Understanding Attachment Styles: How They Can Change from Relationship to Relationship

Can our attachment style change from relationship to relationship? Someone left this comment somewhere. Ask me this, but I apologize, can’t find it. But in short, the answer is yes. Your attachment style can change from relationship to relationship. And this is for a couple of reasons. So to back up a little bit, our attachment style is the strategy that we develop around our strategies that we develop around getting our needs met and the rules of the game that we develop for how to relate primarily in our romantic relationships. And these strategies and rules are going to be the expression of our subconscious programming, the set of beliefs that we develop before the age of 3, based first on those early childhood experiences, and then it can be impacted by later life experiences.

Now one of the reasons that our attachment style can change from relationship to relationship is that a lot of us have a combination. Very few of my clients, there used to be an amazing attachment quiz that would show you your different percentages of attachment styles. And I loved that because 1, it prevented my clients from trying to identify themselves, label themselves as one clean and neat word under which they then just sort of kept trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. We all like to do that as humans also, because I wanted them to see that they might be able to account four times where they lean into a more avoided place, even though most of the time they tend towards being secure. So they might have more of their programming around that anxious language, those anxious strategies and tools, but also have some when it comes to fearful avoidance, secure and dismissive avoidance. So that’s the first reason is that a lot of us are a mixture of a lot of those things because we have a variety of early experiences.

The reason our attachment styles can change is if we are seeking help and support. I really like the book attached, but my perception, I’m not saying this is what they’re saying, but the way I receive that book is that we can’t change our attachment styles. But I know that is not the case. I have changed my own. It’s not perfect. I now have the tools to regulate myself if I feel a little disregulated or dip into some of my own subconscious programming. But you really can change a lot of that. I help that with, I help my clients with that, and I actually usually get to see the fruits of that months and months later when they do finally get into their next serious relationship and they’re reaching out to me and talking about how healthy it is on both ends, and it’s just really rewarding to see. So it is very possible to change through that support.

And then the last reason that our attachment style may change from relationship to relationship, and there may be other reasons, but these are the top three that come to mind is from traumatic romantic experiences. So we create these sets of beliefs through neurogenesis, which requires repetition plus emotion, plus imagery. And so if you’re in a traumatic relationship where there’s repetition and emotion around a certain dynamic, you may develop new strategies and tools based off of that relationship that then appear in the ensuing relationship that look different than the strategies and tools that you previously used.

So the other thing that I wouldn’t want to just mention and leave space for, with all of the conversation around attachment, miles, it’s important that we don’t lose sight of appropriate anxiety or appropriate avoidance in a relationship. So I am not interested in coaching my clients out of being appropriately anxious when there is a situation that is making them uncomfortable or appropriate avoidance when maybe their boundaries are being violated. That to me would be valid after active. And so it is important to clock with yourself. Is there a reason? Very much based off the current circumstances. So one of the ways we can tell if it’s attachment based or if it is a appropriate, and I’m not saying that good or bad or right or wrong, but when I say appropriate, I mean based off of the conscious current external stimuli rather than base off of something that is really developing from, that really developed from childhood. So if it’s hysterical, it’s historical. So if we have a big outsized reaction or sort of a disproportionate reaction, it may be because it is stemming from something that is not about the current circumstances.