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What Is Your Relationship Style?

Image of two young children interacting at home. Raleigh Psychotherapy, counseling, Katherine Broadway, relationships

New friendships, new jobs and new romantic relationships all begin with the conviction that happiness has arrived. This is the point at which you believe that you have found that person or situation that will bring you contentment. The way in which we relate to others determines how our relationships will progress, whether they will be satisfying, and whether they will last.

Early in life, human beings develop ways to defend against feelings that occur when there is a disruption in the relationship with their parent or main caretaker. These strategies develop into patterns of relating. These patterns are developed to maintain contact to the parent so that the basic need for nurture and contact are met and survival is guaranteed.

Those attachment patterns established in childhood become the working model for relationships in adulthood. Understanding your attachment style can help you understand your strengths and vulnerabilities. You can begin to see how you react to your own needs, the needs of others and the way you go about dealing with them.

Knowing yourself and your tendencies can lead to having more choices in how you treat yourself and others.

What is Your Relationship Style?

1. The Secure Type:

You feel confident, self-assured and interact with others easily. You do not feel conflict when you have needs or others have needs. It is assumed that there are enough resources to go around, and everyone will have what they need. Securely attached adults do not experience intense anxiety when loved ones are not available; they trust that they will be there when they need them.

2. The Preoccupied/Anxious Type:

You care very much about others and want everyone to be happy. Because of the anxiety that you feel, you become concerned that someone will be left out and not have what they need. You are afraid that there is not enough for everyone and someone will be hurt. You are so worried about others that you forget about yourself, your needs and desires. Your main concern is that you might lose a relationship.

For example, Van and John became good friends while playing on a basketball team. The friendship was great. The team met twice a week to practice and usually had two games a week. It made it easy for them to see one another. The problems started during the off-season. Van worried all the time that they were not spending enough time together. Van was afraid that John would feel hurt if he had to work late and was not available.

John did, in fact, feel hurt. He found it hard to make friends and entertain himself. When Van chose to take part in activities without him, John was afraid that Van was not really his friend, and he often felt left out and alone. He needed Van’s attention in order to feel secure. Both John and Van are anxious types.

3. The Distant Type:

You want to be in a relationship, but you want to spend a lot of time separate from your partner or friends. Your idea of a great friendship is someone you can call after long separations and it feels as if you met yesterday. You want friends that have no expectations of you and you have none of them.

You prefer to spend time alone, feeling, “pseudo-independent.” You value self-reliance, competence and independence. Showing vulnerability is unacceptable. You take care of your own needs, are focused on yourself and feel in control of your emotions at all times. It is an illusion to believe that you do not need anyone, everyone needs connection. Your main fear is of being trapped and smothered.

This type of friend, lover or family member makes it easy for everyone to deny that there are needs for closeness and intimacy.

Jamie is a loner, has few friends and meets her social needs through hobbies and social groups. Many of her friendships do not last long because she only makes herself available on her terms. When a friend wants to spend more time than Jamie would like, she feels pressured and smothered. She would make distance or leave the relationship.

Many of the friends Jamie live in other cities. She communicates through social media and text. They, like Jamie, are comfortable with the distance. If they meet, it is seldom and there are no strings attached.

4. The Fearful Type:

You are afraid to be too close to people, and also afraid to be too distant from those whom you value. You work very hard to control and deny your feelings of fear, love, attachment and anger, but it only last for a short while. Then you become overwhelmed by your feelings and reactions. You have a deep desire to be close to others, yet are aware that to get close means you will be hurt. The person that represents safety also represents danger. You feel rejected when your romantic partner or friend have other plans and feel stifled when someone is invested in the relationship and wants to be close. This is a painful dilemma to live with.

As adults, this creates uncertain relationships with emotional highs and lows brought on by fear of both abandonment and intimacy. When they are close, they feel trapped, yet they will cling when feeling rejected.

Ann and John have been dating for several years. He wants her to be with him the majority of the time. She has a demanding job that requires long hours and occasional travel. They began dating after Ann had been single for 5 years and she had many interests and friends. John would get hurt, then angry, when Ann was busy with activities that did not involve him. He would be able to control his emotions for a short time and then become demanding. The demanding would turn into threats of leaving and making distance. Ann would then get scared and cancel plans to be with him. They were caught in an unending cycle of distance and closeness, intensity and fear.

Uncertain Relationships

As adults, this creates uncertain relationships with emotional highs and lows, with fear of abandonment and intimacy. When they are close they feel trapped and will cling when feeling rejected.

The attachment patterns you developed as a child happened before you were given a choice about who you wanted to be and how you wanted to act. Those patterns do not have to control or define who you are as an adult. By becoming aware of your patterns you can challenge your insecurities, find support for your fears, and develop new working models for your life.

Sometimes the patterns are so strong you need therapy to change them. I have many years of helping people change these patterns. I can help you develop more satisfying relationships. Call me at (919)881-2001.

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