Want To Know The Heartbreaking Theory About How Our Childhoods Can Ruin Our Adult Relationships?
Relationship Quizzes Are Always Popular
It’s 95% of Buzzfeed’s business model, and it makes sense because people always want to know more about how great they are or how to improve their love life. There are the wacky ones (which Harry Potter couple are you and your boo most like), the ones with absolutely no basis in science (like Meyers-Briggs compatible personality types) and then some that seem genuinely helpful, like the sort that tells you what your love language is.
Mine is physical touch, and my partner grinned when I told him and pointed out that I’d walked over, kissed his cheek, held his hand, and then started talking. Once I’d identified my love language, a lot of things started to make sense, and when I learned what my partner’s love language was, I was able to show affection in a way that he understood most clearly. Now, if I’m upset, he’ll give me a hug instead of making me a cup of tea, and I feel more loved and understood. The latest online buzz is about attachment theory and attachment types, and how this impacts relationships.
What is Attachment Theory?
Attachment theory was first developed in the 1960s by Mary Ainsworth, a Canadian developmental psychologist who suggested that the way a person is treated as a child informs their future relationships. Very simply: if you were often ignored or mistreated by your parents/primary carers, you start to expect this, and this will affect how you interact with friends and significant others as an adult. This makes sense. It also breaks my heart: does this mean that no matter what happens, we default back to our shitty parents?
What is ‘Secure Attachment’?
Let’s start by looking at the different attachment types. First up is ‘secure attachment’, which is very obviously the best one. Basically, you’re able to deal with rejection and hardship in a mature way, as your emotional needs were met when you were little.
If a relationship breaks down, you don’t blame anyone but think objectively about the differences in desires and opinions, and you can move on. You might be upset, but it won’t last forever. For something that seems rooted in complicated and primal psychology, having a cut-and-dried ‘winning’ result is a bit weird, really.
What is ‘Anxious Attachment’?
The second result is ‘anxious attachment’. This is likely to be your attachment type if you worry a lot about your relationship ending, struggle to be alone, and occasionally take things too far and look through your partner’s phone or make your friends feel bad about themselves. The latter two are problematic and controlling, so if you have an anxious attachment type, you should monitor your behaviour and possibly consider therapy to rectify this. Those with anxious attachments will often be extremely concerned with other people’s needs and ignore their own, so sometimes a little alone time and self-care can be helpful. You don’t need to define yourself by other people.
What is ‘Avoidant Attachment’?
Then there’s ‘avoidant attachment’. Sounds counterintuitive. It seems like this kind of person is littered throughout romance books and films. The man who’s closed himself off from love until he finds that one, magical girl who heals his heart, or the woman who’s an independent loner and, like, rides a motorbike or something.
If you have an avoidant attachment style, essentially, you avoid becoming attached to someone. You might be commitment phobic or not let anyone get too close, and if someone tries to open up to you, you might respond by stonewalling and refusing to engage. Here’s the thing, though: friendships and relationships are (mostly) lovely. Sitting with someone and sharing food, talking about your day, learning something new… it’s simple, but it makes you feel warm inside.
What is ‘Anxious-Avoidant Attachment’?
Finally, there’s ‘anxious-avoidant attachment’. This is a combination of the anxious and avoidant, and it seems like the most chaotic. You might avoid loving relationships because you’re afraid you will be hurt or rejected, rather than because you genuinely want to be alone. Any emotions are suppressed, not shared or dealt with, and this can lead to all sorts of anger and stress. As with the anxious attachment and avoidant attachment, those with an anxious-avoidant attachment style might need therapy or education to build a happy relationship.
To be honest, attachment theory and attachment styles are the most depressing thing I’ve read about for a long time. There’s nothing about genuine connection, love or attraction – it seems to suggest that all our relationships are based on unfinished and unresolved crap from our childhoods. I’d like to believe that I feel affection for my romantic partner, and not some toxic, anxious mess that means most of us are vulnerable and alone.
I’d also prefer it if my partner liked me, and didn’t just view me as a mummy stand-in to fight and fuck because his real mother didn’t cuddle him enough, or whatever. Whilst I completely appreciate that the emotions modelled by our parents and carers will impact how we process things, it’s heartbreaking to think that according to attachment theory, we’re doomed to repeat these mistakes unless we somehow unravel everything through therapy. If you’d like to see what your attachment style is, try this one: but I feel I should warn you that it’s pretty heartbreaking.