Can your attachment style change over time? The therapist explains (2023)



July 21, 2021

Couple therapist

Written by Kiaundra Jackson, LMFT

Couple therapist

Kiaundra Jackson, LMFT, is a licensed marriage and family therapist, television personality, and author of Hard Work Or Harmony. She earned a master's degree in clinical psychology from Azusa Pacific University and her work has been published in The New York Times, Oprah Magazine, Essence, VICE, and others.

July 21, 2021

Attachment style is a topic that finally gets all the attention it needs. Why; Because everything we do stems from our attachment to others. The way we deal with romantic relationships, the way we treat our colleagues at work, and even how we parent ourselves are all based on our own attachment style.

According to attachment theory, adults usually have one of thesefour attachment styles;: secure, anxious, evasive or terribly evasive. Most people know that your attachment style is formed in childhood and usually lasts a lifetime, with the goal always being to keep you safe. This means that you can form secure relationships with others, you can trust easily, and you can love and be loved. Person withsecure attachment stylehe is not afraid of intimacy and he is not afraid of others leaving when they give him space.

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But research suggestsonly 56% of adults have a secure attachment style. And what happens when you doinsecure attachment style;– that is, are you prone to avoidance or anxiety? Can you ever achieve a secure attachment if your childhood has set you on a path of insecurity?

Simply put: can your attachment style change? The answer is yes, and here's why:

How your attachment style can change your whole life.

When we talk about changing the attachment style, three different scenarios come to mind.

Scenario 1: Through life experiences.

The boy - let's call him Aaron - is growing up in a loving home. His parents are very protective of him, there were no visible injuries during his upbringing and he realized very early how much they loved him. The consistency of his parents showed him that he could trust others as he learned to love and be loved. He grew up with a secure attachment style.

Later in life when he started dating, Aaron experienced a series of unhealthy romantic relationships involving partners who did everything from cheating and lying to monitoring his phone and social media. These partners had one of the insecure attachment styles, which devastated him.

Instead of allowing the secure attachment style he always knew to remain strong and stable, Aaron allowed the wall to be built. He began to avoid and rely on himself. He tried so hard to protect himself from getting hurt again in his next relationship that he became the opposite of who he was supposed to be. His attachment style was based on securityavoidance.

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Scenario 2: Between Relationships.

I once worked with a client we'll call Susan (she gave me permission to share her story) who hadanxious attachment style;. She was in a relationship with someone and she was always on edge. It wasn't the healthiest of relationships from the start: she was constantly worried about whether he would leave her or talk to another woman, she analyzed every word he said to come up with stories about why he might break up with her soon, and she felt extremely insecure. when she wasn't there. Susan even checked some of his text messages on his phone. Not surprisingly, the relationship ended for various reasons.

After working through the breakup and intensive work in therapy, she met someone new. I noticed the change right away. The way she communicated with and talked about him was completely different from her previous relationship. There was no trace of envy or anxiety in him. He agreed with the distance and space he needed for his work. They had amazing journeys together, and she was free to love and be loved.

When I mentioned it to her, she admitted it was true - the way she was engaged to her new boyfriend was actually much healthier than in her last relationship. Susan did not show the anxiety and worry she once felt. We later learned that he also had a secure attachment style, which may have contributed to the noticeable difference in dynamics.

This was a perfect example of the truth about the nature of attachment styles: A person's attachment style can change depending on who they're in a relationship with - or, in some cases, change permanently.

Scenario 3: Through personal development.

I've been aware all my life that I have a stressful attachment style. This attachment style comes from my upbringing (it's a long story!) and influenced how I manifested myself in my romantic relationships. I was prone to reassurance, got nervous when my partner needed space, doubted myself, lacked total trust, and found it difficult to receive love easily.

That said, I've been going to therapy for over ten years. During this decade, I have worked deeply on myself and the way I interact with others.

I recently dated a person who clearly had an avoidant attachment style. At first I couldn't see, but then the signs appeared. Instead of reverting to my normal anxious attachment style, I did the opposite. I started giving examples of secure fasteners. Seriously, my therapist literally said, "I'm so proud of you. I don't know if you can see it, but lately you've been dealing with your relationships in a safe way!"

Lottery! It happened again - but this time withM.

Why; I put in the necessary work to get to a healthier state and, boy, did I feel good. To be honest, it still needs a lot of work on my part. I want to go back to my old "anxious" ways of doing things because that's all I've known for so long. But it's nice to be on this side. This is where I chose to stay!

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Select a change.

Did Aaron, Susan, and I change our attachment styles? be careful.

Changing your attachment style for the better is not an easy task. It requires recognition, work, re-adjusting interactions, resetting boundaries, learning healthier ways to relate, and dealing with trauma. Professional help is usually very effective.

Here are some things to keep in mind as you work to change your attachment style:

  • Know your attachment style and recognize the styles of those around you.Trust me: it will help you a lot to understand the actions of others, and you will have more empathy and compassion.
  • Confirm the process.The goal is a secure attachment style, but keep in mind that it will take time to achieve this. Give yourself grace if you are anxious, avoidant or afraid of avoiding. There is no time limit. Take your time to reach your chosen destination.
  • Don't take this journey alone.If you can, seek out a therapist or counselor, or look for resources such as self-study books and podcasts.
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No matter what attachment style you currently have, remember that we are all human, dealing with the same issues in different forms. You really can do anything you set your mind to. If one of your goals is to develop a healthier attachment style, you can do it!

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