Attatchment Styles in Poly Relationships

It’s Not You, It’s Me

My partner travels a lot and as the days pass, I sometimes find myself feeling anxious and angry. The healthy, mature part of me understands that he has many commitments in his life, one of which is our relationship, and yet a small part of me worries that he doesn’t consider me important.

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One night I was in a particularly bad place, so I decided to make a list of all the wonderful ways that my partner shows his love for me. Five pages later, I had to admit that the problem rested solely with me. He was practically shouting out his love, but I couldn’t hear him over my droning siren of doubt.

That’s when I turned to the excellent book Insecure in Love by Leslie Becker-Phelps. It’s all about how each of us experience love differently due to attachment patterns we develop in childhood. This made me wonder if poly relationships might be especially fraught with attachment-related issues. It’s a simple fact that the more people you’re involved with on an intimate level, the more subconscious  motivations you’ll have to contend with.

Here are some common attachment styles as well as examples of how they might affect your relationships. If you recognize yourself or your partner(s) in any of the following descriptions, I would highly recommend reading the book. In addition to going into detail, it has exercises designed to help you overcome your issues. I found it to be really helpful.

Attachment Styles in Relationships

People with an avoidant attachment style tend to view themselves as completely self-sufficient. If they’re having problems, they’re most likely to want to deal with them on their own. They take pride in the fact that they don’t need their partner(s) to comfort them or help them make important life decisions.

They might even interpret a partner’s offer to help as controlling or smothering. This means they tend to avoid intimacy and, at times, misinterpret the signs of love and support.

Those with an anxious/preoccupied style are prone to obsessing about relationships. They are so concerned about being abandoned or rejected that their brains are constantly combing through every interaction they have with their partner(s), looking for signs of trouble.

If they feel ignored or that their needs are not being met, people with an anxious/preoccupied attachment style sometimes become manipulative or combative. This can make them hard to be around and impossible to please as they are often oblivious to all the loving gestures their partners try time and again to bestow upon them.

Fearful attachment is characterized by the desire to get close, mixed with the fear that doing so will lead to rejection. This combination might even make you try to break off the relationship before a partner has the chance to do so, often by focusing on all the annoying little things that your partner says and does and giving these annoyances enough weight to justify leaving.

Much like an anxious/preoccupied attachment, a fearful one can lead to an overly critical and angry relationship dynamic and leave little room for noticing all the positive things about your partner.

*According to the literature, avoidant and anxious/preoccupied couple combinations are extremely common… A hit with unhappy people the world over. The good news is, we can all work on our issues and become the secure lovers we wish to be.

Can you identify with any of these attachment styles? Please share in the comments.

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