History of Attachment Theory
Psychologist John Bowlby introduced attachment theory in 1969 to explain the bonds infants develop with their caregivers. He suggested that caregivers who are responsive and available will instill a sense of security in their babies that enables the child to go out and confidently explore the world.
In the 1970s, Bowlby's colleague Mary Ainsworth expanded on his ideas by identifying three specific attachment patterns in infants, which accounted for both secure and insecure attachment styles.
Understanding Attachment Styles In Relationships
If you are not sure why you and your partner do not feel compatible, or you wonder why it is so hard to communicate, there is a chance that you both have different attachment styles.
If you do not have a secure attachment style, your actions and reactions can negatively affect and even sabotage your relationship if both parties do not come to an understanding.
Learning your attachment style and the differences can help you understand your own patterns and become a better communicator.
How You Make Connections
Your childhood experiences can affect the types of connections you form in adulthood and how you interact in intimate relationships. How you deal with intimacy, ask for support, and communicate your needs can be influenced by your early experiences with caregivers growing up. These different ways of relating with others are called “attachment styles."
Common Attachment Styles
It is important to know what your particular attachment style is, because then you can be aware of your attachment patterns and needs in your relationships.
Avoidant Attachment Styles
Both dismissive-avoidant and fearful-avoidant attachment styles fall under the same category, but they do have their differences. If you have an avoidant attachment style, you typically struggle with commitment and intimacy, but for very different reasons. You might tend to avoid being emotionally intimate by pointing out negative things about your partners as a way to protect yourself from harm. You could point out the negative traits to justify the distance, but eventually find yourself mourning the loss of that connection in one way or another.
Having an avoidant attachment style, could entail that you had a history of childhood trauma, or lack of stable and healthy intimacy from your caregivers growing up.
Dismissive-Avoidant Attachment Definition
Alternatively, if you have a dismissive-avoidant attachment style, you might operate on the mentality that you do not need or do not desire intimate relationships. You might value independence and doing things by yourself. It is possible that you have strict boundaries and come across as emotionally distant. This can present itself within romantic relationships as well as friendships. You might find it hard to make close connections and open up to others.
Common Causes of Dismissive-Avoidance
There are many reasons why we react the way that our childhoods shapes who we become. For most people, their answer lies within how they were raised as children; an anxious attachment can develop from cues given off by your parents when you were young which made it hard for you to rely on them in times where comfort and affection was needed most.
As a result, this attachment style was learned in order to live independently due to survival. You might also have had more responsibilities than normal for your age and needed to grow up fast.
Fearful Avoidant Attachment Definition
This type of attachment style is sometimes described as a “hot and cold” attachment. This is mostly because you might be very reactive based on how your inside emotions react with either real or perceived rejection, acceptance, or neutrality. With the fearful-avoidant attachment style, you might come across as people-pleasers or caregivers in interpersonal relationships.
If you had this dynamic growing up in your family, you might have worked as the caregiver. Perhaps affection and care were given based on what you gave first. Love and affection could have been withheld or were dependent on if you did the right thing first.
You might find that you behave outwardly affectionate at first, but if you feel rejected or that the relationship is one-sided, you might grow cold in response. This could be due to the reminder of your childhood and may re-open old wounds.
How Fearful Avoidant Attachment Affects Relationships
Fearful Avoidance can have a negative impact on the quality and stability in relationships.
This person may choose to distance themselves from you rather than committing fully - which often leads their partner feeling as if they're not loved or appreciated enough by them.
People with the fearful-avoidant attachment style tend not to enter into committed relationships. They are often seeking connection and closeness while simultaneously trying avoid actually getting into an exclusive long term bond, so they may commonly find themselves in various types of casual sexual or "situationship" partnerships where there's no label.
Avoidance Style Similarities and Differences
Although both attachment styles are “avoidant” when it comes to connections, at their core, they are very different. What is similar about them tends to be their origin. Both entail having had parents who also acted hot and cold growing up, or just cold. They also involve experiencing emotional or physical abuse and a lack of support.
Where these types differ is how relationships and other people are viewed. A person who is dismissive-avoidant has a higher view of themselves, and a lower view of others. A person with fearful-avoidant attachment tends to have lower self-esteem, but still craves attachment. The issue is that they do not feel they are worthy of a healthy attachment and respond negatively to any rejection.
While the dismissive-avoidant might seem like they do not care, they really do, deep down. However, they are quick to shut down a relationship or connection that triggers their need to keep themselves protected. This causes them to shut down completely and push others away.
How To Improve Your Relationship Attachments
Explore Professional Therapy
If you have trauma from your childhood, then therapy is going to be important for healing. It is crucial that the type of treatment focuses on the specific relationships.
Mindfulness helps you become more in tune with your emotions and what they mean. It also gives a sense of peace, which makes this practice invaluable for building self-awareness.
Be Honest With Others
Communication is the key to a close relationship. If you want your partner's love and affection, it'll be necessary for both parties involved in order make an emotional bond with each other through telling their respective wants/needs as well sharing solutions they have found that work best when combating these issues.
Learn To Affirm Yourself
When you have a fearful-avoidant personality, the core of your being is suffering from relationship insecurity. You believe that people in your life will reject or leave and it's easy for this fear to become toxic. It takes active work on our behalf - making mental leaps outside what we know about ourselves.