Attachment Style and Relationships
Part 1 Sternberg’s Theory of Love describes three components that make up different combinations or levels of love that can be shared between two people. The three components are intimacy, passion, and commitment. Intimacy refers to understanding and concern for the other person. This component deals with warm affection and getting to know each other on a deeper level. Passion refers to stronger feelings of emotion, excitement and physiological attraction. This component usually deals with sexual attraction and desire.
Commitment refers to the conscious decision to stay in the relationship through the ups and downs. This component deals with putting in an effort to maintain the relationship and carries a sense of devotion for that relationship. By combining any of these components, you get different varieties of love. When combining intimacy and passion you get what Sternberg calls romantic love. For example, a summer love shows high levels of intimacy and passion, but no commitment to extend the relationship further. When combining intimacy and commitment in the model you gets what’s called companionate love.
An example of this love would be a marriage after the passion fades. The marriage maintains on the deep level of knowing each other or friendship that has been built over the years and the desire to keep the commitment. When combining passion and commitment you get what’s referred to as fatuous love. Fatuous love would best be described as a relationship held by two people that barely know each other. The passion drives the relationship, and the commitment is based on that passion. Once the passion dies off, so will the desire to stay committed.
There are elationships based solely on passion called infatuated love. These relationships usually occur when a physical connection is mistaken for love, such as in high school relationships or one-night stands. Empty love is when you only have the commitment component. These relationships are usually referred to as emotionally “dead”, and the commitment is based on things like keeping up appearances, convenience, and financial relief. The last combination called consummate love, includes all three components. This type of love is referred to as “complete love” and is what many people desire.
Part 2 An individual’s attachment style can affect the types of relationships he or she has a great deal. I agree to a point that an individual’s attachment style stems from the relationship they shared with their parents growing up. I always heard the saying “you will end up dating your dad someday” growing up. As I got older, I found the guys I am interested in and most comfortable around, shared similar qualities with my father. I also agree that many of the little quirks about an individual are stemmed from the type of upbringing they had.
For example, I am viewed as really outgoing, able to say what’s on my mind, and thought to have an energetic personality. Most people claim to understand me better once they meet my parents, primarily my mother. So while I feel one can tie how they view relationships as an adult to childhood experiences, I also feel that experiences you have gained up through your twenties can shape attachment styles into adulthood as well. If you are involved in relationships that ends in lies and cheating during this timeframe, you might fall into the avoidance category regardless of your upbringing.
If you grow up without one of your parents, the lack of their presence growing up can cause issues with anxiety later in life. Attachment styles used to be categorized as avoidant, secure, and anxious-ambivalent . Today, the categories have been refined and show two dimensions: anxiety and avoidance. Anxiety describes fear of abandonment, rejection, is assumed to have low self-esteem and a negative view of self. Someone that expresses low self-esteem will likely fear that their faults will be discovered or that they are not the kind of person that could be loved.
On the other hand, someone that expresses high self-esteem shows low levels of anxiety and are comfortable and confident in finding and maintaining intimate relationships. Avoidance describes the level of trust and comfort in starting a relationship and becoming intimate. Someone who expresses high-avoidance will deem intimate relationships as unnecessary and strive on self-reliance. They will view others with mistrust and find it hard to get close to someone. On the other-hand, individuals that express low-avoidance are more trusting, enjoy intimate relationships and do not fear abandonment.
Because people can be high or low on either anxiety and avoidance, four attachment styles were created: secure, dismissing avoidant, preoccupied, and fearful avoidant. Secure attachment describes individuals with a high self-image, but express low relationship anxiety and avoidance. Couples that share this attachment style show more positive emotions than negative, are less jealous, are more close, have higher marital satisfaction, and are more sensitive to the needs of the other.
Preoccupied attachment describes people with a low self-image which causes high anxiety, but low on avoidance. People who fit this style want and enjoy intimacy, but express low self-esteem which feeds off the need for other’s approval and affection. They are sensitive and supportive, but over controlling because of insecurities and fear of abandonment. Fearful avoidant attachment style refers to people that express high levels of anxiety and avoidance. A lack of love for oneself ensures the thought that no one could love them either.
The fear of rejection and abandonment keep these individuals from getting close to others and fuel the want to avoid intimate relationships altogether. People with this style are often viewed as emotionally distant and are not overly willing to provide comfort and support for fear of getting let down. Dismissing avoidant attachment describes individuals that express high avoidance and low anxiety. People with this style are confident and do not feel the need to rely on others. They are not majorly concerned with the acceptance of others and are prideful in their independence.
Relationships are viewed by these individuals as filled with problems and not worth the effort. The relationships often express low levels of commitment and intimacy. While I agree that these attachment styles are accurate in their description, I feel there are always exceptions. Just because you fit into one category does not mean that you are doomed to a life of negative relationships. In my opinion, these attachment styles are merely a guideline to explain groups of individual’s issues with anxiety and avoidance in reference to intimate relationships.