Yesterday, my husband and I were talking and the topic of insecurity came up. More specifically, insecure attachment. Quickly into our conversation we realized that we had two different definitions of what it means to feel insecure in a relationship. So today I think it would be nice to break down what attachment is in three simplified descriptions.
Imagine you are at the playground with your young child. Your child wants to go play on the swings and asks
“can I go swing?”
You agree and your child runs over to the swing set and plays freely knowing that if they need you, all they will have to do is yell your name and you will come running. They trust that they can play on their own, and if something happens mom or dad will be there.
Additionally, you trust your child enough to let them run off and play, and if they need you, you will be there for them.
This is how secure attachment is formed.
In an adult relationship it looks similar. You trust that your partner will not break any of the “rules” you’ve established in the relationship. Furthermore, there is a high level of comfort-ability established.
Insecure Attachment (Anxious)
Now imagine that you are back at the playground and your child asks you if they can play on the swings. You say,
“yes, but only if you’re safe and doing it right.”
So the child runs over to the swings, hops on, and you run after them. While they are swinging, you get very worried that they will fall and hurt themselves so you shout out,
“hold on! Don’t go too high! “Stop pumping your legs like that!”
Now the child is internalizing your fears.
As an adult, this child is most likely going to be anxious in romantic relationships. They feel insecure, don’t know where they stand, or whether or not the things they are doing are “wrong.” Someone with this type of attachment style might feel unpredictable in a romantic relationship.
Insecure Attachment (Avoidant)
Let’s go back to the playground scenario one last time. Only this time, the parent is on their phone the entire time, and not watching the child. The child falls from the swings and the parent is no where to be seen. No one is there to help the child when they are in need.
In this case, the child learns that they cannot trust the person, whom they love, to be there for them, when they fall.
As an adult, this child avoids getting close to significant others for fear that they will be rejected when they really need someone.
Can attachment style be changed?
Usually, people who are secure pair together and people who are anxious and avoidant join.
Last night my husband asked,
“so can someone change their attachment style?”
The answer is, yes! It takes some work, but attachment styles are learned, not innate. Someone can change from insecure to secure with some work and go on to have very healthy relationships.