Many people view the New Year as a blank slate or a fresh start. If you are someone who has dealt with attachment injury, you might face additional obstacles. Fortunately, whether you are 23 or 93, you are designed to heal and can always bring more secure attachment into your life.
As with any pursuit, developing secure attachment is a practice, not perfection. Striving to make small changes each month can lead to significant changes all year!
Avoidant Attachment to Secure Attachment Tips
Avoidantly attached individuals didn’t have their needs met as children, and therefore, learned to rely heavily on themselves for everything. Avoidant attachment impacts about 30 percent of the population and makes it particularly tricky for avoidant adults to reach out and ask for help, even when they desperately need it. As you can imagine, this can be a constant challenge in relationships where we rely on our partners emotionally and practically.
#1 You Don’t Have to Do Everything on Your Own
The best way to move more toward secure attachment is to gain awareness around your constant drive for independence. Everyone likes to be needed and trusted. Asking for help from your partner not only relieves some of the stress off of your shoulders, but also lets them know that you want and need them.
#2 Tear Down the Walls
Is something on your mind? Try sharing it with your partner rather than internalizing everything. Sharing your thoughts and feelings with your partner improves intimacy and connection. You can be honest. Your partner probably knows that sharing your thoughts feels uncomfortable for you, but even a small interaction is practice and helps you move toward secure attachment.
#3 Don’t Overly Criticize Your Partner
Often, adults with avoidant attachment can be overly critical of others – especially their partners. Remind yourself that no one is perfect – not your partner (or even you!). Try to look at the intent of your partner, whether it’s trying to help solve a problem or to connect with you and stop being so hard on everyone around you.
Ambivalent/Anxious Attachment to Secure Attachment Tips
Ambivalently attached individuals had unpredictability in their childhoods. Their caregivers were often on-again-and-off-again when it came to meeting their needs. The results are anxiousness and a “walking on eggshells” kind of feeling that causes you to “tune-in” too closely to others’ needs, while not voicing or even acknowledging your own. This type of attachment style affects about 25 percent of the population.
#4 Let Yourself Have Needs (and Communicate Them!)
Rather than racing around attuned continuously to your partner, be sure you are also asking yourself if your needs are being met. What is your heart’s desire? Communicate your needs fairly and clearly with your partner or your closest friends. You deserve to have needs too (and to ask for help having them met!).
#5 Learn to Self-Regulate and Co-Regulate in Harmony
Often in conflict, people with anxious attachment styles will sit with their anxiety until they get validation or reassurance from others in their lives. In other words, anxiously attached adults will often sit with their anxiety and fear, finding it difficult to comfort themselves.
What makes you emotionally content? Do you practice regular self-care? When you feel disharmony, try calming yourself with a favorite activity or relaxation practice. Meditation, a bath, or doing something special for yourself can slow the heart rate and lead you toward more secure attachment.
Naturally, there are times when you do need to co-regulate with a partner or friend. Start by turning your awareness to times when it’s ok to take care of yourself and when you need help bringing yourself back to a healthy baseline.
#6 Don’t Hold on So Tight
Adults with ambivalent or anxious attachment styles tend to smother the “other” in their relationships. Controlling and demanding characteristics will often lead to the opposite effect you are going for and push others away.
Loosen the grip because sometimes your love style can be overwhelming.
Disorganized Attachment to Secure Attachment Tips
Disorganized attachment is wavering back and forth between avoidant and anxious styles. While relatively rare, disorganized attachment stems from scary or abusive relationships and can have a lifelong impact on adult relationships. Like avoidant and anxious styles, however, healing and moving more toward secure attachment is possible.
#7 Focus on Relationships That Let You Be Yourself
When in relationship with others, notice how you feel in their presence. Are you comfortable being yourself? If you have friends or partners who make you feel comfortable, focus on those relationships. If you have a history of trauma, become aware that you might find yourself in relationships that can re-trigger your trauma. Close friends, family, and trusted lovers will help you gain more security.
#8 Develop a Support System
Because relationships can feel scary, it might be tempting to isolate yourself. Instead, try building a support system of trusted friends, colleagues, or even professionals that help you heal. When you feel yourself struggling, you will have someone to rely on.
#9 Consider Talking to an Attachment Therapist
Talking to a therapist trained in attachment theory can help any of the attachment styles move toward greater security. Even those with secure attachment styles may wish to heal old wounds and amend the habitual patterns that interrupt their relationships in adulthood. Attachment therapists will use corrective exercises and trauma healing to help adults achieve greater connectedness and intimacy.