Relationship Patterns: Where do they come from?

by Oct 30, 2018Teen & Family Support

By: Summer Cunningham

“Attachment Theory” Explained


I don’t want this post to seem boring, or like I am teaching a lesson at school. Understanding my own personal attachment style (once I figured out what that even was) I began to notice my negative and positive relationship patterns. Obviously, I was much more concerned with changing my negative relationship patterns, and once I was able to recognize them, it was almost revolutionary for me! So, we are going to take this way back to childhood. Everyone’s favorite topic of discussion, right? So many different aspects of us began with our earliest and most prominent caregivers. This can be dad, mom, grandmother, aunt, etc.

What I am about to explain can be very useful and provide a great deal of self-awareness that may help you to change those unhealthy relationship patterns (if you want them to change). It is called Attachment Theory and each and every one of us have and use our own every day.

So, What Exactly Does This Mean?

The short and sweet version is that your general attachment style determines how you may behave in relationships.

This includes close family, intimate partners, co-workers, close friendships, etc. Being able to determine what your personal attachment style is and why, will help educate and motivate you to move towards more positive and healthy relationship patterns and leave those negative ones that were not working behind you.

There are 4 factors that are important for you to understand before you begin trying to understand your own attachment style and where it may have come from:

Your brain contains an attachment system, which is responsible for keeping you attached to a few primary partners.

  1. There is something we all have called an “attachment drive” that creates the desire for intimacy (closeness with your partner, close friend, or family member). This may vary on a person-to-person.
  2. There is something called a “threat detection system” that detects when the levels of intimacy are in danger of changing within the relationship. This will cause you to feel threatened and begin to engage in activation strategies (uncomfortable thoughts, anxiety, etc.).
  3. Once the intimacy levels in your relationship feel “threatened” you are likely to engage in protest behavior. Protest behavior is my favorite. Think about it, we have been using it since birth. When you were a baby and you were hungry, what did you do? Cry to get what you want. The goal behind protest behavior is to act out to get what you want.

How Will This Serve Me?

Know your patterns = Change your behaviors (CBT)

To keep it simple, there are typically two attachment styles that are most common besides secure attachment systems. People respond to these threats in two ways:

Anxious or Avoidance

To make this very simple: if your threat detection system is hypersensitive, you are significantly afraid of losing intimacy, and you tend to experience a lot of anxiety around your relationship, then you are high on the anxious scale.

On the other end of the scale, if your threat detection system is hypersensitive to too much intimacy, (you tend to push people away and avoid getting too attached in a relationship) then you’re high on the avoidant scale.

Here is a wonderful resource that goes into more detail about Attachment Styles and the theory behind it. Click the link below, read the directions, and find out what your general attachment style is: