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.
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.
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.