Have you noticed that with different people, your attachment style changes? For instance, with your best friend, who knows all your flaws and accepts you anyway, you are a secure attachment. Yet with your partner, who you fear loves and accepts you conditionally, you could be an anxious attachment and with your parents, you are an avoidant attachment?
Why is this? How is it possible, to present different versions of ourselves with the different significant people in our lives? Let me tell you a little story about X.
It all starts with our parents. Growing up X’s parents loved her conditionally. She knew that to be loved and accepted by them, she had to be skinny, clever and want to study particular subjects and do everything they wanted. She wasn’t encouraged to have an opinion. On top of all this, they were very busy. They weren’t there when X needed them, she couldn’t be needy or helpless. She had to be perfect to be accepted. Even when X followed all the rules and did everything they wanted, they were still too busy. She learnt to be self sufficient and not rely on others for anything. The few times, she needed them, they weren’t there anyway. This taught X to keep people at bay, to never need anyone and that vulnerability was not a good thing. With her parents X is avoidant. She developed defence mechanisms to hide the hurt and pain and rejection that she felt.
When X fell in love with Y, she was very cautious. The same avoidant pattern started to take shape in her romantic relationship. Initially she kept him at a distance, then she wanted more. She allowed him nearer and although still cautious, she was ok. Then he made the mistake of saying those three little words, that most people in a relationship want to hear. He told her that he loved her. This confused X, instead of being happy, she panicked, and she ended their relationship. She pushed him away. But while apart X missed him, and became fearful that she would lose him, so they started seeing each other again. Everything appeared to be going well, X was relatively happy as long as she kept him at a distance; close enough to be around, yet not too close. She said she missed him when he wasn’t around, yet she panicked and felt suffocated if he got too close. With her partner she was a fearful avoidant attachment style.
Although she loved her partner, she was unable to show him. He was never sure how she really felt. Even when they argued, she never showed him how she felt. She masked her true feelings with jokes.
Luckily for X, she had a best friend, Z, whom she’d known for years. Z had an anxious attachment type, and over the years she broke down Y’s walls. Z allowed X to be who she really was, so cautiously at first, she allowed her in. Now they were inseparable. X confided in Z about everything. She knew that Z would accept her whatever the circumstances and that she could call her at any time, and she wouldn’t be rejected. With Z she had a secure attachment.