Have you ever noticed that you end up finding romantic partners that seem to share common personality traits? Or maybe you run into the same issues in each of these romantic relationships, even if the partner has changed? The relationship patterns you find yourself following are not always problematic. If you look closely at yourself you will notice, positive or negative, you tend to have a pattern when it comes to relationships. This is likely happening because your brain has already determined what it expects will happen. These unconscious expectations are also referred to as one’s attachment style.
You may have heard about “attachment.” It’s a term that gets used when talking about parenting. Attachment relates to babies and mothers, but it also relates to how adults bond with, or connect to, their partners. It may be surprising to hear that the way we attached to our own mothers as babies lays the groundwork for how we attach to our partners later in life.
When scientists began studying adult attachment they outlined four basic patterns. They categorized these types: Secure attachment, dismissive or avoidant attachment, anxious attachment, and fearful or disorganized attachment. Although the labels make research much easier, they don’t account for how complex human beings are. People’s attachment patterns might seem similar to the types outlined in the research, but each person is unique in the way they individually experience relationships.
As babies our brains start laying down the guidelines for how we connect to other people in our lives. We develop expectations about how we treat others, how we should be treated, and what will unfold in our relationships. We continue following these expectations throughout our lives without even necessarily realizing it.
These expectations become more ingrained with age and experience. Over time we may start to realize we are taking a familiar path. If this ingrained patterning means we are repeating choices, or behaviors, that cause us stress, we may want to consider making changes. Increasing self-awareness is an insightful place to start altering lifelong ineffective patterns. Individual therapy has proven to be helpful in changing adult attachment patterns. With a supportive therapist you can lay the groundwork to forge a new path. Gaining insight, and having new experiences, can be rewarding.
If you are noticing relationship issues or problematic attachment patterns you would like to change, we’d be happy to help.
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Bailey & Associates, Counseling and Psychotherapy, LLC is a group of psychotherapists, counselors, and art therapists working in the Wicker Park/ Bucktown neighborhood of Chicago