What does your attachment style say about how you show intimacy?
Attachment styles are the ways we behave and feel in our intimate and close relationships. They are formed when we are younger based on the interactions we had with our caregivers. Understanding what our attachment style is can help us communicate better and have healthier relationships.
1. When you are with your partner, do you feel comfortable sharing your deepest thoughts and feelings with them?
a) I don’t share everything, I don’t want to scare them away.
b) Yeah, I tell my partner most things.
c) I don’t share those things with others.
2. Do you find yourself feeling worried when you don't know where your partner is or when they don't respond to your messages or calls right away?
a) Yes, I think something bad has happened.
b) Sometimes if I can’t reach them for a long time.
c) I don’t tend to notice those things.
3. How does it make you feel when your partner is very affectionate or physically close to you?
a) I crave being as close as possible.
b) I feel loved and cared for.
c) I tend to feel smothered.
4. How do you feel when your partner is very independent or does not need you as much as you need them?
a) It worries me that there is trouble in the relationship.
b) I like to feel needed sometimes but want my partner to be independent.
c) I feel content, I don’t want to be needed by my partner.
5. Do you experience stress when you are facing conflict or disagreements with your partner?
a) Yes, it preoccupies my thoughts for hours or days.
b) Sometimes depending on the topic.
c) Not really, I tend to move on quickly.
Mostly a’s: Anxious attachment. People with this style tend to crave closeness and intimacy with a fear of rejection or abandonment. They can often crave reassurance or validation from their partners and can become insecure if their partner is distant.
Mostly b’s: Secure attachment. People with this attachment style have a balanced and healthy relationship with intimacy and closeness. They can have independence and meaningful connections with their partners.
Mostly c’s: Avoidant attachment. Those with this style tend to withdraw from intimacy and closeness. They value independence and self-sufficiency and may feel uncomfortable with emotional expression.
Mostly a’s and c’s: Disorganized attachment. This is a mix of anxious and avoidant attachment styles.
Now that you know your attachment style you can look at how this affects how you show intimacy in your relationship.
With an anxious attachment style, you may be craving emotional and physical intimacy with your partner to feel confident in the relationship. The fear of rejection or abandonment can cause you to push your partner away and have the opposite of the desired effect. The anxiety about upsetting your partner can make you too sensitive to their responses and misinterpret neutral responses as signs of disinterest. They may ask for reassurance often which can create stress on their partners. This mix of desire for validation and closeness as well as fears of abandonment can cause mood swings that may prohibit the desire for intimacy.
With an avoidant attachment style, one tends to stay away from deep emotional connection and intimacy. Their need for independence and self-reliance can push their partner away. They may fear being controlled or overtaken by their partner and push them away. When their partner initiates intimacy they may feel the need to create more distance. Those with avoidant attachment also tend to minimize conflict and disagreements which cause more issues in the long run.
Those with secure attachments have the best balance of showing and receiving intimacy in different ways to their partner. They feel comfortable with intimacy and closeness as well as expressing emotions. They tend to balance independence well with valuing their relationship. They often view conflict as an opportunity to learn and grow. They tend to utilize open communication and express their needs well.
Can you change your attachment style?
If you feel like your attachment styles are not compatible you can make changes with some work. Our attachment styles are influenced by our childhood and usually do not change suddenly but everyone can take steps towards more secure attachment. A big part of changing your attachment style involves self awareness and reflection. Therapy may be essential in recognizing these things and striving to make changes.
Bowlby, J. (1969). Attachment and loss: Vol. 1, Attachment. New York: Basic Books.
Mikulincer, M., & Shaver, P. R. (2007). An attachment-theoretical approach to adult romantic relationships. Handbook of Attachment, 329-359