Attachment Theory Explains Why Your Relationships Fail

Attachment Theory Explains Why Relationships Fail

Our attachment strategy influences the way in which we interact with our lovers. This can range from how we regulate our emotions during relationship conflicts to how we seek support and intimacy (or not).

It impacts how we choose to handle conflict, communicate our needs, and express our sexuality. [3. Research Papers: Caspers, K.M., Yicius, R. Troutman, B., & Sprinks, R. (2006). Attachment as an organizer of behavior: implications for substance abuse problems and willingness to seek treatment. Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, 1(1), 32. 2nd article – Roberts, J. E., Gotlib, I. H., & Kassel, J. D. (1996). Adult attachment security and symptoms of depression: The mediating roles of dysfunctional attitudes and low self-esteem. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology, 70(2),]

In other words, it’s a pretty big deal.

The Evolutionary Benefit Of Attachment

We are biologically driven to form attachments with others. Attachment gave us a survival advantage from an early age. If our parents were not attached to us, we’d never get food and we’d die.

Love is the biological drug that brings people together. Attachment keeps us together.

But as many of us know, attachment can make us do stupid things too. I had an ex-girlfriend who threatened to jump off a bridge if I didn’t see her right that minute. I had another girlfriend call me 52 times and send me 19 text messages in the span of 3 hours. I even picked up the first 10 calls to tell her I loved her and how much our relationship mattered to me.

Here’s the kicker: I’d call incessantly too if I was uncomfortable, or if I didn’t trust them. I’d panic and create an imaginary movie of my partner cheating or leaving me in my head.

This craziness has been evolutionarily engrained into our brains. In fact, these drivers are below consciousness. That’s why we sometimes do things we regret and feel crazy afterwards. Our beliefs flood our bodies with emotions, and when our emotions become tense, our rational thought process becomes nonsense.

Related: 7 Small Things To Do When You Feel Like A Failure After Divorce

Either we turn into a stage 5 clinger, or we emotionally distance ourselves so far from our partner that we no longer give them an opportunity to maintain a romantic connection.

According to attachment theory, sometimes we trick ourselves into believing it’s better to neglect our partner before they neglect us, and kill the romantic chemistry before it really begins.

Even though these strategies have the potential to be harmful, our attachment strategies have evolved with us because our ancestors who kept close to their caretakers in times of trouble survived off of them. When you’re a child and something bad happens and your parents aren’t around, it causes anxiety and fear. We feel compelled to seek them out. This happens in our adult relationships as well.

Attachment is like the big red emergency button in your brain. When life is good and fun, the button is turned off. As a child, we pick our nose, play in the dirt, and explore the world around us in all of its capacity. As adults we see friends, work on our dreams, and enjoy the leisure of life.

Then something bad happens; we scrape a knee and think we see bone. Joe, the school bully, pours chocolate milk on our PB&J sandwich. Our boss threatens to fire us. Your fiancée is thinking about calling off the wedding. All of these experiences suck. They create anxiety, and this anxiety activates our attachment button.

Attachment Theory Explains Why Your Relationships Fail
Attachment Button

When our attachment button is activated, it sends emergency signals throughout our brain and body to focus on getting closer – physically, emotionally, and psychologically – to our lovers. Just like our parents, our romantic partners can either accept or reject our need for closeness. Our bad attachment experiences influence our willingness to explore and become emotionally secure and happy adults.

16 thoughts on “Attachment Theory Explains Why Your Relationships Fail”

  1. Avatar of Donn English

    I’ve been studying this for a couple years now, and I think what it unfortunately boils down to is learning to recognize somebody’s attachment style early and getting out quickly if it isn’t a match. You’ll drive yourself crazy thinking you can fix it.

    1. Avatar of Jannifer Stoddard

      So true. I’m fairly new to it. Wow, was it eye-opening when I read that book Attached by Amir Levine. Avoidants are the most toxic and usually have no desire to address anything. Toxic, even if it’s just business and you end up getting too close to them. Painful lesson!

    2. Avatar of Jannifer Stoddard

      Donn English have an extra copy of the book Attached if you happen to want it. I was going to give it to the avoidant in my life – but there was no interest in it (of course).

  2. Avatar of Jannifer Stoddard

    Some critical parts of this article is misleading. It states that anxious attachment style is the most toxic, which is not remotely correct. The BEST on this subject is the book – Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find and Keep Love by Amir Levine. This is by far one of the very best accurate and most enlightening books on the subject attachment theory.

  3. Avatar of Jannifer Stoddard

    Whoever wrote this needs to read the book – Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find and Keep Love by Amir Levine. This is by far one of the very best accurate and most enlightening books on the subject attachment theory.
    The AVOIDANT attachment style is the most toxic attachment style of all – NOT the anxious attachment style. It’s virtually impossible or very rare for an avoidant to change, as they have no desire to do so. Plus they can have other severe personality disorders, mental illnesses and chronic drug use along for the ride that makes it a horrifically toxic mix that cannot be matched by anything else.
    It’s unfortunate that misleading information is being put out there (pinging Anxious types as being the most toxic) that would end up not helping people. If people can just read the book Attached by Amir Levine, that will set them on a life-giving enlightened track to wholeness. Anyone – secure types or anxious types need to completely disconnect from the most toxic (avoidant) type to save their own sanity and distance themselves from the toxicity of the avoidant as much as possible. They generally cannot be helped or saved and will be extraordinarily harmful, causing deep wounding to whomever is unfortunate enough to get tangled up with them.

  4. Avatar of Edith Stein

    I’m blocked again from ‘Laugh or Croak’. Apparently I have to live with the idea that the whole world considers me some kind of wastebin for all the negative things they can think about attributing to people.

  5. Avatar of Edith Stein

    A secure attachment style requires too much maturity for some people and doesn’t fit in with their avoiding strategies treating people.

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top