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What is Attachment and How does it affect Our Relationships


ou may have heard of the theory of Attachment, but not really understand it.

Attachment Styles and How They Impact Relationships

You may or may not have heard of the Attachment Theory, and you may be wondering what that has to do with your relationship.


I’m starting by saying our parents or caregivers did the best they could with the tools they had.

*When a child has all of their physical and emotional needs met promptly, thoroughly, and reliably, they are able to form a secure attachment with their caregiver*.

I would ask you to read that again and ask yourself whether that was true for you. I’m not suggesting that your caregiver was bad if this wasn’t your experience. Life can be hard, and providing the basics for the family, - the physical needs - such as a roof over their head, that is warm and comfortable, as well as sufficient food is essential and foremost in their list of priorities. It may have meant that or other caregivers, may have not been around much, because of their job, or perhaps you only had one caregiver, which would have been even tougher.

At the same time, parents don’t get a handbook on how to parent and they would have mainly learned as a result of the parenting they received, and it doesn’t stop there as it often goes back generations.

So, there may have been times, when emotional needs weren’t met, either they were lacking or in some cases, or they were completely missing.

The ideal is a Secure Attachment, where the parent/ caregiver is emotionally and physically available, trust is built, the child feels loved and supported, even when things go wrong. This provides a strong foundation from which the child can explore the world, knowing their caregiver will be there – whatever.

However, with the best will in the world, parents don’t always get it right. For example, a parent may dismiss a toddler’s need for comfort, believing that doing so will make the child more independant. But decades of research show that children need to feel secure in their relationships before they can develop authentic autonomy.

Another parent may have difficulty with the exploration phase, fearing for their child’s safety. If they convey this anxiety to the child, they can send the message that the world is not safe or, worse, that the child isn’t competent. These children can become overly dependant on their parents. As a result, the child doesn’t feel safe.

So, what does this have to do with adult relationships?

Quite a lot as it happens, and I’m going to explain the different attachment styles and how they affect adult relationships

Secure Attachment

If you felt secure as a child you are more likely to feel confident, and able to interact with others, getting your own needs met and meet the needs of others. So when are in a relationship with a partner who also has a secure attachment style, you are -

· Able to offer support when your partner feels distressed

· Comfortable going to your partner for support when you need it

· In a relationship that is likely to be honest, open, and equal. Each feeling independant, and at the same time loving and respectful towards each other.

However, there are those whose attachment style wasn’t secure as a child, and as a result, their way of relating in an adult relationship is likely to experience some problems.

Anxious Attachment

If you developed this style of attachment you were probably fearful of being abandoned as a child or were, either because one of your caregivers left, due to parents splitting up, or if sadly one of them died. Leaving you fearful of being abandoned in adulthood, especially in a relationship.

  • · You often worry your partner will leave you

  • · You constantly seek reassurance, and validation

  • · you can be needy or clingy, feeling anxious when your partner is late home, doesn’t reply to your call or text back quickly

  • · You can become possessive, not wanting your partner to spend time with their friends

  • · You constantly worry that your partner doesn’t care about you

The irony is, that despite worrying you will be abandoned, you can unconsciously push your partner away, as though testing them, and then when it happens, it reinforces your belief that you were right.

Avoidant Attachment

If you developed this attachment style. you probably felt your caregiver wasn’t reliable. So, you learned to be independant. As a result in adulthood -

  • · You have a fear of intimacy.

  • · You have trouble getting close to others, or trusting others in a relationship,

  • · sometimes feeling suffocated in relationships.

  • · You tend to maintain distance from your partner, being emotionally unavailable.

  • · You tend to be independant and rely on yourself, as you learned to do in childhood.

You can often come across as focussing on your needs and comforts, and in heated arguments, can appear detached, able to turn off your emotions and feelings, and not react.

Disorganised Attachment

Disorganized attachment is a form of insecure attachment. The child doesn’t view the parent as a secure base because they cannot get their emotional or physical needs met.This is considered an extreme form of Insecure Attachment. Often as a result of abuse or trauma in childhood.

  • · You have an extreme fear of Rejection

  • · You struggle to cope with any kind of negative feeling, as a result of not being taught how to self-soothe as a child.

  • · You may have negative self image and low self esteem

  • · You struggle to regulate their emotions

  • · You may suffer from chronic depression or anxiety

The good news is that Sixty percent of adults are securely attached while 20% are avoidant and 20% are anxious. The other good news is your reactions are greatly influenced by the relationship you are in, the style of attachment your partner has, and the degree to which your attachment styles affect you.

You may have a combination of attachment styles, and you can work on them, as well as supporting and being supportive of your partner.

Understanding Your Attachment Style and that of Your Partner

Without awareness, we don’t have choices. It can often be like being your own detective, looking for clues and then putting together evidence to support it. Then think about your childhood, and what kind of experiences you had.

We each find coping mechanisms as children to survive the best way we could. Because as a child we can't survive on our own.

Whilst those coping strategies may have worked really well given the circumstances at the time, they don’t always translate well into adulthood. Especially in relationships. Whilst you can't expect your partner to heal you, they can support you, as you can them.


The Love~Listen~Talk~Repeat podcast with Wendy Capewell

#143 - From a dark place in childhood to helping and supporting others through Counselling - with Adrian Huxley

Adrian Huxley is a counsellor and psychotherapist living in beautiful West Somerset. He is also the owner of West Somerset Counselling which he formed some eight years ago


In this episode Adrian shares his story, and how his life changed at the age of 15 when his mother took her own life. As a result he blamed himself.

He married at 18, but when their children left home his wife became aggressive towards him.

He finally left, and moved to West Somerset, where he met his second wife, who sadly died in 2020.

He goes on to tell how he trained as a Counsellor and Psychotherapist.

This is a story that many will identify with.

Inside Relationships with Mel & Wendy

Hello. We are Mel and Wendy, Welcome, and thanks for dropping by.

In this episode, we explore how we communicate with each other in relationships.

Effective communication is key in any relationship, but we don’t always get it right, especially when our emotions are highly charged, during conflict.

Too often we come from a place of anger, jump to conclusions and predict the outcome. Part of our history may be that we don’t feel heard.

This is where curiosity can be invaluable. Curiosity can help us make new meanings of what’s going on, what emotions are driving the communication. It can help us make more sense and help couples reduce conflict, and allow them to feel more connected.

Making changes can feel scary, as can asking for what we need. It takes a level of vulnerability, especially if we don’t trust our partner will meet our needs. We suggest we have compassion for our younger self, accept that we are likely to make mistakes. Rather than judging ourselves, acknowledge we are doing our best.

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