Attachment patterns in dating
Learn more about your attachment and how you can start breaking the patterns today
Your attachment is learned strategies, which means that you can also relearn how to become more confident in meeting new people. From an early age we learn how to relate to our immediate surroundings, and these patterns can affect our relationships in adulthood.
We create relationships through experiences, and we are shaped by how we have been treated, which often matters when we enter new relationships. This means that we develop an attachment pattern, a way of relating to other people. By understanding them we can create safe and sustainable relationships.
Awareness, communication, and understanding are important ingredients for creating a safe and sustainable relationship. If you and your date discuss attachment patterns early on, it can lead to an understanding of what triggers you both and how you can be there for each other when the other feels insecure. There are four main attachment patterns: insecure avoidant, anxious ambivalent, disorganized/fearful-avoidant, and secure attachment. If you don't know your attachment style, take the attachment test.
Insecure avoidant attachment
These people are characterized by being easy to like, which often works well in superficial relationships, but in close relationships they keep more of a distance. People with insecure avoidant attachment tend to have short-term, intense crushes and then end up leaving the relationship. Which often leads to feelings of loneliness and emptiness.
People with an insecure avoidant attachment often carry an experience of having sought support and closeness, but been rejected. Therefore, a fear is created to trust that other people will be there for them. This can make them accustomed to taking care of themselves. They're better at having a logical reasoning about the answers rather than feeling them. Excessive demands for closeness causes them to withdraw.
Become more confident as an avoidant
- Dare to start dating! The fear of being hurt doesn't have to take over the longing of meeting someone.
- Do you feel discomfort in your body? Describe out loud to yourself what just happened and how you automatically interpret it.
- Dare to be open and vulnerable with your date about how you feel.
Anxious (ambivalent) attachment
These people are often described as creative people who are close to their emotions. Many with this attachment have an experience of sometimes being rejected when they have sought closeness, which can lead to feelings of separation anxiety and fear. Separation anxiety is often based on insecurity about closeness, constantly wanting it but at the same time being prepared for it to disappear at any time. In close relationships, people with an anxious attachment can either distance themselves or enter relationships with strong needs for closeness.
Those with the anxious attachment often struggle with an uncertainty about their importance and value to others, which manifests itself in a strong need for confirmation. Just because your date hasn't responded to your last text after an hour doesn't mean they don't like you or wants to continue dating you.
Become more secure than anxious
- Dare to start dating! The fear of being left does not have to take over the longing for closeness.
- Do you feel discomfort in your body? Describe out loud to yourself what just happened and how you now automatically interpret it.
- Talk to your date about how they can express affirmation while you work on receiving it.
The insecure disorganized attachment pattern is somewhat more rare than the others and is a sort of mix between anxious ambivalent and avoidant attachment. A person with the disorganized attachment often fear not daring to trust either themselves or others. This insecurity is often based on an experience of the "fear without solution" type. Despite their great longing for love and security, they tend to avoid closeness, as it is associated with pain and betrayal.
The pattern may have come from growing up with violence or abuse, or that the adults who were around could not interpret the child's signals correctly. They may have become angry when the child cried, creating a frightening experience instead of a comforting one. At worst, this lack of attachment can lead to severe relationship disturbances in adulthood, and many in this group could need professional help.
A challenge that is common within this group is the mixed feelings that arise, one moment you want to be close but the other moment you want to pull away. Here, it can help to talk to your date and accept the feelings for yourself. It's okay to feel two emotions at the same time.
Become more confident as disorganized
- Pay attention to when you only adapt to the needs of others and do not listen to your own at all.
- Do you feel feelings of discomfort and anxiety? Take a moment and reflect upon what you need right now. Can you give it to yourself or ask someone else for it?
- Dare to be open to your date about how your feelings can swing easily and ask for time to explore and express how you feel.
A person with a secure attachment is warm, loving and has a belief that relationships can be secure and long-lasting. They have high trust in others and themselves and are in contact with all emotions - which, for example, means that they handle conflicts well and dare to be vulnerable. The person who has a secure attachment usually does not feel fear of being left and often has a positive view of themselves and their partners and is comfortable with intimacy.
Explore your pattern more
The challenges vary for the different attachments, and if you're curious about challenging your attachment style, here are some tips on how to get started:
Understand your childhood better. What experiences shaped your connection? How has it shaped you? Write it down.
Notice how you react and act in different situations. Dare to stay in the feeling of discomfort. Describe where and how it feels in the body? Repeat the thoughts that come to you out loud.
Try to do the opposite of the impulse – e.g. ask for help when you really want to get away.
You don't have to do everything yourself. With a psychologist, you can get help with various tools and ways of thinking that makes it easier when you interpret yourself and work on breaking unhelpful patterns.