What Happens When Contradictory Attachment Styles Are In A Relationship?

Ilma Haider

28 June 2022

9 Min

What Happens When Contradictory Attachment Styles Are In A Relationship?

Table of Contents

We have all heard it; communication is the key to a healthy and successful relationship. But some of us do not get to this point because of different attachment styles in a relationship.

Let's be honest; it is not very easy to handle a relationship—especially when your partner is constantly sending mixed signals. Maybe your partner tells you they need space but then becomes available all day long. They feel like they are into you but do not prioritize you.

"All hurt and pain are founded on attachment to anything regardless of its nature."

These attachment issues in a relationship can make or break it. But if you get to the root of these issues and learn where they are coming from, you can learn more about your relationship and where you stand with your partner. Of course, the best way to know where you stand in your relationship is by understanding the relationship attachment styles your partner may show.

In this blog, we will understand how contradicting and conflicting attachment styles in a relationship can be the reason behind cross-wiring in relationships and why miscommunication might not be the only red flag.

But first, let us understand what attachment styles are.

What Are Attachment Styles?

In simple words, attachment styles in a relationship are ways of relating or understanding others in a relationship that are made of bonds, whether new or old.

There are four types, secure, anxious, avoidant and fearful-avoidant. Do any of these sound similar or understandable to you?

It all starts during the early years of our childhood. Relationship attachment styles are mostly developed in infancy, based on your relationship with the earliest caregivers. Most researchers believe that attachment styles are formed in the early years of a child’s life and can affect them in their adulthood also. The different experiences caused in adulthood can affect a person’s future attachment styles in a relationship because we are more immune to trauma as adults.

Attachment issues in a relationship can apply to all forms of relationships, and not only the romantic ones. But mostly, these contradicting styles are present in platonic or familial relationships.

Types Of Attachment Styles In A Relationship

types of attachment styles

We all have been through a phase of dating someone and can not help but wonder what our future will be like together. Will this relationship last, or will we get married? Is this love real or not? All of these are valid questions, and the only way to find the correct answer for this is by reading and understanding our partner’s contradicting attachment style.

Analyzing Attachment Styles

To fully understand your relationship attachment style, first, we will need to understand what attachment is. Attachment is an emotional bond between two people that is characterised as feelings of security, dependence and closeness.

Mainly, there are four different types of attachment styles:

  • Secure
  • Anxious
  • Avoidant
  • Disorganized

In this article, we will help you determine and understand each of these and help you find which one you identify the most with.

1. Secure attachment style

Secure attachment is built with the help of healthy and long-lasting relationships. Secure attachment styles in a relationship are a result of feeling safe with your caregiver. This style includes being able to ask for validation and reassurance.

Ultimately feeling understood, safe and comforted by partners from an early age in life. For this type of attachment to last, caregivers need to be emotionally available and aware of their behaviours and emotions.

Secure attachment style can be recognised from the following:

  • ability to regulate emotions,
  • trusting others,
  • able to seek emotional support,
  • better communication skills,
  • finding comfort in one another,
  • able to self-reflect on relationships/partners,
  • better conflict management,
  • easy to connect with, and
  • being emotionally available.

The secure attachment style helps people grow up feeling more securely through emotional and physical care, and it engages people to live a more healthy lifestyle. This is why people with secure attachment styles in a relationship tend to handle and navigate relationships better. They have a positive, trusting and loving nature.

People who follow a secure attachment style are more likely to understand their partner’s intentions, and jealousy is not the biggest issue for them. These people believe they are worthy of love and do not need extra reassurance.

2. Anxious attachment style

This is also known as ambivalent or anxious-preoccupied attachment style. This type of attachment style in a relationship is characterized by:

  • the feeling of fear or rejection,
  • feelings of abandonment,
  • depending on your partner for emotional regulation,
  • depending on validations,
  • codependent tendencies

Anxious attachment style in a relationship is built from inconsistent and bad parenting attitudes or styles, therefore not fulfilling a child’s needs. People who have an anxious attachment style tend to have difficulty understanding their partners and have zero security of what to expect from others. As a result, these people feel unstable and confused in relationships.

Many times people who suffer from anxious attachment styles also suffer from high-stress levels. These people require someone supportive and responsive to their needs. Unfortunately, people who grow up with this often think they are supposed to take care of everyone’s feelings and become codependent.

People who have anxious attachment issues in a relationship may become:

  • Easily overwhelmed
  • Being attentive at first and then pushing away
  • Puts all the responsibility on you
  • Sometimes overly coddling and sometimes detached

Signs of knowing if someone has an anxious attachment style:

  • Sensitive to criticism
  • Needs constant approval
  • Clingy tendencies
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feeling unworthy
  • Difficulty being alone
  • Jealousy
  • Fear of rejection
  • Abandonment issues
  • Difficulty trusting others

Most people who have an anxious attachment style tend to feel unworthy of care or love and need regular reassurance from their partners. They may blame themselves for the challenges faced in the relationship and can get intensely jealous or disturbed due to their poor self-esteem. All of this is because of feelings of rejection, abandonment and loneliness.

3. Avoidant attachment style

Also known as dismissive-avoidant or insecure attachment style. Avoidant attachment style in a relationship is defined by the failure to strengthen the long-term relationship with others. This is due to the inability to engage in emotional or physical intimacy.

Avoidant attachment style is developed from having emotionally distant or extremely strict parents or caregivers. Avoidant attachment style usually consists of:

  • Being left to fend for yourself
  • Being called out for depending on someone
  • Expected to become independent
  • Emotional rejections
  • Slow in responding to basic needs

There are different reasons behind this attachment issue. Sometimes people are outright neglected or are slightly ignorant. People who suffer from this are used to adopting a sense of independence at an early age so that they do not have to rely on anyone else for support.

People who suffer from avoidant relationship attachment issues may have:

  • Strong sense of independence
  • Avoiding emotional and physical intimacy
  • Uncomfortable in expressing feelings
  • Dismissive of others
  • Hard at trusting others
  • Feels threatened by closeness
  • Has commitment issues
  • Believe in staying alone
  • Spend more time alone

People who have an avoidant attachment style in a relationship lack the need for emotional intimacy, so they are less likely to reach romantic levels of depth in a relationship. These people will allow romantic partners to engage with them but avoid getting emotionally involved.

4. Disorganized attachment style

Also known as the anxious-disorganized attachment style, it is defined as inconsistent behaviour and extreme difficulty trusting others.

The main causes of disorganized attachment style in a relationship are trauma, abuse or neglect as a child. It can also be caused due to the fear of past caregivers or present. People with this attachment style are mostly confused. Disorganized attachment is due to inconsistent behaviour or caregivers. This leads to disorganized behaviour.

Signs of disorganized behaviour:

  • Unable to express emotions
  • Fear of rejection
  • Changing behaviour
  • Anxiety
  • Unable to trust others

Disorganized attachment style can also be associated with mental health conditions:

  • Personality disorder
  • Self-harm
  • Mood disorders

People who have disorganized attachment styles in a relationship usually have unpredictable and confusing behaviour. These people in a relationship can alternate between being aloof and independent, clingy and suddenly emotional. Disorganized attachment issues in a relationship cause people to seek love desperately, but they also push their partners away due to the fear of rejection. They do not avoid emotional intimacy but fear it.

How These Styles Affect A Relationship

where does your attachment style stand

Have you been in a relationship with someone emotionally unavailable? Or with someone who was emotionally exhausting?

We get so involved in finding the right one for us that we forget to look at their dating style. And when things go wrong, we start to doubt ourselves.

So, how does contradicting attachment style affect relationships? Well, the biggest way attachment styles can affect a relationship is through miscommunication. People with different styles can view their relationships through different lenses. The problem arises when partners realise they are not on the same page. It then feels like a game of telephone with two people; every message seems to get mixed up between them.

Why is this? Because relationship attachment styles are about underlying assumptions. A person who has a secure attachment style assumes the best in their partner; they can take things for their face value. You can say anything to them, and you will only get respect and affection from them.

But when put together with someone who has an anxious attachment style, the entire subcontract changes. Anxious attachment style makes a person assume the worst because of their personal experience. These people look for the hidden signs, read people, and try to withhold their affection as sort of a test.

These patterns can be seen from relationship to relationship. The signs of attachment styles show up in even the most intimate relationships. Even today, a lot of people are unable to realise what their relationship attachment issues are without proper guidance. And if you can’t figure out the attachment style in your relationship, then you can’t easily change it. In short, attachment styles are about getting your own needs met.

Can someone change their attachment style? Yes, but it can take a lot of hard work. In most cases, therapists have been helpful. But it is important to be aware of your attachment style and the choices you make with your partner. A therapist can only guide your development.

FAQs

There are mainly two types of conflicts in a relationship, a) Intrapersonal conflicts, these are the conflicts caused within the individual. These conflicts arise as a result of two or more motives or goals to be achieved at a time. b) Interpersonal conflicts are caused between individuals. This can be resolved through some strategies such as avoiding, smoothing, forcing, confronting and compromising.
Whenever there is conflict, our first natural reaction is to be defensive in a disagreeable situation. In such situations controlling the temper & anger is needed to handle things in a good manner. So, yes, it is normal to have conflicts, but we need to learn how to control them
Every relationship is different. Hence each relationship has a different fight. Of course, natural arguing is understandable, but verbal abuse, physical abuse, toxic behaviour etc., are the real unhealthy aspects of a relationship.
The top four types of conflict styles in a relationship are 1. Secure attachment, 2. Ambivalent (or anxious-preoccupied) attachment, 3. Avoidant-dismissive attachment, and 4. Disorganized attachment.
The reality of it is based on how your partner treats you. The things that constitute a healthy relationship rely on us as people individually, such as honesty, generosity, dedication, or being respectful. These are things that determine whether or not a relationship is healthy.

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