As humans, we are social beings and are wired for attachment.
Our bond with our parents or caregiver creates an “attachment style” – a kind of blueprint for how we handle close relationships later in life.
As adults, we seek or avoid intimacy along a continuum of attachment styles, ranging from secure to insecure and problematic.
If a crisis creates opportunity, then perhaps the Covid pandemic is the time to identify problems in your romantic “attachment style,” i.e. the way you relate in intimate relationships, and how to rewire your brain to correct those problems. (Good news; neuroscientists tell us we can rewire out brains for healthy love.)
What Is Your Attachment Style?
There are 3 main “attachment styles,” or ways in which people perceive and respond to intimacy in their romantic relationships:
Secure – Secure people feel comfortable with intimacy and are usually warm and loving. They expect their partners to be loving and can clearly communicate their needs.
Anxious – Anxious people crave intimacy and often worry about their partner’s ability to love them in return. They are sensitive to signs of rejection and need reassurance.
Avoidant – Avoidant people equate intimacy with a loss of independence and try to minimize closeness. They have trouble committing but nevertheless stay in the relationship.
During the best of times, and we are certainly not in the best of times, expressing intimacy and affection can be challenging.
If you and your partner are both working remotely, or if you are confronting cumulative health-related, financial, and emotional stressors due to the Covid pandemic, the needs and expectations you have of your significant other, and they of you, for closeness and intimacy, may be more pressing or urgent.
If either of you is too anxious about closeness or too worried about connection to create the intimacy you need to work through your fears and uncertainties related to the pandemic, what can you do? Can these problems be overcome?
Cultivating A More Secure Attachment Style
To develop a more secure attachment style, the first step is to do what you’re doing right now: learn about attachment and its origins, think about your own attachment style and trace it back to your childhood. Are you frequently anxious your partner will abandon you? Do you avoid getting close to your partner? Think about what attachment style your partner may have.
If you have not been fortunate enough to have received consistent affirmation in your childhood of your innate worthiness, and would like to rewire your brain to be more secure in your romantic relationship, consider engaging in the following activities:
- Recognize when you are motivated by “old fears.”
- Take some measured risks that push you out of your comfort zone.
- Be introspective. Understand why you are how you are. Assess your internal scars so you don’t keep falling into the same patterns.
- Engage in intimacy building activities with your partner: take turns
- answering thoughtful questions; organize an activity together, or reflect on positive memories.
- Establish a securely attached relationship with a therapist who has an expertise in attachment.
- Have a weekly check-in with your partner.
Attaching securely and intimately to others, sharing yourself authentically with your partner, and not interpreting someone’s need for personal space as rejection, for example, don’t come naturally to some people.
However, you need not be a victim of your own history. Thanks to neuroplasticity, our brains can change and allow an insecurely attached person to integrate new experiences and build the security they need.
The road to security is a challenging one, requiring risk-taking and vulnerability. However, it can bring you the kind of love you have always wanted. The reward is well worth the risk, as a secure attachment style can change your relationships for the better – permanently.
If you have any questions, click here to schedule your initial consult.