Attachment Theory For Adults and Couples

Attachment theory can be studied and dissected in a multitude of ways, but in its simplest form, it is described as a way to showcase the dynamics of interpersonal relationships between humans. This can start from parent-child relationships, friendships, and of course, romantic relationships. There are typically four sides to attachment theory that most models use to define it: Secure, Preoccupied, Dismissing, and Fearful.

For example, in childhood, a secure child might simply wave or say a small greeting when their parent enters the room. A preoccupied child would hardly notice their presence, finding other things more interesting, a dismissing child would purposely choose to ignore them, and a fearful child would be clinging to that parent, desperately afraid of them leaving, or even not loving them enough.

How Can It Affect Romantic Relationships?

These rules of attachment certainly can carry over into adulthood, and affect our relationships with our families, friends, and romantic relationships. Attachment theory is a psychological model, so the thoughts behind it come from a mixture of childhood upbringing, to predetermined psychological thoughts that a child will have no matter what. Of course, that means it can be difficult to get rid of those thoughts, even as an adult.

Depending on the ‘side’ of attachment a person falls under, it could cause issues in their everyday relationships, unless they learn to overcome it.

Attachment theory shows up in adult relationships in a similar fashion to childhood relationships between a child and their parent. Unfortunately, those attributes can be considered extremely unhealthy, depending on how deeply-rooted the issues are within a particular individual.

Similarly to a child’s forms of attachment, an adult in a relationship can experience a variety of different attachment issues, where their partner essentially ‘replaces’ the parental figure in their lives. This could range from being dismissive in relationships, to being preoccupied with other things, or what could be considered the worst; having a fearful relationship that leads to needs that can likely never be met. The fearful side of attachment can lead to things like paranoia, stress, or even obsession.

The healthiest form of attachment in almost any relationship is secure, when you have the ability to simply find contentment in the relationship itself, and the person you’re with, whether they’re with you 24 hours a day, or you only see each other periodically.

Struggling with other forms of attachment that could be considered unhealthy can lead to destructive relationships, not just romantically, but in any adult relationship you may find yourself in. Thankfully, these unhealthy ways of attaching ourselves to other people are usually treatable and manageable with the right therapeutic help and coaching.

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