When we have trouble in our relationships, on the surface it may seem that it’s our partners fault. Or we ourselves are to blame. But the truth of the matter is deeper than that.
Why do Punjabis wear turban? And South Indians wear lungis? And why do neither party walk around wearing cowboy hats?
The simple reason is that people do what they have experienced growing up. They do what they are used to doing. Our brain learns through experience as well as imitation, even though we often aren’t consciously aware of what we are imbibing into ourselves.
And then we repeat the same pattern over and over again, till it becomes a habit. Research shows that most of our day-to-day behaviour comes from such habituated patterns.
If this can happen with turbans and hats, aloo paratha and bacon-and-eggs, then what is the way of loving which we are habituated to?
This is called our “Attachment Style”. As a Relationship Coach, this is a core area I dig into when a couple comes to me with relationship troubles.
We all are used to a certain way of loving. Couples often face pain and conflicts because the way they are used to loving, the way they have been conditioned to love since childhood, is not the best one for a harmonious and fulfilling relationship.
Even though each one of us has our unique way of loving, we can group Attachment Styles into 4 broad categories:
The Secure Attachment is the most conducive for a stable and happy relationship, as it is characterised by a lack of Avoidance as well as a lack of Anxiousness.
Once we understand our Attachment Style and our partners’, we start to see the root behind many of our relationship conflicts. Here are some typical stories:
1.Ritika has been in a relationship with Tanmay for 2 years. Being an avoidant, she wants to stay in the relationship without actually committing. Her refusal or withdrawal from intimacy has become one of the issues of frequent arguments between the two. To maintain her vague sense of freedom, she also prefers keeping secrets. She wants to be on her own in every matter to an extent where she would not even share her financial crisis with Tanmay. And any effort from Tanmay’s side to help her is only seen as an intrusion to her personal space. Her refusal to have emotional communication has been increasing the gap between the two.
Ravi is not critical or judgemental about his wife’s needs. He in fact tries to understand her verbal and non-verbal needs and fulfil them. Ravi perfectly understands Reshma’s need for assurance and emotional attachment in their relationship and is respectful towards them. He also has been committed to their relationship from the beginning and has been clear and vocal about it since then. He believes in mutual co-dependence while enjoying their own independence. He also prefers small gestures like holding hands or cuddling as an expression of love. Since Ravi is a Securely Attached person, his reliability and understanding makes their relationship a successful one.
Arpita is both anxious and avoidant. She prefers being independent. Although she wants intimacy in the relationship, she fears that this may lead to her being dependent on her partner. Thus, she avoids being too close to her partner. She seeks reassurance and validation from her partner. She expects her partner to be committed fearing any form of rejection. She also has an ideal expectation of “the one” which makes her critical about her partner’s behaviour and thus finding fault in the smallest inconveniences. Although she prefers her own space, she at times longs for emotional bonding with her partner further complicating their equation. But she is taking small steps towards making the relationship better by engaging in different activities and spending more quality time with her partner.
The good news is that irrespective of what your Attachment Style is currently, it can be changed. Because Attachment Styles are learned behaviours, they can be unlearned, and we can develop an “Earned Secure Attachment”.
This is a core change which we facilitate in counselling. Our Attachment Style can feel “innate”; many people feel they have “always been this way” and don’t know any other way of being. But the truth is that by resolving the root cause behind unhealthy attachment styles, by releasing unexpressed emotional pains, by building a “secure base” inside of us free from unrealistic fears, everyone can develop an Earned Secure Attachment.
If you feel you or your partner has an Anxious or an Avoidant attachment style, feel free to connect with me (+91 7261 950450). There IS a way to release the baggage of the past, heal ourselves, learn positive and constructive relationship behaviours, and end the hurtful patterns in your relationship. It is a one-time work which can gift you and your partner a lifetime of beautiful moments filled with joy, fulfilment, fun and peace.
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