Attachment is a powerful, often hidden determinant in who we’re drawn to in relationships. Recently, Well + Good featured Tribeca Therapy in an article on how different attachment styles deal with breakups. Writer Nikhita Mahtani defines the four attachment styles–secure, anxious, dismissive-avoidant and fearful-avoidant–and speaks with our Founder and Clinical Director Matt on how these styles can influence how individuals do relationships, including the end of a relationship.
It should be noted that we often think of attachment as similar to a personality quiz or even, a horoscope. While there’s validity to that, it’s important to mention that attachment styles can be a product of severe early-life experiences, including acute and chronic trauma, and can often produce quite painful challenges in adult life, both in interpersonal relationships and emotional contentment writ large.
One of the attachment styles explored in the article is secure, which is the zen-state of attachment. As Matt explains, “Securely attached individuals have a solid internal sense of themselves as desirable…they also tend to have solid relationships outside of romantic ones in order to help moderate the loss of the breakup.” This doesn’t mean someone who is securely attached won’t experience grief in a breakup. In fact, having a healthy capacity for attachment means breakups are going to hurt, though this hurt might be tempered and brief.
In contrast, anxious attachment styles tend to place a lot of emphasis on romantic relationships and take breakups the hardest. What can help? Matt notes, “One thing that I think would help anxious attachment styles, aside from mindfulness and realizing this breakup is hurting more than it should, would be to understand the deep underlying issues that are making them feel the way they do…If we don’t identify and heal that, it’s hard to get over.”
What can individuals do if they suspect they have an unhelpful attachment style? Matt notes that reading up on attachment styles can be helpful for people to discover some concerning patterns in how they do relationships. For example, do you seem to keep dating the “same person,” meaning even though you think you’ve found someone “different,” things turn out the same? The key is ultimately to recognize patterns.