…Do You Know Your Attachment Style?
In case you’ve never heard of attachment styles, they have become a hot talking point for couples over the past few years. Stemming from early childhood relationships with caregivers, your attachment style determines how you relate to others, especially in romantic relationships. Knowing your and your partner’s attachment styles can help you make sense of the way you relate and the dynamics of your relationship, and you can deepen your understanding of each other through this inquiry.
Quiz: What’s your attachment style?
Before we delve into the specifics of each attachment style, humor us by taking a brief quiz. Your responses will help elucidate your attachment style. The answer choices have been intentionally exaggerated a little bit to show the distinction between attachment styles. Answer these questions as honestly as you can; imagine what you would be more likely to do, rather than what you wish you would do in an ideal world. There are no right and wrong answers. If none of the answers fit perfectly, choose the answer that is the closest to your actual behavior.
1. You and your partner are having an enlivening conversation about potential honeymoon destinations when suddenly their brow furrows a bit and they take a pause before leaning forward and announcing “by the way, I think we should talk about getting a prenup.” How do you react?
A. Your eyes widen and your heart begins to beat fast. This is it–the dreaded first sign of cracks in the relationship. Is this what you have been fearing? Does this mean your partner is not as committed as you?
B. You breathe a sigh of relief and say “oh, thank you for being the first one to bring this up.” You always like to have a contingency plan in case things go wrong, and if you’re really honest, some days it’s hard for you to visualize ‘forever’.
C. You bite your lip, conflicted and unsure of how to respond. You feel equal parts relieved to have a prenup on the table and slighted because you wonder if your partner is questioning the relationship.
D. You know that there are a million reasons why your partner might be making this suggestion. You lean in, get curious, and say “tell me more. What made you think about this option?”
2. You’ve decided to get a prenup, and you’ve begun the process of discussing your needs and interests regarding what to include. These discussions are sometimes a little bit tense or emotionally involved. After such conversations, you…
A. Feel very insecure; you seek reassurance from your partner and try to engage them in couple-y activities and extra snuggling and quality time.
B. Feel withdrawn, like you need some space and some me time.
C. Crave space and go on a walk or to your favorite pub, but soon begin to feel insecure and text your partner something sweet in a bid to get reassurance.
D. Feel a little bit drained, but neither extremely insecure nor in extreme need of space. Your low-energy state might lead to you snapping at your partner unnecessarily, though.
3. During the prenup process, you and your partner have an argument over how you plan to manage and potentially divide shared assets. You respond to the argument by…
A. Continuing to argue endlessly in hopes of getting the result you desire, and/or feel unable to calm down until your partner has shown you love and reassurance.
B. Arming yourself with a long list of grievances and arguments about why you are right and your partner is wrong.
C. Protecting your feelings by withdrawing and not opening up. The argument brings up your fear that your partner doesn’t think very highly of you (although to be fair, you sometimes don’t think highly of them, either.)
D. Rolling your eyes and perhaps nit-picking your partner’s words at times, but continuing to engage in the conversation without it stirring up worries or reservations about the relationship as a whole.
4. Your future mother-in-law wants to weigh in on your prenup; it seems she is rather concerned about family assets staying in the family in case of divorce. This sparks a tense conversation. You feel…
A. Terrified. Could her evident lack of trust in the relationship mean your partner said something behind your back? Or what about if her lack of trust influences your partner’s feelings towards you?
B. Frozen. You can’t stand these kinds of high-stakes conflict situations. Outwardly you act calm, but you feel the opposite. Your mind starts trying to come up with ways to get out of the conversation.
C. A combination of A and B.
D. You’re not thrilled, but you get where she’s coming from. Although the discussion might be uncomfortable, you get through it without connecting it to the potential demise of your relationship and without trying to run away.
5. You’re finally finished with the prenup-writing process! You and your partner go out for a romantic candlelit dinner to celebrate. The mood feels intimate, and when your eyes meet across the table, you…
A. Hold their gaze until they look away, then try to catch their eye again. You want to savor this special moment of connection, to drink it in. You never tire of such moments, and you wish they could happen all the time.
B. Shift in your seat a little and avoid lingering eye contact. This kind of intimate encounter feels vulnerable in a way that makes you a little bit uncomfortable.
C. Shift your gaze to your partner’s face as your heart quickens. These kinds of intimate moments make you feel simultaneously elated and scared.
D. Smile broadly and feel content without grasping or craving more.
Results (what are the 4 attachment styles?)
Mostly A’s: Anxious-Preoccupied Attachment Style
If your early caregiver(s) either didn’t pick up on and respond to your needs correctly or were inconsistent in their behavior and relationship with you, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ve developed anxious-preoccupied attachment. You might have a strong fear of rejection or abandonment, tend to become very preoccupied with the behavior of your partner, and desire more companionship and displays of love and reassurance than most partners are willing or able to give (The Attachment Project, Anxious Attachment, 2020). On the bright side, however, you are probably very loyal and devoted in relationships, are usually committed to working through any issues, and are highly attuned to the needs of your partner (TAP Benefits of Anxious Attachment, 2020).
Mostly B’s: Dismissive-Avoidant Attachment Style
During the first eighteen months of your life, you may have experienced your primary caregiver(s) as being distant, emotionally unavailable, or otherwise not meeting your needs. As a result, you may have formed the belief that the people you meet in life are incapable of meeting your needs, therefore making them unreliable. People with a dismissive-avoidant attachment style tend to avoid emotional closeness with others in order to not set themselves up for rejection or abandonment. Of course, this process is largely unconscious. Dismissive-avoidant people tend to easily find flaws in their partners, avoid emotional intimacy, and call off relationships quickly. However, dismissive-avoidant attachment style is also correlated with more rapid response to threats, which can be beneficial in many life situations. These people are also often confident, ambitious and focused on their work, and independent (TAP, Superpowers of Dismissive-Avoidant Attachment, 2020).
Related read: Is a Prenup the Key to a Peaceful Divorce?
Mostly C’s: Fearful-Avoidant Attachment Style
If your early caregiver(s) acted chaotically, strangely, or inconsistently or if you experienced trauma or abuse in your early years, you may have developed a fearful-avoidant attachment style. At an early age, this type experienced their parent(s) or guardian(s) as a source of both fear and security (TAP, Superpowers of Fearful Avoidant Attachment, 2020). In their adult relationships, they both crave and fear intimacy. This leads to an inconsistent pattern of behavior in which their partners experience something akin to them signaling “come here, now go away, now come here, now go away” on a constant loop. Like dismissive-avoidants, fearful-avoidant types are great to have on a team because they are highly sensitive and responsive to any threats, acting as a sort of guardian for the team. In relationships, they’re likely to retain their individuality and independence, and are often supportive and encouraging towards their partners (TAP, Superpowers of Fearful Avoidant Attachment, 2020).
Mostly D’s: Secure Attachment Style
It’s likely that your early caregiver(s) met your physical and emotional needs mostly consistently and provided you with warmth, validation, opportunity to explore your interests, and protection. As a result, you have developed a secure attachment style, which means that you are able to get close to and trust others without fear of closeness and without losing your identity in relationships. However, secure attachment absolutely does not mean that you never argue. In fact, securely attached individuals are sometimes prone to illustrating their concerns about their partner’s behavior (unrelated to the relationship) in unkind ways, which can start or fuel arguments (Ishak, 2019).
Related read: 5 Affordable Honeymoon Destinations You Haven’t Considered Yet
Prenup Advice Based on Your Attachment Style
Anxious-preoccupied: If the prenup has you fearing future abandonment, remember that the very fact of writing a prenup means you’ve reached the stage of making a lifelong commitment to one another, and that the prenup is merely a stepping stone on the way to your married life.
Dismissive-avoidant: If there’s anyone who needs a prenup, it’s you. No, not because we think your marriage is going to fail, silly. Because we know that you appreciate your independence and individuality, and a prenup can help you retain that sense of autonomy by setting boundaries and clarifying what belongs to whom.
Fearful-avoidant: The most inconsistent and inwardly-conflicted of all the attachment styles, fearful avoidants would do well to sit with themselves and get clear on what they want in their prenup in order to account for (and potentially eliminate some) internal inconsistencies before writing the contract.
Secure: If your partner fits into any of the above insecure attachment styles, be patient with them during the prenup-writing process. Make sure that you understand their attachment style well. If it causes any bumps in the road, remember not to take that personally. Before you start writing your prenup, talk to each other about how you can best support one another throughout the process.
Related read: The love languages and your prenup.
I’m insecurely attached! Is there no hope for me?!
Not to worry! Insecurely attached people (that is to say, people with either anxious-preoccupied, dismissive-avoidant, or fearful-avoidant attachment styles) can still develop secure attachment well into adulthood (TAP, 2020). Your Personality, a project which researches attachment styles, offers an online attachment style quiz which one can log into and take as frequently as they like. The quiz charts and graphs various aspects of personality and attachment style in different relationships and even depicts how they change over time. Many users will find that their attachment style changes quite a bit throughout different life phases and different types of relationships; your attachment style in your relationship with your mother might be different than your attachment style in your relationship with your spouse, for example. Our brains are very dynamic, and attachment style is no exception. It takes inner work and dedication, but an insecure attachment style can absolutely be transformed into a secure one.
Ishak, R. 2019. How to Have a Healthy Argument with Your Partner, According to Your Attachment Style. Retrieved from: https://hellogiggles.com/lifestyle/have-healthy-argument-according-to-attachment-style/
The Attachment Project. 2020. Secure Attachment – From Childhood to Adult Relationships. Retrieved from: https://www.attachmentproject.com/blog/secure-attachment/
The Attachment Project. 2020. The Superpowers of Dismissive Avoidant Attachment. Retrieved from: https://www.attachmentproject.com/blog/dismissive-avoidant-attachment-superpowers/
The Attachment Project. 2020. Anxious Attachment: Causes and Symptoms. Retrieved from: https://www.attachmentproject.com/blog/anxious-attachment/
The Attachment Project. 2020. The Superpowers of Fearful-Avoidant Attachment. Retrieved from: https://www.attachmentproject.com/blog/fearful-avoidant-disorganized-superpowers/