How to Create a Healthy Love Life No Matter Your Attachment Style

healthy relationships inner child healing self-awareness self-learning Oct 04, 2021
couple (man and woman) laughing and smiling


A healthy love life… aaaah many want it but not many have it. At least not without consciously trying…


And that’s because we don’t enter into our relationships as open slates, right? We come with dare I say baggage, and lots of it. Some of our past experiences and baggage make us really fun to be around and be in relationship with; others render us, well, not fun or not healthy to be with.


Attachment Style - What Is It?


Our attachment style is a way to characterize the relational baggage we enter our relationships with. It develops as a function of the people we were around and whether or not we received the validation, acknowledgement, and love that we needed and wanted from these people in childhood. But it's not just the big traumatic events that lead us to have an attachment style that isn't healthy or secure. It's any experience that led us to feel unseen or unheard in a certain way as children. Sure, some adults with insecure attachment styles were children who were neglected and abandoned, but many were simply unseen and unheard by parents who were doing their best juggling a lot of things at the same time.


Our attachment style goes on to impact us in many ways. The ways in which we're drawn to specific dating partners and the ways in which we choose our relationships, in fact, often stems from the attachment style we developed as young children. I talk about that in a lot of detail in this article on ‘Why We Choose The Relationships We Do’, so check it out if you feel called to, and then come on back over here.


How to Create a Healthy Love Life No Matter Your Attachment Style


Our early childhood attachment is just where the story begins; it's not even close to where the story ends. No matter our attachment style, with time and understanding we can each create healthy loving relationships with ourselves and with the people in our lives whether they are our romantic partner or a platonic partner or friend of some sort. Here are the steps to doing that, as I see them:


No matter our attachment style, with time and understanding we can each create healthy loving relationships with ourselves and with the people in our lives.





#1- The first step is to see your attachment style as an opportunity for growth rather than as a sentence to have an unhealthy relationship for the rest of your life.


When all you see are obstacles, it can feel daunting to get started on change, but when you can perceive opportunity in the challenging, you more quickly and easily open doorways to positive change. Your attachment style is an opportunity for growth and healing, not a sentence for unhealthy love for the rest of your life– Kapish?


#2- Accept that you have an attachment style that may lead you to feel insecure or to be triggered in your close intimate relationships. 


By accepting that this tendency exists within you, you'll be more likely to take responsibility for it and commit to healing and growing from it. You’ll start to accept that the root causes of your present-day dating and relationship problems likely come from your childhood experiences. With acceptance of this fact, you’ll also begin to understand how your attachment style affects your behavior and thinking in your relationships, so that you can begin to heal and build the appropriate skills to encourage positive, secure relationships rather than insecure, unhealthy ones.


How does your attachment style developed in early childhood specifically affect your present day relationships? Let’s take a closer look at the three different insecure attachment styles. (By the way, if you don’t yet know your attachment style, take this short quiz).


If you have an anxious attachment style it's likely that part of you is drawn to be intimate with people yet another part of you is also worried or concerned that the person doesn't want to be with you. You end up pushing your own needs aside to accommodate your partner and encourage them to love you. Because you don’t feel secure in your relationship, you constantly seek validation and assurance, you’re apt to take things personally, you can be “clingy”, and it’s likely that you have an unfounded fear of being abandoned or rejected by your partner. As a child, you probably had a parent that was overly controlling and didn’t foster your independence or you had an inconsistent experience of love which made it hard for you to read people’s behavior. That's why you need a lot of reassurance from the people in your life in the present day. It makes sense when you connect the dots between then and now, doesn’t it?


If you have an avoidant- dismissive attachment style you’ve learned that the best way to get your needs met is to act like you don’t have any, and so you probably don’t have much of a desire to depend on other people or to have other people depend on you. You get close but not that close and you stay very vigilant about your partner’s attempts to limit your freedom. You haven't really been brought up to trust people and so you avoid intimacy. You’ll dismiss your partner’s feelings, ignore them and their needs, and distance yourself from them in any number of ways. Instead, you’ve learned to be incredibly self-sufficient. And this likely happened because you grew up around adults who were emotionally unavailable, who were insensitive to your requests for connection, or who expected you to be independent at an early age. You learned to disconnect first from your parents and then all other people in your adult life too.


If you have an avoidant-fearful aka disorganized attachment style it’s almost like you want to be close but you’re also afraid to be close. Like the avoidant-dismissive attachment style, you limit closeness and protect your own freedom at all costs, staying aware of any attempts your partner might make to limit your autonomy. You appear distant, sometimes even cold, you want your space, and it’s not unlikely that you take a long time to respond to calls or texts. Early on in your life, you probably received instruction from your parents or caregivers to complete some sort of unsolvable tasks or a message of “come here... go away”, for example being asked to sweep the floor and then being yelled at because you weren’t doing it right. There might have also been trauma in your past and so you learned to protect yourself by creating distance from other people. In both avoidant attachment styles, you do have a lingering need for closeness but it’s buried deep within and strongly repressed.






Even if you’re starting out with an attachment style that is avoidant or anxious, you can always get closer to a secure attachment style.


Want to join a live conversation on how you can transform your attachment style starting today? Join us in The Happiness Hub, my free virtual community, by clicking here! Catch me teaching live or tune in to the recording (I cover new topics in happiness and healing every other week!)


#3- Reparent and heal your inner child.


In order for us to feel differently than we felt in the past, we need to reimagine and rewrite our past, or our childhood. We need to allow every experience in which we didn't feel fully loved, accepted, seen, and heard and choose to transform it into one that we remember as encouraging, loving, validating, and kind. We need to heal our heart and we need to heal and reparent our inner child.


Healing and reparenting your inner child may take on a number of different forms. One formand the one I recommend most because it complements and exponentiates the progress that’s possible from all others is asking for and getting help from a therapist or coach. Why is this so important? Well, a qualified therapist or coach can help you to understand and relate differently to the protective mechanisms you developed to deal with the emotional pain of your childhood. They can also guide you to make sense of and feel the pain and scars of your childhood. And most importantly, they can support you in changing the perspective through which you view your past, and to reimagine, reinterpret, and reintegrate those events.


Another form that healing your inner child takes is developing the skills to be there for yourself in the ways that you needed someone to be there for you back then. This might look like learning to pay attention to your needs, validating your own feelings, and setting boundaries that help to honor and contain your energy among other skills. All of this will allow you to create relationships in the present and future that are more trusting, caring, and healthy than those of your past.


Reparenting and healing your inner child will allow you to create relationships in the present and future that are more trusting, caring, and healthy than those of your past.


What might this look like depending on your attachment style?


If you have an anxious attachment style you may choose to work on any number of these things:


  1. identifying and honoring your needs (something you’re probably not very used to doing in your life)
  2. learning how to express yourself assertively
  3. in general, focusing on raising your self-confidence by healing any underlying beliefs that you’re not good enough, not loved for who you are, not important, etc.
  4. learning skills to manage your emotions inwardly rather than acting outwardly toward your partner and risking hurting the relationship.
  5. practicing self-compassion to really become the parent for yourself that you might not have had early on in your life
  6. journaling (check out my book The Happiness Journal with 52 weeks of happiness- and confidence-raising tools) to help you understand your childhood experiences and how they might be affecting your life today


In your dating life, you’d work on taking more time when meeting someone to decide whether this person is someone who is able to meet your needs for a relationship, rather than just jumping into a relationship quickly and focusing on what you have in common while overlooking potential mismatches and red flags.


If you have an avoidant-dismissive or avoidant-fearful attachment style your journey toward healing and developing secure attachment would center on:


  1. making it okay for emotional connection to exist
  2. learning tangible skills of emotional connection and intelligence 


In your dating life, you can start by engaging in some reflective couples games. Taking turns asking and answering thoughtful, meaningful questions, for example, can give your dating life or relationship a much-needed boost of intimacy.


Keep in mind that no matter your attachment style, this healing step is the most important one of all because it’s unhealed hearts that can create distance between people that ruptures even the most loving relationships.


#4- Pay attention to the relationships in your life that do display qualities of a secure relationship.


It's not uncommon for people with different attachment styles to become friends. And it's not uncommon for friendships to contain secure dynamics that reflect the kinds of dynamics we’d like to see in our romantic relationships. So, pay attention to the qualities, experiences, and interactions you find healthy and enjoyable in your friendships and practice those. Friendship can be a beautiful learning space for what it looks like and what it takes to be in a secure relationship. Spending time with people who naturally have a secure attachment style can be a big boost in you developing one of your own.





What does a secure relationship look like? A relationship with secure attachment has some of these qualities:


  • social and emotional connection and intimacy
  • honoring and expressing individuality
  • healthy boundaries
  • ability to give love and receive love
  • accept of one another’s faults
  • treating one another with love and respect
  • being able to openly share your feelings
  • being able to assertively state your needs
  • being responsive to your partner’s wishes and needs
  • being happy to apologize and forgive after conflict (because your sense of self is in-tact)


How does secure attachment form in childhood? Well, it’s when a child was brought up in an environment where the parents or primary caregivers were positively attuned to them and reliably cared for them that a child grows up with secure attachment. Parents and caregivers met many of your needs as a child and so you felt safe to explore in the world (rather than cling to a certain person) and interact with and trust other people (rather than push closeness away at all costs). If you have a predominantly secure attachment style, your parents or primary caregivers weren’t just physically present but authentically, genuinely, and generously engaged with you.


#5- Create new memories to replace your old ones by choosing a partner who has a secure attachment style.


A big part of changing our patterns, no matter what they are, is being able to choose differently. To move toward healthy, secure attachment, it helps to start to expect secure attachment in your relationships and to no longer be receptive to the unhealthy dynamics that you might have been used to in the past.


What people with insecure attachment styles need most is the loving support of someone close to them… someone around whom they can practice patterns of secure relating. The goal, over time, is to trade in your insecure impulses for these secure patterns. So do all you can to find someone with a healthy, secure attachment style to enter into a long-term relationship with. This is another reason why finding a therapist or coach to support you in this journey is so important and effective—it affords you the ability to be in a long-term relationship characterized by secure attachment!


If you’re looking for a therapeutic coach well-versed in relationships and healing, head on over to my coaching page to book a session or send me a message with any questions you’ve got!


The goal, over time, is to trade in your insecure impulses for secure patterns of relating.


If you're already coupled and your partner doesn't have a secure attachment style, that is  a-okay. In addition to finding help in the form of a coach or therapist experienced in attachment for yourself, see if you can find someone who can support the healing of both you and your partner as a couple. This way, not only are you working to become a more secure partner yourself but you're also working to build a secure relationship together over time. As you share your fears and frustrations with one another, and hold space and patience for your partner’s self-understanding and healing process throughout coaching and therapy, your dynamics will slowly but surely evolve into healthier ones.


Keep in mind that if you want to find a partner with a secure attachment style you'll have to do so consciously. Fifty percent of people have secure attachment styles so it’s likely that you can find someone with a secure attachment style. But keep in mind that you'll have to really be mindful and intentional about who you're choosing and why early on! And this is because anxiously attached and avoidantly attached people tend to be attracted to one another. It's what creates that push- pull dynamic and often leads to unhealthy (to say the least) cycles and relationships. So go on, get out there into the dating world, but do so consciously!


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