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In an ideal world, people should love without possessing, accompany without invading and live without depending. But we do not live in an ideal world and those by our side love us and relate to us in their own way, as they have been taught to love and to relate.
Breaking these patterns to get them to love us as we want is quite complicated, which is why in some relationships we reach a turning point in which we must consider whether we accept that type of relationship or keep our distance.
Attachment styles in the relationship are created in childhood
The attachment is a primary affective bond that we establish during our first years of life with the people who care for us. Those attachment figures, who are often the parents, greatly influence our emotional development.
From them we learn the language of intimacy that we will later use with our children or in our relationships. Therefore, the satisfaction or dissatisfaction of our need for security, affection, attention and care in childhood will largely determine how we will try to satisfy those needs in adulthood.
1. Secure attachment style
To develop a secure attachment style, parents need to show not only sincere concern for their baby’s care, but also be able to understand and meet his needs, without being overly invasive, but not carefree.
They are receptive and available people who respond in a warm and caring manner. They are aware that they must care for the child, but they also assume their alterity, so they do not treat him as if he were an appendix to themselves. They therefore assume the role of caregiver and facilitator, leaving the child the freedom he needs to develop and find his role in the world.
Those children will become adults:
– Autonomous and self-confident. They are people who consider themselves a “complete orange”, they do not look for the other to complete something they lack but to share their love.
– They know how to select the people who make up their circle of trust. These people know how to identify toxic people in interpersonal relationships to get away and those with whom they can build a developing relationship. They are selective in their relationships.
– They develop more satisfying relationships. These people are usually able to commit to the relationships they establish, showing more trust and support, which affects the satisfaction of both members with the relationship.
– They have a realistic idea about love. These people do not have a sweetened vision of love, they are aware that it implies commitment and hard work on both sides. They also consider that it is possible to live satisfactorily without a partner.
2. Avoidant attachment style
This style of attachment often arises from rigid and inflexible caregivers. These people come to show rejection and hostility towards children, so they do not meet their basic needs for affection. They show a certain aversion to contact, limiting the time they spend with the child.
They are usually parents who think that the emotional needs of their children are excessive, the result of a weakness, whim or even an attempt to manipulate them, so they establish a distance that leaves children isolated.
These children will become adults:
– Emotionally pseudo-autonomous. They pose as cold and hard people because they want to show that they do not depend on anyone, but in reality it is a false defensive autonomy that they use to camouflage their emotional insecurities.
– They fear intimacy. These people shy away from intimacy for fear of feeling rejected. That is why they tend to establish emotionally distant relationships, have difficulties to commit themselves and establish communication barriers.
– They find it difficult to express their feelings. These are people who, by suppressing their feelings, may experience authentic emotional analgesia. In turn, they are deaf to the emotional needs of their partner, so they maintain deeply unsatisfactory relationships that leave an emotional void.
– They don’t believe in love. These people, due to the rejections they have experienced, often harbor a pessimistic idea about love, they believe that it only exists in romantic movies, so they do not open up to experience this feeling.
3. Anxious or ambivalent attachment style
In this case, attachment figures are not hostile but insensitive, although when they are lively and happy they can be more sensitive, affectionate and competent, recognizing and satisfying the child’s needs. The problem is those oscillations between sensitivity and insensitivity, which generate an uncertain scenario that the child cannot foresee.
The child must face inconsistent and incoherent parents who sometimes pay attention to him and others don’t. Sometimes they show that he bothers them, but other times they are close and sensitive. This ambivalence generates a strong anguish in children that causes great hypersensitivity, making his search for affection constantly active.
These children often become adults:
– Insecure and dependent. These are insecure and emotionally unstable people who fear loneliness, making it difficult for them to live without a partner. This leads them to look anxiously for company, which can lead them to improperly choose toxic partners.
– Fear of loss. The fear of abandonment and of losing the other person generates a great insecurity that brings out jealousy and overwhelming and controlling behaviors in the relationship. This scenario of mistrust and excessive demand for affection often generates unsatisfactory relationships.
– They develop ambivalent behaviors. These people will show the same ambivalent behaviors that they suffered: even wishing to be with the people they love, at times they will experience that they are bothered by them, being able to feel a very strong rage produced by an excessive perception of abandonment in the face of normal separation behaviors.
– They have a contradictory idea of love. They tend to think that romantic relationships are the most important thing in the world but they also believe that are rarely achieved, so they usually assume a victimizing attitude in relationships.
How to change the attachment style?
“Loving is the art of loving the other person as he really wants to be loved, not as much as you want to love him”, wrote Erich Fromm. The attachment style is a relational model that we carry from childhood, but it is not a final sentence.
Although the kind of attachment formed in childhood persists as a model in the representational world of the adult, this model becomes more complex as we grow, we reinterpret and adjust it according to our experiences. Therefore, although they tend to be stable and self-perpetuating, they can also be flexible and evolve with the most rewarding attachment experiences.
This means that when we are facing a significant person with an anxious or avoidant attachment style, we have two options: unconditionally accept that person, but setting a distance of psychological security that protects us, or help him change.
That change will not happen overnight, it requires patience and time. And it is not due to words but to actions, which means that it can only be promoted from love and affection.
That person must verify that commitment and freedom are not antonyms, that we can accompany without invading and love without suffocating. He should also feel secure enough to trust us and express his feelings freely. Only then can he get rid of his insecurities to relate from emotional independence.
Medina, C. J. et. Al. (2016) El apego adulto y la calidad percibida de las relaciones de pareja: Evidencias a partir de una población adulta joven. Salud y Sociedad; 7(3): 306-318.
Barroso, O. (2014) El apego adulto: La relación de los estilos de apego desarrollados en la infancia en la elección y las dinámicas de pareja. Revista Digital de Medicina Psicosomática y Psicoterapia; 4(1): 1-25.
Mínguez, L. & Álvarez, L. (2013) Estilo de apego y estilo de amar. Trabajo Fin de Grado de Enfermería. Cantabria: Universidad de Cantabria.