If your relationship feels stuck in repeated arguments that go nowhere, it may be because deeper issues are being triggered that have to do with your unique attachment style.
In psychology, the term “attachment” refers to how we view and relate to those closest to us. For example, do you tend to view your partner as a safe, loving and supportive person most of the time, or do you experience him or her as undependable, aloof, smothering, threatening or unsafe?
Part of your view of another can stem from how your partner treats you. But part of how we come to view our partners may have little to do with how they have treated us.
Attachment views can be rooted in the past. Perhaps your parent was undependable, abusive or allowed you little room to be yourself. This can create a template in later life where you expect others to do the same. With such a template, you may be on the lookout for signs that another person will not treat you well but ignore or discount evidence when they do treat you well.
Or perhaps your normally supportive present partner wasn’t there for you as you hoped at a crucial time of need. You may have silently decided that you would not depend on your partner from then on.
Dan Neuharth, Ph.D. defines signs that your relationship may be stalemated by unaddressed attachment wounds that you have due to your unique attachment style. He argues that these signs are if you find yourself increasingly:
- Reluctant to be vulnerable
- Spending more time apart
- Arguing more easily and finding it more difficult to talk calmly
- Envisioning worst-case scenarios for the relationship
- Expecting less from your partner
- Viewing your partner in negative ways
- Experiencing far more negative than positive interactions
- Fantasizing about other people, past relationships or leaving the relationship
- Complaining to others about your partner but not letting your partner know
- Feeling less trusting or emotionally safe.
In attachment theory, we are all somewhere on the continuum of being securely to insecurely attached. How securely we tend to attach to others depends on how we were raised, genetics, earlier relationship experiences and other factors.
It’s estimated that half the adult population is relatively securely attached. Securely attached people tend to trust and cooperate with intimate partners more easily.
The other half of the adult population is less securely attached. Less securely attached individuals may find it harder to trust and may experience relationships that have greater conflict or drama.