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by Lynda Martin

Dec 3, 2023

Are Attachment Styles the Missing Key to Relationship Success, or are they a Lock Entrapping Us in a Perpetual Cycle of Toxicity?

While attachment style quizzes are trending, what do attachment and its wounds truly reveal about an individual? More importantly, can we change our attachments?

When Bowlby first introduced the world to attachment theory in the 1940s, we began to recognize and value the relationship between a child and caregivers. However, it wasn’t until recently that we began to understand that attachments can extend far beyond our earliest years.

Thankfully, we now comprehend that while young children need to belong to a group for survival, attachments can be developed in various ways throughout one’s life. In the 80s and 90s, the perspective shifted to view romantic attachments as processes bearing similarities to our initial caregiving experiences, yet being much more adaptable than originally assumed.

Finally, Jessica Fern brought us “Polysecure”, an insightful attachment style book, highlighting the human capacity to maintain different attachments across diverse contexts and relationships simultaneously. Truly groundbreaking! As progressive as the field of therapy likes to think it is, it’s moments like this that serve as a humbling reminder of the flaws and outdated perspectives we often hold.

What often gets left out of the attachment style conversation is how our environment and society influence our sense of attachment.

Are we reflected in our community? Are we safely upheld by the systems surrounding us, or do we learn to sidestep potential harm from those meant to ensure our safety? How does navigating a world that often seems antagonistic shape our attachment?

Can the affection of a caring adult during the first five years of one’s life counterbalance laws designed to marginalize? Can it rectify harm inflicted by educational or justice systems pushing for conformity? If you never felt the way you loved or get intimate was recognized or even validated by your community, how would you ever forge secure relationships? When the cost of belonging is sacrificing parts of your very identity, how can one truly find security within oneself?

Expanding the conversation to queer communities offers a kaleidoscope of relational dynamics that push back against heteronormative constraints. Queer relationships often demand a reevaluation of traditional attachment style roles, resulting in an expansive realm of connection possibilities. For instance, “chosen families,” a significant element within many queer circles, form attachment bonds built on mutual trust, care, and shared experiences rather than just biological ties.

These bonds have the potential to either heal or amplify early attachment wounds.

In a heteronormative framework, there is typically only one “accepted” form of attachment styles. However, queer experiences consistently challenge and redefine this. The multidimensionality of queer relationships – be it platonic, romantic, or fluidly defined – illuminates the vast spectrum of human connection. It dismantles the outdated idea that secure attachment can only be nurtured within specific relationship molds.

However, this also implies that queer individuals often walk a tightrope between opportunity and danger. The lack of societal understanding can exacerbate attachment wounds. Continual processes like coming out might induce feelings of rejection and insecurity. Conversely, finding a supportive community can lead to profound healing and the establishment of secure attachments.

In conclusion, our dialogue around attachment styles and attachment theory needs a progressive overhaul.

To truly grasp the intricacies of human relationships, we must break free from rigid traditional confines and embrace the vast array of connections that shape our existence. As society strides towards inclusivity, our perceptions of attachment’s role in our lives must evolve in tandem.

Relationships, Mental Health

by Lynda Martin

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