Psychology,  Public Reads

Babe, Are You Listening to Me?

Babe, Are You Listening to Me ?

Scenario 1

A: “It seems like you had a bad day, do you wanna tell me what happened?”

B: “Yea, I messed up with the files during meeting… and then I spilled water on the table…and…… Thanks for listening to me, honey, I feel better now. How about you, are you doing okay?”

Scenario 2

A: “It seems like you had a bad day, do                  you wanna tell me what happened?”

B: “Nah, I’m fine. I can handle this by              myself, you can’t help me with this          anyways.”(I don’t want to rely on you too much.)

Scenario 3

A: “It seems like you had a bad day, do you wanna tell me what happened?”


B: “You see, you don’t even care about me. I’ve been in low mood for few hours but now only you ask me about this. You don’t care about me as much as before, am I not good enough? You don’t       love me anymore?”

Scenario 4

When they first get together…

A: “It seems like you had a bad day, do you wanna tell me what happened?”

B: “Hmm.. today I….I feel so much better now. You’re so sweet, babe!”

Being together for six months…

A: “It seems like you had a bad day, do you wanna tell me what happened?”

B: “Why are you being so nice to me? What if you leave me one day and how do I live without you? …Can you just leave me alone for a while?”

The 4 Main Attachment Styles in Romantic Relationship

Does one of the scenarios ring a bell?

       Typically, attachment is formed when one is emotionally bonded with another person and sees the person as a secure base when exploring the world. Bowlby and Ainsworth (1979) proposed that every child may develop different attachment styles depending on their grow-up experiences with their parents. Most of the time, the developed attachment styles can affect their future social relationships, including friendships and romantic relationships. There are four main types of attachment styles: secure, avoidant/dismissive, anxious/preoccupied, and fear-avoidant.

       Hazan and Shaver (1994) then extended the theory by investigating the four attachment styles in adulthood romantic relationships. Integrating with the scenario given earlier, I will use B’s response as an example of each attachment style:

Scenario 1 – Secure attachment

Low anxiety about abandonment + Low avoidance of intimacy

Secure adults in a romantic relationship usually feel worthy and loved. They seek emotional support from their partners and able to provide the support in return. They also tend to have honest and equal relationships.

For example, B appreciated A and managed to express his/her feelings and care to A.

Scenario 2 – Avoidant/Dismissive attachment

Low anxiety about abandonment + High avoidance of intimacy

Adults with this attachment style tend to be emotionally distant from their partners and uninterested in intimacy. They may need more space and time for themselves and they see pushing their partners away as a way to protect themselves from being hurt.

For instance, B was afraid to be too dependent on A and being vulnerable.

Scenario 3 – Anxious/Preoccupied attachment

High anxiety about abandonment + Low avoidance of intimacy

In a relationship, anxious adults like to stay with their partners 24/7 because they are clingy and insecure. They tend to be jealous and controlling as they have less trust in their partners. A study shows that this category of people is more likely to develop an obsessive love style.

For example, B was being over-analyzing when A did not notice his/her mood earlier.

Scenario 4 – Disorganized/ Fearful-avoidant attachment

High anxiety about abandonment + High avoidance of intimacy

“To love, or not to love” is the age-old question for disorganized adults, and they are often overwhelmed by their own emotions and contradicting thoughts. They also more likely to have sexual compliance.  

In particular, B was having hot and cold times when he/she was with A.

*Notes: – Anxiety about abandonment refers to the extent of one’s perception of others’ availability and accessibility when they                   need them.

               – Avoidance of intimacy refers to the situation in which people avoid exhibiting closeness with others and prefer to be


         Having said that, the researchers posited that adults’ attachment styles could be changed accordingly once a romantic relationship is formed, meaning that when their romantic partners become their primary attachment figures, they may become more secure/ less secure with their partner and may become less secure/ more secure with other important people in their lives such as family and friends. Besides, it seems like one’s attachment styles might be shifted based on different contexts. For example, even though people have a secure attachment with their parents, they may experience insecure social relationships because of other environmental factors such as one’s past friendship and romantic relationship experiences. Furthermore, it was shown that in a relationship, those with insecure attachments might be positively influenced by their partners who developed a secure attachment style.

Ways to Communicate with Insecure Partners

1.  Anxious / Preoccupied

Individuals with this attachment style usually interpret conflict as a threat in the relationship as they fear that they will be abandoned. Because of this constant fear, they display intense emotions, making constructive communication difficult between them and their partners.

How to deal with a preoccupied partner:

– be honest and transparent

– be there to listen

– make them feel safe

– don’t argue with them that their fear is irrational but try to understand the reasons behind it

– set healthy boundaries

2.  Avoidant/dismissive

Similarly, avoidant/dismissive individuals see conflict as a threat since they are not comfortable with self-disclosure that requires emotional intimacy. Thus, they normally use distancing strategies and show defensiveness when there are conflicts in the relationship.

How to deal with a dismissive partner:

– say “thank you”, as avoidant partner’s perceived gratitude is associated with higher relationship satisfaction and commitment.

– provide them less reassurance/support that is unnecessary at the moment.

– praise them and let them know if they do something you like for you

– set healthy boundaries

3.  Disorganized/Fearful-avoidant

Individuals with this attachment style are constantly think of closeness and distancing, as they are often being traumatised when they were a child.

How to deal with a disorganized partner:

– be patient to talk with them

– make them feel safe

– being genuine for them

Child Maltreatment and Attachment Styles

        A past study investigated the relationship between attachment styles and marital satisfaction. It was shown that the higher the insecure attachment styles (i.e. avoidant/dismissive style and anxious/preoccupied style), the lower the marital satisfaction. This was attributed to the characteristics of the insecure attachment styles: low self-confidence in handling stressful events, psychological stress, have less interest in intimacy, being anxious, inferior, and low expectations for the future. Family is like a cycle. If a child is being raised in such an environment, he/she may experience child abuse and ended up repeating the same patterns in his/her future family. As mentioned earlier, it was shown that there’s a link between child abuse and insecure attachment styles, particularly fear-avoidant style. Consequently, parents must raise their children in a secure and positive environment. If you are interested in knowing more details about child abuse, you can go to Child Abuse: You Don’t Need To Hit to Hurt.

      “A great relationship is about two things: First, appreciating the similarities, and second, respecting the differences.” In a romantic relationship, it always requires two lovers to make efforts together to make things last. It is also important to know that one’s attachment style is changeable, and don’t frame yourself permanently in a specific insecure attachment category. Instead, try to acknowledge and understand your/your partner’s attachment style is, and then keeping/working on it. Attending family counselling or couple counselling can be considered as well. Doing so, it would help strengthen your relationship and the commitments of both you and your partner.

Thank you for reading this !

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