Safe Haven Counselling
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Becoming Securely Attached: Navigating Attachment Styles In Love

H.E.L.P! I keep picking the wrong partner! This is the issue many folks come to me with when they are in the throes of trying to find love. They feel they are always attracting partners with similar behavioural patterns and winding up with the same unhappy ending.

This isn’t in their heads; human beings are drawn to the familiar, and we will continue to unconsciously pick what feels comfortable until we have enough awareness and insight to know that it isn’t what’s good for us.

Typically those who struggle with consistently choosing the wrong partner are people with an insecure attachment style.

An insecure attachment style evolves from unmet needs in childhood. Children whose caregivers were unpredictable or unresponsive might develop an anxious attachment style where they fear abandonment or rejection and crave closeness. Alterntively they might develop an avoidant attachment style which is characterized by a fear of closeness, commitment and vulnerability.

Some individuals with insecure attachment even develop a combination of both anxiety and avoidance in relationships where they crave closeness and connection but alos distance themselves from others because that closeness feels unfamiliar and uncomfortable. ,

Are Attachment Styles Fixed?

If you recognize yourself in one of the insecure attachment styles here’s the hopeful part: evidence shows these styles aren’t fixed. This evolving understanding comes from neuroscientific research that highlights our brain’s remarkable capacity for change throughout our lives—a concept known as neuroplasticity.

A person may, for example, develop an anxious attachment style in childhood but then through positive and secure relational experiences, their attachment style may shift over time and become more of a mix of secure with some anxious tendencies. The opposite may also occur where a predominantly secure attachment style shifts over time due to an abusive or challenging relationship.

Many clients come to me after the ending of a long-term relationship recognizing that they have insecure attachment style, as did their ex partner. Having gained more awareness around their behavioural patterns they commit to working on their attachment styles so that their next relationship feels more healthy and secure. They are done with the push pull dance and the pain of broken relationships.

“No matter what kind of insecure attachment you have, there is a path to secure attachment. It requires dedication to healing and understanding, but it is possible for anyone willing to embark on the journey.”

diane poole heller

Becoming Securely Attached: Tools for Change

The journey to modifying your attachment style starts with deep self-awareness. This means taking a hard look at how your style manifests in relationships. Do you find yourself in a constant state of anxiety about your partner’s commitment? Or do you push people away to safeguard your independence?

Addressing the root causes of your insecure attachment is also essential for meaningful change. With the support of a therapist you can begin to heal your relational wounds from childhood. An excellent way to do this is through a therapy called Internal Family Sytems. This approach involves building healing relationships with those parts of you that are still experiencing relational trauma.

Changing your attachment style also involves practicing new behaviours that align more closely with secure attachment. This could mean learning to communicate your needs more clearly, setting and respecting boundaries, or allowing yourself to be vulnerable in safe and healthy ways. It’s about building a new comfort zone in how you relate to others.

Recognizing Securely Attached Individuals

Ultimately the best partner for someone who has an insecure attachment style is an individual who is mostly securely attached. This also applies to friendships; the people we surround ourselves with can significantly influence our journey towards more secure attachment.

Key characteristics of securely attached people:

  • Consistency and Reliability: Look for individuals who are consistent in their actions and follow through on their promises. Reliability in small things can indicate a capacity for trustworthiness in more significant aspects of the relationship.
  • Emotional Availability: A securely attached person is comfortable expressing their emotions and are receptive to others’ emotions. They are not afraid to be vulnerable and are there for you emotionally when you need them.
  • Respect for Boundaries: A person who understands and respects boundaries demonstrates a healthy approach to independence and interdependence in relationships. They know how to give space when needed and come closer when appropriate.
  • Effective Communication: Being able to communicate openly, honestly, and respectfully is highly indicative of a securely attached individual. They listen well and express their thoughts and feelings in a constructive manner.
  • Empathy and Understanding: Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Securely attached people show genuine empathy towards others’ experiences and emotions, which fosters a deep sense of connection and support.
  • Balance of Independence and Connection: Healthy individuals strike a balance between valuing their independence and cherishing their connections with others. They don’t perceive intimacy as threatening to their autonomy.
  • Positive Outlook on Relationships: They generally view relationships as enriching aspects of life, not as sources of endless conflict. This positive outlook can encourage a more optimistic approach to your own relationships.
  • Seek Mutually Supportive Relationships: Aim for relationships where support, growth, and learning are mutual. Growth-oriented relationships are not one-sided; both parties benefit from the connection.

Choosing secure relationships involves a combination of self-awareness and observation. It also requires making a conscious decision to engage with people who exhibit secure attachment qualities. This commitment to change may also involve the pain of leaving more toxic relationships behind.

Patience & Persistence

It’s important to approach the process of healing your attachment style with patience and persistence. Changing deep-seated patterns doesn’t happen overnight. It involves trial and error, setbacks, and successes. Celebrate your progress, no matter how small, and view setbacks as opportunities to learn and grow. It’s not a linear process, and it’s certainly not a one-size-fits-all journey. What works for one person may not work for another, and that’s okay. The goal is not perfection but progress towards healthier, more fulfilling relationships.

With a dedicated approach, anyone can work towards a more secure attachment style. Whether you lean towards anxiety, avoidance, or find yourself caught in a push-pull dynamic, there’s a path through. With each small step, you can gradually shift the way you relate to others and how you view yourself within these relationships.