Love Relationships, Attraction, and Attachment Styles During Self-Quarantine and Beyond

Love Relationships, Attraction, and Attachment Styles

Some Seem To Find and Keep Love Easily: What Are the Rest of Us Missing?

It’s incredible how some people just seem to find a partner and have an amazingly happy, drama-free, long-term relationship. Even if that relationship eventually ends, those folks tend to do the same thing all over again: find love, connect, and settle into another happy, healthy, lasting, relationship. So what are the rest of us missing? What’s the “secret sauce” of a healthy relationship? And what are we doing wrong?

So what are the rest of us missing? What’s the secret sauce of a healthy relationship?

Who we love and how we love are very important to finding and keeping a loving and satisfying relationship. Attachment styles may be the key to understanding why some of us have long-term, successful, and fulfilling love relationships, while others are seemingly caught in a never-ending cycle  of unsuccessful, frustrating, and emotionally damaging relationships.

Attachment may be the key to why some of us have successful partnerships, while others are caught in a never-ending cycle of frustrating and emotionally damaging relationships.

If you, or someone you care about seems to be struggling to have a healthy, happy, long-term relationship, becoming fluent in attachment styles may very well hold the key. And you might just want to share this with them!

The Three Different Attachment Styles In Brief

Secure Attached: A Brief Overview

This person is secure in their attachments. They connect with a partner and feel very comfortable being vulnerable with them. They assume that the relationship will be strong. They don’t analyze it endlessly or find millions of faults with their partners. If they break up with someone they will grieve the relationship, but they won’t take the break-up as a sign that they are unlovable or inherently flawed.

They don’t analyze their relationships endlessly or find millions of faults with their partners.

After a time, when they find another suitable match they will move on. These folks tend to be in satisfying, long-lasting relationships. They don’t relationship hop but are capable of moving on after a break-up and don’t tend to personalize it when things don’t work out.

Secure folks tend to be in satisfying, long-lasting relationships.

If they don’t, for example, hear from their partner when they expected to, they don’t immediately assume anything has gone wrong in the relationship. Instead, they will think that something unrelated to their relationship has caused the delay.

Anxious Attached: A Brief Overview

The Anxious Attached person is hyper-sensitive to the slightest shifts in mood or changes in expression or behavior by their partner. They will undoubtably feel insecure and worried about their importance to their partner. This can continue even into marriage.

The Anxious Attached will undoubtably feel insecure and worried about their importance to their partner.

To continue the example from above, if they do not hear from their partner at the appointed time, they may assume it is related to their lover’s feelings about them. They are very good at noticing little things but they often misinterpret what they are seeing.

They are very good at noticing little things but they often misinterpret what they are seeing.

They also usually do not feel a “spark’ with a Securely Attached person. They are often drawn to the Avoidant Attached. The “spark” they think they are feeling is actually about the anxiety of insecurity.

The Anxious Attached are often attracted to Avoidant partners.

With the Avoidant person they sense they cannot be secure in a relationship. They confuse this “gut wisdom” for passion. A part of them knows this person will not be reliable which causes “butterflies in their stomach,” often mistaken for “chemistry.”

The “spark” they think they are feeling is actually about the anxiety of insecurity.

Avoidant Attached: A Brief Overview

The Avoidant attached individuals find themselves thinking they are in love many times over but after a short while into a relationship, find some fatal flaw with their new love. They will likely end the relationship and bounce back very quickly, seeming to have put their ex completely out of their mind.

The Avoidant attached individuals find themselves thinking they are in love many times but always find some fatal flaw

They are always very excited at the beginning of a new relationship but find themselves saying over and over again to their friends or dates that they just haven’t found “the one” yet. They tend to be very optimistic and think for a short while that their new partner might be “the one.”

Avoidant attached will say over and over that they just haven’t found “the one” yet.

If they do stay in a relationship, they do things to keep their partners from getting too close. They may cheat on their partner or drop in and out of contact.

They may cheat on their partner or drop in and out of contact.

They may fault-find or blame their partner for problems, using anger or fights as a way of maintaining emotional distance. Some might also use drugs or alcohol to help keep an emotional distance from their partner. Some will marry their partners but can never let them completely in. They may use work or busyness as ways to keep their distance.

They may fault-find or blame their partner for problems, using anger or fights as a way of maintaining emotional distance.

The Anxious – Avoidant Couple’s Dance

These last two attachment styles just can’t seem to make a commitment work. Folks who are “Avoidant” and folks who are “Anxious” are often attracted to one another but they are a terrible mix. The Avoidant partner’s greater comfort with separation will send off warning bells in their Anxious partner’s brain.

“Avoidant” and “Anxious” types are often attracted to one another but they are a terrible mix.

The Anxious partner will need more and more reassurance from the Avoidant partner. The more the Avoidant partner steps back, the more clingy the Anxious partner becomes. It is a painful and unhappy dance.

The more the Avoidant partner steps back, the more clingy the Anxious partner becomes.

 The Good News

Recognizing your attachment style is the first step to changing who and how you love. Even if your love life has been filled with unsatisfying relationships, there is good news.

Just by learning the difference between the attachment styles you will probably have a pretty decent idea what your attachment style is. This is the first step in changing the way you view your relationships and even who and how you date.

Recognizing your attachment style is the first step to changing who and how you love.

The first step is recognizing our attachment style. As we learn about this aspect of ourselves and how the different attachment styles interact, we can see the big picture more clearly. It is important to understand that our attachment style is just the way we are, (often as a result of our own childhood experiences with  parents/caregivers), and there’s more!  The good news is that our attachment style can be changed! This recognizing, accepting, and understanding that change is possible, are huge steps in the right direction.

We can change our attachment style.

These attachment styles were once thought to be fixed but are actually flexible. We can change our attachment style. Never has the phrase “knowledge is power,” been more true! What helps more than anything is being sick of the status quo and highly motivated to change.

What helps more than anything is being sick of the status quo and highly motivated to change.

Learning about attachment types and recognizing the Avoidant Attached is especially important for the Anxious Attached. Realizing that people with an Avoidant attachment style will behave in certain predictable ways and learning to recognize these patterns is immensely helpful. Seeing this unhappy and dissatisfying pattern can help the Anxious individual shift their perception and decide that enough is enough.

Understanding that Avoidants will not meet their needs, is incredibly powerful for an Anxious Attached person.

Understanding that folks with Avoidant attachment style will not meet their needs, is incredibly powerful for an Anxious Attached person. They can also learn ways to address their attachment issues which allows them to move toward a more secure attachment style. Many times simply learning that this is your pattern and figuring out that there really isn’t anything wrong with you: More than anything, recognizing that the people you are attracted to are not going to satisfy you can be an enormous wake up call.

Recognizing that the people you are attracted to are not going to satisfy you, can be an huge wake up call.

Additionally, realizing that what they were feeling in their relationship with an Avoidant Attached partner was insecurity and not chemistry or passion, helps the Anxious Attached see Securely Attached potential partners in a new and more open way.

What they were feeling was insecurity and not chemistry or passion.

They can now make sense of their past tendency to reject Securely attached potential partners. It also makes them able to make better choices moving forward and connect with a more suitable, Securely Attached partner.

This helps the Anxious see Securely Attached potential partners in a new and more open way.

A Note to Partners of Avoidant Attached Individuals

For individuals partnering with Avoidant Attached folks, a lot of insight and ability to give space is imperative to make a partnership work. Sometimes navigating these attachment waters, can be a very painful and confusing process. A therapist versed in Attachment Issues may be helpful.

Supporting the Anxiously Attached During Quarantine And Beyond

While it is incredibly helpful to understand your attachment style and work toward being more mindful of who and how you date. This will not happen overnight. In the meantime, how do people with Anxious Attachment styles survive quarantine and the other changes brought about by COVID? How can we support ourselves and our Anxious Attached friends during COVID and beyond?

Folks with Anxious Attachment styles might be having an incredibly hard time, especially if they live alone or are apart from their partner during this (or any) time. The separation from and (potential) inability to be physically with their partner, could be very rough on this person.

Anxious Attached individuals might be having an incredibly hard time, especially if they live alone or are apart from their partner during this (or any) time.

Showing a great deal of understanding and compassion for yourself or your Anxious Attached friend is very important. Connecting yourself or them with some mindfulness and self-care practices that can be done on your own, would also be helpful.

Self-Compassion Practice

I teach a self-compassion practice to my clients that can be very helpful for anxiety and painful feelings. This practice is simply sending kindness and caring inward. We weren’t raised knowing how to do this but learning this practice can make a huge difference when you can’t connect with someone in your support system and you are struggling, overwhelmed, and hurting.

Self-Compassion is simply sending kindness and caring inward.

Learning this practice can make a huge difference when you can’t connect with someone in your support system.

You can access a “How-To” video here: https://youtu.be/m9YAQ7TCrdw 

Or a “How-To” Blog (directed at moms but the practice is the same for everyone) here: https://wholeheartedlifefl.com/self-compassion-a-how-to-guide-for-moms/

Exercise

Exercise is a super power when it comes to depression and anxiety. I would encourage anyone who is suffering, to do exercise to the extent that it is possible, during quarantine and beyond. Not only can exercise release endorphins, those feel-good hormones that fight sadness and depression, but it also helps with self-esteem, anxiety, and helps us to create a healthy connection with our bodies.

Exercise is a super-power when it comes to sadness and overwhelm.

Good sleep

Good sleep is so important that it can actually predict whether or not some people will recover from certain diseases. Sleep is intrinsically connected with our health, productivity, athletic performance, and feelings of well-being. It may be the single most important factor in our overall mental and physical health. If you are worried, anxious and  upset over your relationship, chances are good that your sleep is suffering. I have a number of sleep tips and tricks on my website page Sleep Resources. https://wholeheartedlifefl.com/sleep-resources/

Sleep may be the single most important factor in our overall mental and physical health.

Healthy eating

Though folks pay a lot of lip service to the importance of how we feed our bodies, I don’t think most people are aware of just how much what we eat and how we prepare our food, impacts our physical and mental health. Small changes, such as adding fresh vegetables to our diet, are a wonderful way of moving the needle toward a healthier brain and body. These small adjustments in what you eat will help you feel better if you are stressed, anxious, overwhelmed or sad.

These small changes in what you eat will help you feel better if you are stressed, anxious, overwhelmed, or sad.

Yoga, meditation, and other mindfulness exercises

Yoga, meditation, tai chi, and other mindfulness exercises and activities can be very helpful, as well. These help keep us grounded and present. They can help with our anxiety, stress levels, and overall sense of wellbeing.

Mindfulness activities help keep us grounded and present.

I love a mindfulness exercise called “Contacting the Present Moment,” in which you connect with all of your senses.  Do this during any and all pleasurable activities. For example: When you’re taking a hot shower feel the warmth and wetness of the  water on your skin, smell the fragrance of your shampoo and inhale the heavy humid air while listening to the sound of the water.

When youre taking a hot shower feel the warmth and wetness of the water on your skin, smell the fragrance of your shampoo and inhale the heavy humid air while listening to the sound of the water.

How-To video here: https://wholeheartedlifefl.com/pt-1-contacting-the-present-moment-why-i-love-act/

Conclusion

As you learn about attachment styles, understand the reasons behind them, and begin to recognize the unworkable patterns of your past, you will be well on your way to a brighter future with a greater potential for a secure, fulfilling, and long-lasting relationship.

During this process and beyond, make sure to take care of yourself. Try to feed your body well, exercise, get good sleep, and practice mindfulness practices, self-compassion and other coping skills. Try to treat yourself always with kindness and caring. These changes reinforce your self-worth, demonstrates to others that you treat yourself well, and sets the standard on how they should treat you.

These changes reinforce your self-worth, demonstrates to others that you treat yourself well and sets the standard on how they should treat you.

About Catherine Saxton-Thompson

Catherine Saxton-Thompson is a South Floridian, wife, mom, beach-lover, ACT therapist & coach. She sees people in her international practice, Wholehearted Life Therapy, where she provides coaching, therapy, and behavioral health consulting, virtually/online, throughout the US and beyond. When she’s not doing teletherapy with a client or working on her latest video or article, she is swimming in the pool, at the beach, snorkeling or swimming in the ocean, or just hanging out with her husband, son and two fur babies, a pup and a kitty. To learn more or schedule a free consultation, contact me at https://wholeheartedlifefl.com