How Understanding Your Attachment Styles Can Improve Your Relationships

attachment style relationships Feb 02, 2021

     We have discussed attachment styles in the last few posts. In my LinkedIn article, Determining How You’re Attached in Love and Money, I did an overview about how the attachment theory (which is the study of relationships) determines how you view things, how you react in situations, and how you show up in your relationships. I also explored how by understanding these four styles and identifying them in yourself and your intimate partner, you can more clearly understand why you each react as you do. In making clearer the emotions and feelings that arise in discussions about the tough stuff, like love and money, you can gain some security and comfort in having these more difficult conversations. Today I would like to touch on the four styles, describing them further, and then give you a case study example of how a couple might behave in one of those emotionally charged situations.  

How You Can Identify Your Attachment Style

     Before we discuss the styles, I want to be clear in saying that this is a brief overview. You are not going to need psychology textbooks to understand what I am sharing here. That said, the Attachment Theory is a very in-depth topic, in fact, so much so I have written a book that will come out later this year (more about that later). What I am providing in this post are the broad points. Here are the four styles and a few of the general characteristics common to that style.

  •       Secure – Typically they are comfortable with themselves. They view others as a source of security, care, and safety.
  •       Anxious – Normally uncomfortable with themselves, they look to others to find security, care, and safety but even if they receive these things from someone, they do not trust that it is real.
  •       Avoidant – This style will often become very self-reliant because they are not trusting of others to provide for their security, care, or safety.
  •       Disorganized – A disorganized style is a mix of the anxious and avoidant styles in their relationship patterns.

     You may, even with this brief description, see yourself in one of these styles. I would however like to suggest you take a brief quiz. It is free and available on Dr. Diane Poole Heller’s website. In just a few minutes it will give you a clearer picture of what your attachment style is and help you to understand yourself and perhaps why you feel as you do when faced with these difficult discussions.   

Exploring Attachment Styles: A Case Study of Dave and Stephanie

     Dave and Stephanie (fictional characters) are approaching their 30th wedding anniversary. They have two kids, their daughter, Jessica is 29 and married, their son Jackson is 25 and in the military. With both kids well established, they are ready to enjoy the empty-nester lifestyle, but their views of what that means differ significantly.

     Dave’s attachment style is secure. He is comfortable in where they are and wants to make plans of where they are going. He’s asking himself, ‘What comes next for us?’. Stephanie has an anxious attachment style. She is concerned about having enough and wants to squirrel all they can away for “the future.” Knowing their attachment styles, let’s consider this example. 

      Dave would like to have a vacation home and split their time between Wisconsin and Florida. He feels they should enjoy the freedom they have earned. He has even started researching where they should buy in Florida. Dave has been the one initiating the conversations and Stephanie usually expresses very little but feels uncomfortable with the idea. 

      Stephanie feels this move and additional property threatens their security and spreads them thin, but she does not share this with Dave. While Dave sees her hesitation, he moves forward, thinking she will “come around.” Imagine his surprise when he suggests a trip to Florida to meet a realtor and have a look, and Stephanie snaps at him. The very suggestion creates a knot in her stomach.  Dave feels confused when Stephanie goes on to say that she does not want to go and that it is a terrible idea, and they should be saving their money. She’s never been this vocal about it before. He is frustrated and surprised by her reaction to what he sees as a way to enjoy each other and spend time together, while she sees it as a waste of money and a threat to their security.

How to Use this Information to Improve Your Relationships

      As you can see Dave and Stephanie’s conversation was a difficult one since their views are vastly different. They both have valid reasons for how they think about what their future should hold. Had they known each other’s attachment style, this conversation would not have led to the disappointment and frustration that it did. With work, they were able to align their visions and move forward with a shared plan that meets both of their needs. How do you then apply this for yourself? 

      By understanding the underlying feelings that form you and your partner’s views, you are able to communicate more effectively together. The shared sense of understanding will also help you navigate conversations and come to a place where your goals for your future financial wellness align. 

      Finding your attachment styles is your first step. Then, perhaps seeking financial therapy may help you learn to communicate more effectively. What I can say with certainty, is understanding your styles will help you better understand each other and improve your relationship as you move forward.

     Would you like more 1 on 1 support? Then perhaps Therapy Informed Financial Planning is for the two of you. I invite you to schedule your free 30-minute discovery call today.

Wishing You Healthy Love and Money,

Ed Coambs


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