It’s 11:08 p.m. You’ve just gotten home from a long work-day, a hard pump at the gym and a much needed game night with your buddies (whom you see so rarely these days). As you walk in your apartment door, you realise your iPhone is dead, so you rush to your computer to see if there’s an email from the woman you’ve been dating. Nothing. You plug in your phone. No texts either. It's strange not to hear from her all day. Wait, you left a message yesterday but she hasn’t returned that. So it’s been a couple days. This doesn’t feel right. You’ve been dating for three weeks. She should at least return your calls. What could she be up to?
A little Facebook stalking tells you that she’s been out with girlfriends. Like she couldn’t have called you from the car? Could there have been a guy with her? Now your blood begins to boil. Is this chick playing you?
Then the next day, when she finally does call, you are cold and detached. And you are amazed that this confuses her. In fact, her insensitivity causes you to bicker and you end up hanging up the phone on her. Afterward, you feel bad. You really like this one. She’s hot and nice. So why did you push her away?
Your feelings could be related to an anxious attachment style.
A psychological injury called an "attachment disorder" has been the media darling when it pertains to kids, parents and international adoptions. But less is written about adult romantic attachment, the theater that receives the ultimate payload of early-life attachment injuries.
Know this: In our dating and mating lives, we all become infants. It’s where we go to expose our tender vulnerabilities. This is good because relationships are an exchange of care. Yet perfectly functional adults walk among us, stumbling through the world of dating, mating and relating, reliving their own preverbal, infantile emotional traumas. For some men and women, love brings as many feelings of anxiety as of comfort, and psychologists refer to this as an anxious attachment style. In fact, there’s a whole field of research on the range of attachment styles, "attachment theory." To understand it, you need to take a look at the history.
History of Attachment TheoryIn the 1930s and 40s, an English physician named John Bowlby noticed that when young children were hospitalised or separated from their parents for long periods of time, the mothers reported that a very “different” child came home. One that was unruly, aggressive or depressed and detached.
Early thinkers in attachment theory also included Canadian developmental psychologist Mary Ainsworth and Berkeley researcher Mary Main. From them came research done with infants and children that confirmed that a trusted person -- an attachment figure -- offers an infant a secure base. Met with consistent attention, affection and empathetic words, a child will grow to trust the world and its relationships -- and will eventually translate that feeling of trust to a romantic partner in adult life. Early life attachments become a blueprint for future love. John Bowlby thought that ties to the parent gradually become weaker as the child grows older and the secure base function is slowly shifted to other figures, eventually resting on one's mate.
Children grow up to become lovers who attach in the same ways they were attached to their parents. This is because our “attachment style” becomes part of our personality. In fact, most people aren’t aware of their own attachment style. Attachment theory centers on how the ways we relate to others are based on the communications and behaviours we exchange with our parents in the first years of life. These "messages" we receive about how to love are then combined with our own interactions with each parent to form an influential cognitive structure -- a hard-wired piece of our personality.
When Attachment Goes RightWhen early life attachments go well -- that is, when a baby is treated with respect, attentiveness and not too much smothering -- people grow up able to have secure attachments, ones where they can give and receive care comfortably. They don’t have large abandonment issues, nor do they feel easily smothered and retreat into their cave. Men and women with healthy attachment styles are comfortable with physical touching, emotional intimacy and being alone at times. They know their mate will return and be caring. They also have a degree of self-esteem that is not dependent on their lover's reinforcement.
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