If you are reading this, you probably already know something about attachment styles.
A brief recap. Attachment Styles is based on a theory in psychology that explains how we seek connection, form close relationships and react or respond when our sense of security and safety in the relationship is threatened.
According to this theory, we each have a primary attachment style, and you are either securely attached or insecurely attached. How you come to be that way has to do with what happened to you at childhood and the relationship you had (and have) with your parents or primary caregivers.
Do I really need to go into all that stuff about childhood? Google attachment styles and there is a whole bunch of stuff to read.
Here I’ll discuss how attachment styles play out when trying to attract back an ex.
Each attachment style has relatively predictable behaviours from beginning of a relationship to it’s breakdown and attempts to get back together.
When trying to get back together, our attachment style plays a big role in whether we maintain contact with an ex or do no-contact. Our attachment style also dictates whether we reach out when we miss our ex or not, how often we contact our ex (or want to), how much pressure we exert on wanting to get back together and how we handle the whole process of getting back together.
In my book, Dating Your Ex I tell whoever is using my advice that trying to attract back an ex is probably one of the hardest things you will ever do in your entire life, and I am not saying it just to be dramatic. It IS one of the hardest things you will ever do in your entire life.
There is so much uncertainty, so many unknowns and a high chance of rejection when trying to attract back someone who you dated, had a relationship with, got engaged to and maybe even married and things didn’t work out. Whether they dumped you or you dumped them, the break-up was mutual or nasty, an ex is still in love or doesn’t feel in love anymore, one thing remains the same, the relationship didn’t work out and you are not together.
However securely attached you think you are, you are bound to experience some level of anxiety just thinking of reaching out or responding to a mere text. What if you don’t get a response? What if things don’t work out, again?
Everyone has this fear. It’s normal and healthy. If you are securely attached however, the uncertainty, the unknowns and the high chance of rejection isn’t as frightening as it is for someone who is insecurely attached.
Who are securely attached individuals?
Securely attached people in general are confident about their ability to be close to someone and ‘show love’ without being smothering or needy. They view relationships as both safe and rewarding and have reasonable expectations that their love will be returned. Most of their relationships last long and when they don’t, they approach a break-up in a constructive way. Their goal is to maintain stable, reliable, satisfactory relationships in whatever form, and as a result are more open to feedback about behaviours that are not loving, helpful or supportive.
When trying to attract back their ex, they are usually more positive and more realistic about their chances because they believe that partners (and exes) generally have good intentions and that any negative behaviours their partner (or ex) may display are temporary and reversible. Only when there is clear evidence that their ex acted with malicious intent or is purposefully being hurtful do securely attached people attribute bad intentions to an ex and act to protect themselves.
They are not afraid of conflict or rejection because they believe and trust that they have the ability, tools and skills to deal with difficult or emotional situations calmly and constructively. This self-confidence allows them to be proactive and consistent in both words and actions – and it pays off. Compared to insecurely attached, securely attached individuals are more likely to get back their ex.
But who exactly are these insecurely attached individuals?
I could write a book about insecure attachment but many others have already written books on the subject. In short, insecurely attached individuals are adults who present high attachment anxiety (anxiously attached) or high attachment avoidance (see How Much Should You Contact Your Ex? (Attachment Styles). I discuss the two styles in more detail later.
Many of my clients fall into the securely and anxiously attachment styles. I worked out a theory why. Avoidants are typically drawn to “no contact” because it fits well with attachment avoidance, and since I do not encourage “no contact”, we are naturally not a good match. I don’t take it personally.
Avoidants generally view relationships as unsafe and people as untrustworthy, and here I am telling them to reach out and keep the lines of communication open with someone who could potentially not respond, lead them on, take them for granted, and/or use them to move on. Someone who dumped them and walked away – and I’m telling them they will have to take the risk without any guarantees.
Securely attached and anxiously attached individuals on the other hand are drawn to my advice because they want to be in contact with their ex and are not afraid of contact or connection. Above all, they want to be very close to their ex and are willing to take the potential risk of being rejected again.
The difference between the securely attached and anxiously attached is that one group has reasonable expectations that their love will be returned, and the other doesn’t. You can guess which.
My wish is that more men and women move towards secure attachment and hopefully some of you will recognize the ways your attachment anxiety is negatively affecting your chances of getting back together and learn to be more securely attached.