Attachment Styles: The Secret That Will Stop the Fight
How familiar does this sound? A couple has a fight and while one of them is insistent on solving the problem immediately, the other is insistent on leaving. …so you have one person exiting the room while the other relentlessly chases them down. Even if this has never happened to you, I’m sure it somehow sounds familiar…age-old even.
Let me tell you what’s going on once and for all. Essentially, the way these two people are behaving is a by-product of their own personal and respective attachment styles.
Put simply, your attachment style is the manner in which you relate and interact with other people. Of course, if your attachment style is healthy, you react and interact with a secure sense of self and a rational understanding of your partner and your relationship. Not surprisingly, this is called a “secure attachment style.” When you feel insecure in your relationship or after a fight, you may have one of the following “insecure attachment styles.” Side bar: We usually have a special blend of different attachment styles but I’m keeping it simple to teach the subject.
If you have a tendency to avoid, run from, or escape conflict, you may have an “avoidant attachment style.” As part of their history, avoidants may have often received consistently neglectful or hurtful patenting/caregiving. On the other hand, if you have a tendency to get scared and desperate after a conflict leading you to yell and relentlessly pursue the other person, you might have an “anxious/ambivalent attachment style.” Anxious-ambivalents likely received inconsistent parenting/caregiving in which the communication from caregivers did not send a clear message of support, nurturing, and love.
Starting to get the picture? After understanding attachment styles, a lot of light is shed on that couples scenario I started with. Basically, the partner leaving the room is the avoidant and the partner endlessly pursuing is the anxious-ambivalent. Both want to save the relationship in their own way and are both distraught by the fight. It’s clear that the anxious-ambivalent is upset but so is the avoidant! The avoidant sometimes gets a bad reputation and is accused of not caring however, this is not true. The avoidant is actually doing what he/she believes will actually save the relationship. To them, leaving or escaping is the best course of action after a fight. How interesting is this?!!!
Now, if all of this stuff resonates with you and explains your romantic or interpersonal history, what do you do? First, I need to emphasize that couples therapy would be necessary for you and your partner in order to mutually discuss the origins of your respective attachment styles. An abundance of compassion and understanding comes out of a conversation about your past wounds. I can’t stress enough how life-changing this can be for the individual and the couple.
NOW here’s what you can do immediately! Once you have identified your attachment styles, what you must start practicing is not rocket science. If you are the avoidant, you are still allowed to leave. HOWEVER, you must commit to leaving for a short period of time and to place that is not too far away. If you are the anxious-ambivalent, you are still allowed to desire a solution, HOWEVER, you must commit to backing off for an agreed upon length of time. You will not be allowed to immediately demand a solution.
Attachment styles are so important to identify, especially for the health and benefit of your relationships. The beauty here is that this theory will not only help your romantic relationships, bit it will help every relationship you currently have in your life. It might even explain relational misfortunes from the past you remain confused about. So cool.