Healthy human connection is the bedrock of a successful, vital, and fulfilling life. Countless studies have shown that social connection improves our health, longevity, and overall sense of well-being. In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human needs, relationships are second only to our most basic requirements such as food, water, shelter, and physical safety. We need relationships—other people—in order to survive. We’re quite literally born into relationships the relationships we form with our parents and immediate family become the building blocks for all other relatings throughout our lives.
We are all wired with an inherent desire to connect and form bonds with others. We all want to love and be loved in return. That sounds simple enough in theory, but in practice, as we all know, it can be a bit more tricky. Depending on our earliest relationships, we form an attachment style, and it typically falls into one of three categories: anxious, avoidant, or secure.
While we experience each of these in different degrees depending on who we are relating to, we usually fall firmly into one category when it comes to our most intimate relationships i.e., romantic partnership.
Knowing how you attach is the first step to creating the relationships you truly desire in your life. There are several ways to help bring those who identify as anxious or avoidant into a more secure ability to relate. There are ways that those who identify as secure can better the people in their lives that are anxious or avoidant. The next step is understanding and accepting which style you are. So, how do you attach?
If your partner doesn’t respond to a text right away, do you spiral into fearful thoughts about where they are and what they’re doing? Are you preoccupied with what others think of you instead of what you think of yourself? Do you struggle with self-confidence or limiting beliefs about your life? If so, you likely fall into the category of anxious attachment.
What about those who crave unrealistic freedom? Are you the type that shies away from physical or emotional affection? Do you find yourself doing things for others so they’ll “leave you alone?” Do you have a belief that other people are trying to control you? Do you believe that you’re stronger on your own? If this sounds familiar, you’re likely more of a love avoidant.
The healthiest style is secure. Those with a secure attachment style have the overall positive belief that those close to them love and care for them unconditionally. They feel safe venturing out on their own and value their autonomy; however, they feel just as safe connecting with someone else in an intimate way. They believe in themselves and their capabilities and see their relationships as beautiful additions to their lives.
The secure attachment is what we all want, no matter our attachment style, and what keeps us polarized to one side is a fundamental fear of abandonment. The anxious feel completely unsafe without others, the avoidant equate intimacy with unsafety. Both are untrue and based solely on fear.
How can we work to release these fears in our relationships and come to a place where we can experience the beauty of secure attachment?
Amir Levine, psychologist and co-author of Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find and Keep Love, breaks these styles down into simple terms.
Anxious Attachment: tends to worry or obsess about their partner’s ability to love them back.
Avoidant Attachment: equates intimacy with a loss of independence and always tries to minimize closeness.
Secure Attachment: feels comfortable with intimacy and are usually warm and loving.
If you identify more with the anxious or avoidant sides of things, bringing yourself into a more secure style might feel amazingly daunting. But according to Levine, it isn’t. He explains that small things are what can create secure attachments. “Relationships don’t need big gestures, and that’s what people don’t understand. It’s not about the big gestures; it’s about something very, very simple.” He explains. Understanding what you and your partner both need to feel secure is the first step.
What helps you to feel safe and secure in your relationships?
What helps your partner to feel safe and secure?
What are small things that you can do for each other that will help the relationship flourish and feel secure?
Would it feel good to have your partner text you when they leave work letting you know when they’ll be home? Maybe communicating to your partner that you need an hour of alone time every day would help you feel safer. Whatever the case may be, get clear on what that is and communicate it to your partner. After that, bring the focus back to you and how you can best nourish yourself—an essential ingredient for every attachment style.
Kabbalists teach that relationships—the wonderful and the difficult alike— bring us the most significant opportunity for spiritual growth and transformation. Successful relationships are the result of being our authentic selves and by creating a space in which our partner can do the same. By making little changes every day to strengthen your relationships, you’ll be creating that success. But like everything else, it begins with you. How can you better love yourself today so that you’re ready to enjoy another fully?
THOUGHT INTO ACTION
Would you consider yourself an anxious or avoidant attachment style? If you answered anxious or avoidant, what is one thing you can do to either love yourself or your partner in a more secure way?