself of how special you are and how lucky someone would be to have you. Better yet, write down all your good traits and use them as a reference when you’re feeling down or insecure.

Don’t generalize. It can be difficult not to get anxious when past relationships have ended in abandonment. Maybe your parents divorced when you were a child or a partner left you just when you thought the relationship was going well. Whatever the reason, it’s understandable to be nervous when you find yourself getting close to another person. Realize, however, that not all relationships are the same. Generalizing the potential for abandonment to all relationships can result in anxiety even when things are going fine. Learn to read the cues; if the relationship is progressing well, don’t look for things to worry about. Enjoy it and don’t be afraid to let your guard down.

You’re Dismissive-Avoidant if:

  • You don’t like the idea of depending on others. *
  • You find it hard to let your walls down.
  • You prefer not to get close to others because you don’t want to get hurt.
  • You have a hard time trusting romantic partners.

On a positive note, Dismissive-Avoidant people tend to be rather self-confident and independent, and value their own opinion just as much as (if not more) than their partner’s opinion.

Again, having been in this position before, here’s my best advice:

Beware of creating insurmountable distances. Realize that getting close to someone doesn’t necessarily mean that they will cling to you. A lot of people will distance themselves from a partner when the relationship gets intense because they don’t want them to get too close, too fast. However, you need to give your partner some credit. Those who have good self-esteem and self-confidence are able to get close to others without becoming dependent. In addition, even if your partner is the “clingy” type, understand that the more you pull away, the stronger they’ll hold on to you. Under such circumstances, it may be necessary to be a little selective when choosing a partner: Someone who allows you to maintain your autonomy and lets the relationship move at a pace you are both comfortable with.

Don’t be afraid to lean on others occasionally. Many parents strongly encourage independence in their children – some more than others. Perhaps you were raised with the notion that you should depend on no one but yourself. There’s nothing wrong with being self-sufficient. However, leaning on others or depending on them doesn’t make you weak…it makes you human. Even if you’re used to doing things on your own, include your partner in certain aspects of your life; ask for his/her input or opinion. You can still solve your own problems and fight your own battles, but letting your partner participate in at least some of what’s going on in your life can really strengthen your bond.

You’re Fearful-Avoidant if:

  • You worry that your partner care less about you than you care about him or her.
  • You want your partner to need you as much as you need him or her.
  • You would be devastated if your partner left you.
  • You have a hard time trusting people.

Here are some relationship tips:

Don’t be afraid to take the occasional leap of faith. There’s no doubt that trust is something people should earn – something that should develop gradually. However, you have to be willing to give others the benefit of the doubt. Granted, there are some people who will let you down or who won’t have your best interests in mind. However, don’t cut everyone down in one cleave. If you don’t give others the chance to prove themselves worthy, then your perceptions of human nature will never change.

Seek help if needed. If you find yourself terrified at the thought of getting close to others and have a tendency of going to extreme measures to distance yourself, it may be time to seek professional help. If you feel as though your anxiety is more than you can handle and it’s significantly affecting your peace of mind or relationship, consider counseling. A counselor may help you get to the root of your insecurities and deal with them more effectively.

You’re Co-Dependent if:

  • You easily develop emotional ties to others.
  • You worry that your partner care less about you than you care about him or her.
  • You are constantly trying to fix your partner. *
  • You find it hard to let your walls down.
  • You want your partner to rely exclusively on you. *
  • You’re happier when your partner is dependent on you. *
  • You disregard your own needs and preferences in order to please others.
  • You cling to your relationships as though your very life depended on them.
  • When you’re in a relationship, you constantly worry about breaking up.
  • You want your partner to need you as much as you need him or her.
  • Your sense of self-worth depends entirely on your partner’s satisfaction with you.
  • You would do anything to keep your partner because you’re afraid you won’t be able to find another. *
  • At the same time, you’re worried about getting too close and being hurt in the process.
  • You would be devastated if your partner left you.
  • You avoid standing up for yourself for fear of rejection. *
  • You’re drawn to partners who have financial, emotional or psychological problems. *
  • You have a hard time trusting people.
  • You assume total responsibility for your partner’s happiness. *

While I can offer some insights on how to recognize a co-dependent relationship, this is one case where I highly recommend counseling. Co-dependent behavior is often found in  significantly tumultuous relationships (i.e. those characterized by drug abuse, alcohol, physical or emotional abuse, etc.).

Recognize the need for control. Codependency has often been defined as “the need to be needed.” In many cases, this may translate to taking on someone else’s problems and responsibilities. Although you may think you’re helping, realize that your desire to control someone else’s life in order to help them may actually exacerbate the problem, particularly in the case of addictions.

Realize what kindness isn’t. If you are acting out of kindness, you don’t give more than you want to. You don’t sacrifice yourself completely and you don’t surrender your identity. With kindness, there are no feelings of resentment and frustration towards your partner after doing something selfless. You share responsibilities in your relationship – the giving and the taking are balanced. In a co-dependent relationship, the pleasure of giving is sapped, leaving both partners unhappy, frustrated, and distressed. If you’re left feeling resentful and unappreciated, you’re giving more than is healthy.

Remember: You are NOT responsible for someone else’s behavior or mistakes. If someone is unwilling to take care of themselves or solve their own problems you are not required to shoulder that responsibility. The only person you should be completely responsible for is yourself, as the only behavior you truly control is your own.

“How do you let go of attachment to things? Don’t even try. It’s impossible. Attachment to things drops away by itself when you no longer seek to find yourself in them.”

Eckhart Tolle

 

Insightfully yours,

Queen D

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