Understanding You and Your Partner’s Attachment

Posted by: Center for Growth Therapists

Have you ever become so frustrated with you partner that you say to yourself, “I just don’t understand him/her”, “What were they thinking”, and “What could possibly be their motivation to do…”.  You become baffled trying to weave the strands of possibilities in to a neat ball as you are unraveling inside.  To understand you and your partner’s attachment you must first understand you and your partner’s limitations to attachment. 

You may have heard of the proverbial attachment theory.  Well if not, in short it is the attachment/bond a parent develops with their child in the younger years that will in turn determine the healthiness of their relationship in later years.  For example, a parent that protects, listens to, spends quality time with and facilitates a positive relationship with their child will most likely develop a secure attachment.  You may see the benefits of this attachment during a child’s teen years when the child appears to be confident, emotionally secure, have the ability to engage and make friends and has a sense of a secure family attachment.  This does not account for the social changes a typical teen may experience such as body changes, redefined independence, bullying, etc.  However, the overall sense of the child appears well adjusted which plays an intricate role in their connections later in life.

On the other hand if a parent facilitates an insecure attachment with their child, you can imagine the detrimental effects.  Just in case you need a window into this world, imagine a child that was made to feel less their worth, yelled at, chastised, neglected physically and/or emotionally.  You can probably assume that this child may grow up with emotional bruises and the lack of knowledge to heal them.  In turn they find ways to adjust and navigate through their lives to survive.  This navigation can impact this child’s interpersonal relationships in the future…in order to protect them from further emotional damage.

As you read the above attachment styles, which attachment style speaks more to your relationship?  Of course we would all like to believe that we are in a secure attachment relationship style but if you are not sure we can help you figure it out.  Below is a check list for you to discover how you and your partner relate to each other from the attachment style you both operate from.   Now let’s put this concept into action.  Get a piece a paper and pen/pencil and jot down the numbers that correspond to the attributes of your relationship:

1. Affectionate (gives and receives)
2. Clingy
3. Thanks you for acts of kindness
4. Gets frustrated easily
5. Appreciates your relationship
6. Gives affection when in good spirits but fears something bad will happen
7. Includes you in their plans
8. Gives affection then shy away
9. Enjoys hanging out with you
10. Becomes annoyed when you are having fun without them
11. Appreciates and supports your plans and hobbies
12. Believes that their partner is cheating without sufficient evidence
13. Does not get jealous when you are apart
14. Gets jealous of your friends/family
15. Acknowledges your wrong doings in a respectful manner
16. Becomes passive aggressive when you get in arguments
17. Allows you to disagree with them and not become passive aggressive or lash out at you
18. Displays anger with unregulated expressions (yelling, hitting, emotional abuse)
19. Plans for the future with you
20. Struggles to find the words to identify their emotional experiences and express themselves

While reading these behaviors you may have been able to relate to one, some or all of them.  Look over your list and note how many odd numbers you have.  If your odd numbers outweigh your even numbers (only having approximately 1-2 even numbers) this means your relationship has the foundation of a secure attachment style. 

People who possess a secure attachment style in their relationship have a higher rate of having a more successful relationship.  Although not perfect, individuals who possess secure attachment attributes have learned ways to navigate interpersonal relationships to the point of getting and receiving what they need in an effective positive manner.  These individuals may have the ability to model positive interactions to their partner and in turn can create a secure attachment style relationship.  For the couples that possess the secure attachment attributes, they are more likely to give and get respect from their partners and have the sense of trust and security.  Another thing to consider about this attachment style is that when things are on the fritz, these couples are able to disagree without being disagreeable, acknowledge when they are wrong and become vulnerable without feeling judged and abandoned by their partner.

While looking at your check list, if you have more odd numbers than even numbers, your relationship type would be considered an insecure attachment style.  The individuals who possess the attributes of an insecure attachment style may have found it arduous to navigate interpersonal positive interaction with their partner.  Some of these individuals shy away from becoming intimate with others in fear of being hurt or exposed.  Some underlying emotions at play may be fears of inadequacy, shame, vulnerability and low self-esteem.  This is not to say that this type of person is unable to learn how to develop more effective ways to relate to their partners only that it does not come natural to them. 

You may have been able to mix and match from each attachment style category to fit yourself or at least one relationship you encountered.  Depending on the circumstance, a relationship can cycle through secure and insecure attachment styles.  For instance, a couple having their first child may experience moments of joy, excitement and pure euphoria; they can also experience anxiety, fear and uncertainty.  The later feelings can underlie a partner’s drive to act out in order to rectify their internal feelings.  This may be temporary due to the circumstance. 

To sum it up, the attachment style you have with your partner can be residual learning from how they were reared by their caregivers.  One who received support and acceptance will have the ability to develop skills necessary to navigate their adult relationships.  Other individuals that receive negative interactions with their caregivers while growing up will have a tougher time facilitating healthy relationships in their future; although not a loss cause.  You can use this check list as an intimacy activity for you and your partner to engage in.  After answering, you and your partner can swap check lists and talk about your answers.  If you find that you and your partner experience an insecure attachment, therapy in Philadelphia at the Center for Growth can help.  Call us today, so that you can grow tomorrow.