If we don’t want to make the same mistakes over and over again, we have to recognize what our mistakes are. This is the Six Seconds competency of recognizing patterns. One place we REALLY see patterns come up is in our relationships. This week’s Illuminate encourages us to examine our attachment style, which affects how we make (and break) relationships from cradle to grave.
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Illuminate: What Relationship Pattern Holds You Back?
Arguments between my partner and myself, while rare, were hurtful. We argued productively until one or both of us felt attacked, then we reacted to this hurt with opposite patterns. I felt like I needed to cling on to the argument; I wanted a resolution– fast!– in order to return to those feelings of safety and love. And he needed to be alone; he felt overwhelmed by his hurt and needed to care for his own wounds. He needed to be alone; I needed us to be together. Our arguments would inevitably come to a standstill, with him being alone and me being unsettled. Eventually the argument would be forgotten or reconciled, but it left days of heartache in its wake.
Then, we learned about our attachment style patterns, and the arguments became lighter. I found out that everyone has their own pattern of responding to arguments and hurt. The power of recognizing patterns took hold, and the mystery of our oppositional reactions was demystified. He isn’t selfish, and I’m not needy; we simply have different patterns, both of which we can honor and negotiate. We’ve negotiated these patterns by encouraging both of our needs to get met; he takes a certain amount of time to be alone, and I know that when that time is up, we will come back to the topic. Because I know there is a time limit to my solitude, I feel safe. Because he knows he will have time alone, he feels protected. Then, we come back to the topic refreshed and with a sense of doing this thing called partnership together.
So what’s your attachment style, and what can you learn from it?
Attachment style is a term from developmental psychology that describes a set of behavioral patterns you created as an infant and carry into adulthood. I go into detail about the research and background of attachment styles in this brand new article.
There are three types of attachment styles, but they can absolutely be seen as a spectrum. You might identify primarily with one but see a touch of another in yourself. In these descriptions, I use the term “partner,” but any close relationship figure will apply. Read these descriptions to see which attachment style(s) you are:
Anxious-resistant: You need a lot of attention from your partner to feel loved. You often feel too far from them. You may hate going to bed angry; you need arguments to be resolved before you can feel “whole” again. You may have been labeled “clingy” or “needy” by some partners.
Secure: You readily give and receive attention. You recognize when you are feeling too far or too close to them, and you feel comfortable asking for more space or more attention. Your worth does not feel threatened by the actions of the other.
Avoidant: You are reluctant to give or receive affection. You highly value independence and personal space. You may have trouble staying in relationships for any length of time because you quickly see how being in a relationship means giving up independence. You may have been labeled “selfish” or “cold” by some partners.
Do you recognize yourself and your partner in these descriptions? If you’d like to know more about how to make an action plan around you and your partner’s different attachment styles, check out my full length article about attachment styles here.
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How does your attachment style show up in your life?
What would a plan look like that takes care of both you and your partner’s needs?
What emotions come up when you recognize yourself in one of the descriptions above? What is the emotion asking of you?
Illuminate is a weekly e-mail series that provides practical tips + galvanizing inspirations for practicing an emotionally intelligent life. In our time together, we’ll operate from the assumption that you have all the wisdom you need inside of yourself + that you have a purpose the world needs to see. We will explore the tools + techniques to illuminate your own inner wisdom and purpose. If you’d like to receive this free gift of goodness in your inbox every week, subscribe here.