Do you remember where you first learned what relationships should look like? What influenced your ideas on how you should communicate with your partner or the expectations you should hold for them? If yes, you have an amazing memory and I’m jealous. But if not, it’s fair to say you most likely learned about relationships through things such as movies, music, social media, and the family that raised you. The lessons you learned may be serving you well, but for those who just entered into a new relationship to those who have been in a relationship for years, navigating a relationship can feel tricky at times. We are relational beings, engaging in constant communication (verbal and non-verbal) with our loved ones.
The dance of how to do this well may come naturally, but for others, it may take some practice to learn how to communicate our thoughts and feelings, hear our partners’ thoughts and feelings, and navigate compromise when those desires don’t align.
For example, have you ever felt that the more you seek an answer from your partner, the more they pull away? Or, the more independence you seek in the relationship, the more your partner wants your attention? This may be due to a pattern occurring from differing attachment styles. As described by The Attachment Project, all of us have a certain attachment style and they fall into one of four categories: Anxious, Avoidant, Disorganized Avoidant, or Secure.
Anxious attachment is when a person has high levels of anxiety, and the person may often seek approval or responsiveness from a partner, with a strong fear of abandonment, and safety is the priority. Avoidant attachment is when a person is usually seen as highly independent and feels they don’t need to rely on others – leading to avoidance in emotional closeness. Disorganized Avoidant is when a person seeks intimacy but is fearful of intimacy at the same time. It may show up as an inability to regulate emotions and can avoid strong emotional attachment. Lastly, Secure attachment is when an individual can express emotions comfortably and can rely on their partners as well as be relied on. While we all might exhibit these traits in one way or another, our attachments may look different depending on the person or situation – these attachments are not necessarily static.
These types were developed out of attachment theory, developed by J. Bowlby and M.S. Ainsworth in the mid-1900s. The Attachment Project further states the theory that the relationships you have with your early caregivers will set up how you will engage in relationships throughout your life. Figuring out your attachment style, as well as your significant other’s, can lead to a better understanding of how you both communicate and relate to one another. If you’d like to learn more, I recommend reading Wired for Dating or Wired for Love by Stan Tatkin. He dives into each attachment style and how to utilize that understanding to build a more loving, trusting relationship with your partner or yourself.
In my blog series of Relationship Refreshers, I will dive into more topics that affect most, if not all, couples and some tips on how to improve your skills and have a more fulfilling relationship.
“I’m not telling you it will be easy – I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it” – Art Williams.
Tatkin, S. (2016). Wired for dating: How understanding neurobiology and attachment style can help you find your ideal mate. New Harbinger Publications, Inc.
Tatkin, S. (2012). Wired for love: How understanding your partner’s brain can help you defuse conflicts and Spark Intimacy. New Harbinger Publications.
The Attachment Project. (2022, September 12). Attachment styles and their role in adult relationships. Retrieved December 9, 2022, from https://www.attachmentproject.com/blog/four-attachment-
About the Author: Tristan (TJ) Dubovich is a marriage and family therapy intern at People House. TJ works with individuals, couples, and families in a solution-focused and collaborative approach. He enjoys working with folks from a variety of backgrounds – especially those in the LGBTQIA community, those in life transitions, and couples looking to improve their relationships.