Your childhood may be a distant memory at this point in time, but experiences from your younger days can still have ways of affecting your life now. That's especially true when it comes to relationships. As strange as it may seem, what you learned as a child can play a role in determining the type of partners you choose, how fast or slow your relationships progress, and even how you deal with heartbreak. If your relationships have been less than ideal, it may be a good idea to figure out what your attachment style is.
"Attachment styles define how we relate to other people and get our needs met," Dr. Sal Raichbach PsyD at Ambrosia Treatment Center, tells Bustle. It's something that's learned very early on when you're a baby. Your attachment style is based on how your parents responded to your needs.
According to Jacob Kountz, marriage and family therapist trainee and Clinic Manager at CSU Bakersfield, there are many growing sub-types of attachment styles but these four are the most popular and well-known: secure, avoidant, ambivalent, and disorganized.
If someone has a secure attachment style, their parents (or caregivers) attended to them while they were in distress, and now, they're likely to feel secure, healthy, and happy in their relationships. For those with avoidant attachment style, their parents were likely distant or disengaged, and now, they might be emotionally distant, less explorative, and feel like their needs won't be met in their relationships. Ambivalent attachment style results from parents who were inconsistent — sometimes sensitive and attentive and other times they were neglectful. The adult may then become anxious, insecure, and confused in their relationships.
The final attachment style, disorganized attachment style, results from parents who likely reacted to moments of stress by getting frightened, withdrawing completely, or acting in ways that were unpredictable and erratic. As a result, an adult is more likely to be non-responsive, angry, or passive in their relationships.
"Humans have an innate function called neuroplasticity which means they have the capability to learn, structure and restructure specific concepts in their minds," Kountz says. "When children are consistently experiencing certain behaviors from parents, the neural pathways of these memories become stronger and stronger. Eventually, children become jaded by these reactions from their parents and generally accept these situations and perceive it as, 'This is just how things are.'"
Because of this, attachment styles can affect how you relate to others as an adult. So what's your attachment style? While answering "yes" to these questions may not guarantee you an exact, or fixed answer, it can help give you further insight into how you may act in relationships, and why you may be feeling the way you currently do. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to understand more.