The Four Attachment Styles
Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy is based upon Attachment Science. Unquestionably, at the core of this are the attachment styles that all Human Beings have. There are four attachment styles: secure, anxious, avoidant, and disorganized which is also identified as fearful avoidant. We develop these attachment styles based on interactions with parents, care-givers, siblings, peers, and life experiences.
Attachment styles can and do change. With out a doubt, this dynamic creates significant hope. The primary focus of Couple’s Therapy/Marriage Counseling is working with the couples to develop secure attachment with one another. Overall, life is lighter, easier, and more emotionally fulfilling with secure attachment.
Disorganized of Fearful Avoidant
The disorganized or fearful avoidant attachment style is a reaction to traumatic life-experiences. An individual with disorganized attachment will exhibit both the anxious and avoidant style. Moreover, they often do not feel they are deserving of love or closeness in relationships. This makes sense in the context of their life experiences. Significantly, they protect themselves by using these defense mechanisms.
Anxious and Avoidant
Anxiously attached and avoidantly attached couples are the most common pairing I see. Often, when we are asking for what we need from our romantic partner, we either ask too loud (the anxious partner) or we do not ask at all (the avoidant partner). Consequently, the louder the anxious partner asks, as the anger and frustration grows, the more the avoidant partner is strongly motivated to withdraw. Therefore, communication becomes painful. This repetitive dance can become overwhelming, hurtful, anger inducing and disconnecting.
It is often said that the anxious partner can say things convincingly twelve different ways, while the avoidant partner can say nothing at all. Being anxious or avoidant are coping styles. They are our ways of dealing with the stress of being disconnected from our partner.
Couples Therapy/Marriage Counseling helps slow down the reactivity and integrate safety, flexibility, empathy, and curiosity into the conversation. Emotional safety is the first step in the process of change.
Changing Attachment Styles and Becoming Securely Attached
Changing a client’s attachment style takes time and hard work. Undoubtedly, it is well worth the effort. Metaphorically speaking, at the end of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, partners know the music of their relationship dance, understand why it is compelling, grasp how to dance together in harmony and know how to reset the music and steps when then dance goes wrong. These qualities are some of the significant benefits of secure attachment.