It’s Complicated: Attachment styles and how to change them

Dear Reagan,

I want to know how I can be more secure in my relationships. Every time I find myself interested in someone, I avoid getting too close or attached to them to avoid getting hurt. How do I overcome that fear and just let myself be loved?

-Get Out Before I Get Hurt

Dear Get Out,

Psychologist John Bowlby described attachment as the “lasting psychological connectedness between human beings.” He believes that this pattern of attachment starts in childhood with an infants need to bond with a caregiver. There are three main types of attachment– secure (equally happy single or partnered, can cope with heartbreak easier), anxious (in need of constant reassurance, have a harder time being single) and what it sounds like you struggle with, avoidant (avoid commitment, struggle with intimacy).

While it can be possible to morph your avoidant attachment into a secure one, the process is long and takes a lot of work and introspection. But there are several things you can do to be more mindful of your avoidant tendencies and work through them.

  1. De-emphasize self-reliance. Work on mutual support between you and your partner. It’s okay to need someone!
  2. Forget about finding “the one” and focus on the person you’re with.
  3. Recognize when you become avoidant and what behaviors you use (pulling away when things are going well, idealizing an impossible future, avoiding physical closeness, obsessing over tiny imperfections). When these things happen, remind yourself that you are a human being. Humans need intimacy and it is more than okay to want it, despite your struggles or discomfort with it. 
  4. Try to find someone with a secure attachment style. This is a bit difficult, since most secure people are already in relationships and the “attachment styles quiz” isn’t exactly great first-date material. But notice how people talk about their previous relationships. Did every one of them involve drama, or did things just naturally not work out? Do they seem anxious about being single and want to be coupled up by the end of the date? Having a partner who is more secure than yourself can help raise you up to their level. 

It’s so hard to let go and be vulnerable and open to the idea of being happy. I wish you all the best!


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More It’s Complicated:

To hell with what my Bishop says, I have zero interest in getting married in my early 20s. But people get married so young around here… I worry despite myself about having options later. Advice?

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