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AN ALTERNATIVE ATTACHMENT

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Each of us has our way of being in a relationship, whether it is dependent, self-sufficient or secure. But, do you know what your attachment style is? Pearl Mathias helps you find out

Just how babies can’t help but cry when they lose sight of their mother, long-distance relationships get challenging by the day and we simply don’t like it when our best friend is getting comfortable with someone else. As humans, we’re wired for attachment, and as we grow up, our experiences shape our style of attachment in various relationships. It’s important to understand this style in order to function better in relationships, and we’re not just talking about the romantic kind here. Attachment patterns are divided into three types — secure, anxious and avoidant — and in most cases, we tend to exhibit a combination of these depending on the situation and the person involved. So, take a look at the behaviours that we generally exhibit to understand which category you fall into.

Secure attachment

  • You’re able to accept your partner’s shortcomings and you treat them with love and respect despite these shortcomings.
  • You don’t play mind games and aren’t manipulative in a relationship.
  • You don’t get defensive in the middle of a conflict.

If these things fit your behaviour in a relationship, you’re one of the fortunate ones. You exhibit a secure attachment style and it’s no surprise to you that you have high a self-esteem. You’re naturally warm and loving, and you don’t feel the need to end things with your partner if their behaviour isn’t in tune with yours. Instead, you accept them, flaws and all, and try to understand where they’re coming from — you accommodate their needs. Small misunderstandings don’t get under your skin and thanks to your self-esteem, you don’t let criticism affect you negatively either. Your way of dealing with conflicts is admirable as you don’t let your ego take over, and instead, focus on positive problem-solving with an open mind and a heart of forgiveness.

Anxious attachment

  • You tend to put aside your needs and wants in order to please your partner.
  • You’re constantly preoccupied with your relationship and often play mind games in order to get your partner’s attention.
  • You don’t take things in a positive light and you end up resorting to negativity during a conflict.

If these things describe you in a relationship, you are probably trying too hard to put your partner’s needs before your own, but since you’re avoiding your own needs in the bargain, this can result in you becoming unhappy from time to time. You spend your time constantly worrying about what your partner wants and when this isn’t met (even after you’ve tried so diligently), it can harbour negative feelings. You also tend to seek your partner’s attention by often withdrawing yourself from them, not answering their calls or texts simply to evoke curiosity, threatening to leave them or even manipulating them. You also experience a pang of jealousy when your partner gives attention to people other than you.

Avoidant attachment

  • You value independence and self-sufficiency above intimacy.
  • You distance your partner by ignoring them or dismissing their needs and feelings.
  • You tend to repress your need for attachment and bury your feelings of distress when your relationship is not going too well.

Just because you like to be self-sufficient, it doesn’t mean that you don’t enjoy closeness. However, if you avoid any display of affection as well as feelings of sadness, you may have avoidant attachment. You love your freedom and you think that a serious commitment will hamper it, and so, you delay it for as long as you can. You may hear your partner complain about how you just don’t want to share your feelings with them and this makes them appear needy to you, which in turn makes you feel stronger and more independent. You also focus on your partner’s minor flaws and may even reminisce about when you were single or consider the possibility of a relationship with someone else.

HOW TO ALTER YOUR ATTACHMENT STYLE
Small changes in your behaviour and mindset can help you alter your attachment style and have a more fulfilling relationship. It’s easy to dismiss these styles with statements like, “It’s just the way I am” or “I can’t help if I feel this way”, but if you’ve made a choice to be in a relationship or are soon getting into one, we think it’s important for you to consider your partner’s feelings as well, but not to such an extent that you end up dismissing your own. Here are some things you can do:

  • If you have an anxious attachment style, it’s essential to note down your fears and insecurities so that you can work on them.
     
  • It’s great to be self-sufficient, but if it’s at the cost of your partner feeling unwanted or ignored, it’s not worth it. Push your boundaries and engage in meaningful conversations every now and then. Sharing your thoughts and feelings isn’t synonymous with being dependent on them.
     
  • If you’ve identified your attachment style as not the healthiest of the lot, you should try and find a partner who has a secure attachment style, from which you can learn.
     
  • It’s important to train yourself not to over-react in a conflict or an argument. Approach the problem together with an open and forgiving mindset.
     
  • Work on your self-esteem so that you don’t feel the need to constantly seek validation from your partner.
     
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I am a robust, healthy man in my early thirties.
Dr. Rajan B. Bhonsle, M.D. (Bom)
Consulting Sex Therapist & Counsellor
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